|Stat Man: How much will Rajon Rondo help Celtics’ offense?||12.03.13 at 1:02 pm ET|
Since Rajon Rondo appears one step closer to his eventual return, now is as good a time as any to ask: Just how much will the three-time NBA All-Star point guard help the Celtics‘ woeful offense when he returns?
When we last saw Rondo, his 13.7 points and league-leading 11.1 assists per game created an average of 38.0 points for the Celtics, and that doesn’t include the new free throw and secondary assist statistics available this season on NBA.com/stats or the C’s increased pace under Brad Stevens.
This season, Jordan Crawford has received 1,301 touches, which ranks 15th among the league’s guards, and the Celtics rank 26th in points per 100 possessions (96.0). It’s safe to assume there’s a correlation there.
The other 14 guards: Chris Paul, John Wall, Ty Lawson, Jeff Teague, Monta Ellis, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Jrue Holiday, Tony Parker, Mike Conley, Ricky Rubio, Steve Blake, Kemba Walker and Jose Calderon.
The most jarring name has to be Blake, who’s doing a better job replacing Steve Nash on the Lakers than Crawford is substituting for Rondo. When you combine their scoring and passing, only Calderon creates fewer points per game than Crawford (23.8), and that’s because Calderon shares a backcourt with Ellis.
|Fast Break: Pacers hand Celtics sixth straight loss||11.22.13 at 9:43 pm ET|
The Celtics led the Eastern Conference’s best team by eight at the break, but a dreadful second half left the Celtics looking at a sixth straight loss and their 10th overall — this time 97-82 at the hand of the Pacers.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens grew up idolizing Reggie Miller and lamented the fact that Indiana has its best team of his lifetime before facing his former favorite team for the first time. And the Pacers lived up to that billing, holding the C’s to 12-of-30 shooting and forcing 16 Celtics turnovers in the second half.
Jordan Crawford led the C’s with 24 points. Jeff Green added 20 and Jared Sullinger 13.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Twisted: Kelly Olynyk got tied up with Indiana’s Luis Scola under the Pacers’ basket in the second quarter and immediately headed to the locker room with Celtics trainer Ed Lacerte and team Dr. Brian McKeon. The Celtics announced he would not return due to a right ankle sprain, calling the injury, “nothing serious.”
Give it way now: After staking themselves to a 25-22 lead and committing just two turnovers in the opening quarter, the Celtics committed four turnovers in their first eight possessions of the second quarter, allowing the Pacers to briefly regain the lead. Things only got worse in the third, when the C’s had more turnovers (11) than points (8) and the Pacers turned an eight-point halftime deficit into a nine-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
Thin line: The Celtics entered Friday’s game with 76 fewer free throw attempts than their opponents. Tommy no likey. And they attempted just one free throw in the first 30 minutes against the Pacers — on a defensive three-second call. Tommy really no likey. Of course, the lack of a point guard capable of penetrating doesn’t help.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
So much Steez: Crawford fittingly capped a ridiculous first half by banking a 30-footer to beat the buzzer and hand the Celtics a 50-42 halftime lead. He also drained a shot clock-busting triple as part of an 8-for-8, 19-point effort in the opening 24 minutes. He added three assists in that span and was not credited with a turnover.
Defending their life: Without a defense that forced 16 turnovers, this loss could have been even worse. Led by Green (yes, that guy) and Sullinger, the C’s D respectively kept Pacers stars Paul George and Roy Hibbert in check for most of the night (until George dropped 14 fourth-quarter points). They just had no answer for Indiana’s depth, as Lance Stephenson recorded the first triple-double of his career while Scola and David West added 17 apiece. West has to be smiling now about choosing the Pacers over the Celtics in 2011.
|Rajon Rondo on rehab, cornhole, wing-tipped shoes||at 9:55 am ET|
As most interviews with Rajon Rondo do, his live chat with fans hosted by NBA TV’s Jared Greenberg for American Express began with some hilariously dry responses from the Celtics point guard, as he talked fashion for roughly five minutes. But Rondo warmed to the questions over the course of 17:42. Here’s what we learned.
He’s still not rushing his rehab.
“I’m anxious to get back out there, but I want to take my time, make sure this knee is healed 100 percent. I don’t want to rush back and have any second surgeries or get anything drained out of my knee. … I’m participating in some contact drills here and there, and as of now I’ve had no swelling, and I’m feeling pretty good.’
He plans to enter the World Championships of Cornhole.
‘I saw a cornhole tournament on ESPN the other day, about a month ago, and I think I’ll probably try to enter next year and win that. I’m pretty good at that as well.’
Connect 4 comes more naturally to him than basketball, and roller skating is a close third.
‘Probably Connect 4 — the most naturally. Or I could say basketball. I’ve been playing basketball for a long time, but I just love sports in general. I’ve always had a knack for competing, whether it was football, baseball, track. Anything I did, I’ve always wanted to be the best at it, so that’s a trickle down as far as Connect 4 or even skating. I always put a lot of time and practice in when I first started to [roller] skate, because I wanted to be the best.’
He wanted to join the NFL a couple years back.
|Stat Man: Avery Bradley is an elite jump shooter||11.21.13 at 1:04 pm ET|
For Bradley, it’s always been about confidence. After tumbling from nation’s No. 1 high school recruit in 2009 to No. 19 pick in the 2010 NBA draft and shooting 19.6 percent (9-46 FG) from anywhere outside the restricted zone as a rookie, he had none. Obviously, an ankle surgery that kept him from his first NBA training camp didn’t help matters, but slashing off the ball to the basket was the only offensive weapon in his arsenal that first year.
(NBA.com/stats key: Red = Below Average, Yellow = Average, Green = Above Average)
Bradley began his lockout-shortened sophomore season as most young players under Doc Rivers did — on the end of the bench — only earning significant playing time once Ray Allen‘s ankle issues flared in late January. After shooting just 1-for-12 from 3-point range through the first three months of the season, Bradley discovered another niche, adding a right-corner 3 to a quiver that still included all those backdoor cuts to the bucket.
|NBA fines Gerald Wallace for swearing, warns Jared Sullinger for flopping||11.20.13 at 6:22 pm ET|
The NBA levied a $10,000 fine against Celtics forward Gerald Wallace for his postgame comments during a locker room interview after Tuesday’s dreadful 109-85 loss to the Rockets. “I don’t know what the [expletive] tonight was, just to be honest with you,” Wallace told the media. “I don’t really know what was going on.”
Wallace has been extremely vocal after Celtics losses, regularly criticizing his teammates for their effort, but the NBA is walking a dangerous line by establishing a precedent for fining a player who used vulgar language during a locker room interview. After all, Kevin Garnett wasn’t exactly Mary Poppins.
Meanwhile, the NBA also issued a warning against Celtics forward Jared Sullinger for flopping while boxing out Houston center Dwight Howard. Of course, the game was already over at that point. A second offense would result in a $5,000 fine for Sullinger. In other words, swearing after a loss is twice as bad as flopping during one.
|Blazers blow by defenseless C’s||11.15.13 at 9:49 pm ET|
Before Friday’s game, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said any success on the upcoming road trip would rely on his team’s ability to play defense against some of the elite teams of the Western Conference.
If Friday night is any indication, they could be in for a long trip.
Nicolas Batum connected on 4-of-9 from 3-point range and finished with 18 points while LaMarcus Aldridge added a team-high 27 points and 12 rebounds to pace the Blazers to a 109-96 win over the Celtics Friday night at TD Garden.
The Celtics held Portland to just 8-of-22 shooting in the first quarter but still trailed, 23-21, heading into the second quarter.
But the second quarter was a different story as the Blazers started extending the Celtics defense and took 10 3-pointers, making four. The Celtics stayed close, shooting 64.3 percent, making 9-of-14 from the field. Vitor Faverani had all nine of his points in the quarter as the Celtics trailed 57-51 at the half.
Another huge factor in the game was the early foul trouble of Kelly Olynyk. The rookie was whistled for his third personal foul with 4:39 left in the second quarter and picked up his fourth just 29 seconds into the third quarter.
“Unfortunately, Kelly got the Sully treatment tonight,” joked Sullinger after the game, referring to the foul trouble Sullinger had in his rookie season last year.
The rough defense continued in the second half as the Blazers outscored the Celtics, 33-27, in the third quarter, led by 11 from Aldridge. Portland scored the last six points of the quarter to take a 90-78 lead into the final quarter.
The Celtics made it a seven-point game early in the fourth on back-to-back threes from Jared Sullinger and Courtney Lee but could get no closer. Sullinger led Boston with 26 points and eight rebounds in 36 minutes off the Boston bench.
Jeff Green (14) and Jordan Crawford (11) were the only other Celtics in double figures.
After winning four straight to even their record at 4-4, the 4-6 Celtics have lost their last two – both at home – and now head out on the road for a three-game road trip that begins Saturday night in Minnesota against the Timberwolves. They play Tuesday in Houston before wrapping up the swing on Wednesday in San Antonio against the Spurs.
The Blazers improved to 7-2 on the season.
As the Celtics embark on a four game/six night stretch, Brad Stevens is looking forward to the opportunity to see some of the Western Conference’s elite clubs. He is fully aware that his team will need to extremely sharp on the defensive end to keep their head above water against this type of elite type of competition.
“We’re going to have to be outstanding on the defensive end to have a chance to win these games,” said Stevens. “There’s no question about it. It’s one of those deals where you’re playing teams that you’ve got to play well against to have a chance to win. Defensively, every detail matters, every effort play matters, everything adds up.”
The Portland TrailBlazers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets, and San Antonio Spurs all present a multitude of challenges, yet the one consistent is an explosive guard and a dominating presence inside the post. Portland’s Damian Lillard/LaMarcus Aldridge precedes Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love, and the beat goes on in Texas with the likes of James Harden, Dwight Howard, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan.
“I watched a few of our preseason games,” Stevens said, “just to kind of get a gauge of if they’re improving at the rate we’d like them to, and they’ve improved quite a bit defensively. Offensively, we’ve had our moments. I think we’ve improved, maybe more so, just because of our shifts and rotations. We still have a long way to go. We’re getting a lot better on the basketball. We were a lot better at defending the paint, even though we got back cut a few times in the first half [against Charlotte]. We’ve been good all year defending the 3-point line, knock on wood, so I think it’s one of those deals where we’ve got some strengths to us. But we’ve got to foul less and we’ve got to make sure we’re as good defending the post as we possibly can.”
Without Rajon Rondo, the Celtics lack a true NBA superstar yet still present a balanced team. The roster is full of capable players at the offensive end, so when the C’s move the ball, they can get a lot of people involved.
In order to be successful in this upcoming trip, they will need to continue to play hard defensively, remaining active on the ball and creating steals. Without a true point guard, the Celtics understand the value of scoring in transition. The biggest surprise this season is the team’s ability to move the basketball on offense. Stevens has this team moving the ball from side-to-side and playing an enjoyable brand of team basketball. Any time a team that moves the ball, that presents a major challenge. Another bonus for these upcoming games is the return of post presence Jared Sullinger, who the Celtics missed desperately with right knee soreness during this past Wednesday night’s loss to the Bobcats.
“We’re not as good on the block [without Sullinger], obviously,” confirmed Stevens. “Throwing it into the post [Monday] night against Orlando, we went on a 4-0 run when we were down [by] throwing him the ball. He gives us a little more flexibility playing inside-out, and that’s been when we’ve been at our best. He is probably our best low post player.”
Beginning with tonight’s game against the Blazers, the Celtics will have an opportunity to show the league their early success is no fluke, but instead the result of hard work and the team buying into the Stevens system.
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