|Fast Break: Nets cut down Celtics in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett homecoming||01.26.14 at 9:09 pm ET|
Pierce and Garnett combined for 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists in a 85-79 Brooklyn victory, handing the Celtics (15-31) a 17th loss in their last 20 tries. Meanwhile, the Nets (20-22) moved within 1.5 games of the division-leading Raptors.
Rondo (13 points, 8 assists, 8 rebounds) engineered a Celtics comeback that brought the Celtics within three points in the final minute, but a Garnett dunk off one of the C’s 16 turnovers put the game out of reach. Brandon Bass led the Celtics with 17 points and eight rebounds, Chris Johnson netted 12 points on the night his first 10-day contract is set to expire and Gerald Wallace also added a dozen.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Sweet emotions: It’s almost as if everyone forgot they had to actually play a basketball game. Pierce and Garnett finished scoreless in the first quarter (0-3 FG), and the Nets were 4-of-18 in the opening 12 minutes. The Celtics weren’t any better, as Brooklyn took a 35-34 halftime lead. (Fitting, the C’s had 34 first-half points, by the way.) Pierce didn’t score his first points until the third quarter, when he sunk a pair of free throws 1:08 into the frame.
Oh, shoot: After Brad Stevens ripped his team for settling for too many jumpers against the Thunder, the Celtics fell into the same trap in the third quarter against Brooklyn, taking 12 of their 18 shots outside the paint and making just three in the frame. Meanwhile, the Nets built a six-point cushion heading into the fourth quarter.
Sully-Green: While Rondo and Bass enjoyed stellar games against their former teammates, Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger struggled offensively opposite the two C’s legends. Through three quarters, the pair was a combined 3-for-18 from the floor, and Stevens actually gave more crunch-time minutes to Gerald Wallace and Humphries.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Paying tribute: As usual, the folks behind the video tributes did a masterful job putting together pieces for both Pierce and Garnett. Likewise, the crowd responded accordingly, chanting “Paul. Pierce.” before the Nets lineup was introduced, cheering their introductions and tearing the roof off the Garden when the Garnett and Pierce tributes were played on the Jumbotron during the second timeout and following the first quarter, respectively.
National TV Rondo: Whether it was the bright lights or just a natural progression, Rondo enjoyed his best game since returning from ACL surgery. He played 14 first-half minutes, also his most this season, producing eight points, five rebounds and four assists by the break. Whether he meant his “just another game” comment about his former teammates’ return or not, Rondo showed little emotion as he remained focused on his comeback.
Bass swishing: Only a handful of the current Celtics were on the roster with Truth and Ticket, and Bass was one of them, getting the start over Kris Humphries. Like Rondo, he responded with a solid game against his former mates, even driving past both of them for a dunk at one point. After failing to grab more than five rebounds since Jan. 15, he asserted himself on the glass, leading a solid team rebounding effort that included double-digit offensive boards.
After the first quarter Sunday night in his return to Boston, former Celtics captain Paul Pierce was given a stirring video tribute by the Celtics on the TD Garden video board. The crowd stood and cheered for several minutes while the cameras showed Pierce thanking the fans who chanted, “Thank you, Paul Pierce.”
During a minute-long video tribute with 2:25 left in the first quarter, Kevin Garnett stood and watched in front of the Brooklyn Nets bench as he was cheered by Celtics fans. At the end, he pounded his chest and pointed to the fans in appreciation.
|Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett: ‘Some things are forever, man’||01.25.14 at 2:09 am ET|
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett spoke at length to Nets media about their Boston homecoming. Here’s a sample of what they said leading up to Sunday’s game, their first against the Celtics in the Garden.
Garnett: “I’m gonna embrace it for whatever it is. The emotions are gonna be very high, and I’ll react accordingly.”
Pierce: “It’s going to be special. I don’t know how I’ll react, what emotions are going to be going through my head.”
Garnett: “I think anybody who’s part of that run and part of that era will always be remembered. Bostonians, New Englanders, they understand that and they never forget their favorites. We was fortunate to be part of that whole transformation … and some things are forever, man. I’m happy to say I’m part of that era.”
Pierce: “Yeah, it’s gonna be a lot of emotions. You play your whole life there, you won a championship there. I mean, being the first time coming [back] … I never thought it would happen, but it is and it’ll be here Sunday.”
Garnett: “I think they saw the appreciation and the hard work that we put into that, the effort more than anything. It’s funny, they have a little pregame thing they used to always say, and in the pregame, I used to always hear Larry Bird. I would never look up, but I would hear it. Larry said, ‘You can’t fool the people of Boston. They know when you’re working hard, they know pure basketball.’ And that’s right. When you go all out, they understand that, they root for that, and that’s what they remember.”
In between providing one-word answers about his current state of play, Celtics captain Rajon Rondo likewise shed little light on his expectations for Sunday’s Boston homecoming for Nets Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
“It’s just another game,” Rondo said after an 18-point loss to the Kevin Durant-less Thunder. “We need to win.”
Like his team’s record, which dropped to 15-30 after a 16th loss in 19 games, the point guard’s return from ACL surgery has been a work in little progress. As one member of the Celtics organization said afterwards, Rondo was really only Rondo for one play. His minutes limit prevents him from getting into a rhythm, and as he said, “Plays I usually make, I’m not making right now, but I still feel positive and I’m OK with my progression right now.”
Here’s a sample of what was a typically tenuous Rondo interview after a 101-83 loss to Oklahoma City.
Do you feel like you’re more of yourself out there every game? “I’m getting there.”
Is it disappointing the way you guys came out tonight? “Yeah.”
What happened? “We didn’t get stops.”
How do you judge your progress? “I just take it one game at a time.”
Is there something you’re looking for? “Yeah, but I don’t want to say.”
|Rajon Rondo: ‘I wouldn’t mind staying here for the rest of my career’||01.24.14 at 7:55 pm ET|
Before Friday’s game against the Thunder, Rondo acknowledged that his representatives have been in preliminary talks with the Celtics about a contract extension.
Rondo signed a five-year, $55 million rookie scale extension on Nov. 2, 2009. That deal pays him $11.9 million this season and $12.9 in 2014-15 before he becomes an unrestricted free agent before the 2015-16 season.
“I like to stick to the script,” Rondo told reporters before returning to the starting lineup Friday night against Oklahoma City. “I don’t like change much. I wouldn’t mind staying here the rest of my career. Things don’t always seem to go that way, but like I said before, it’s just a business. I wouldn’t mind extending another 10 years in Boston.”
On Thursday, Ainge indicated that the team is interested in pursuing some type of contract extension with Rondo. Those talks, he said, would likely have to wait until after the season due to the nature of the collective bargaining agreement.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that a contender looking for point guard help could make a push for Rondo at the trade deadline, which is Feb. 20.
Rondo was selected in the first round (21st overall) by the Celtics in the 2006 NBA draft. He is a four time All-Star and led the league in steals with 189 in 2000-10.
The Oklahoma City Thunder superstar will sit out Friday’s game against the Celtics to rest his shoulder, dinged up in a win over the Spurs Wednesday night. Durant had 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in Oklahoma City’s 119-96 win over the Celtics on Jan. 5 in Oklahoma City. The Thunder enter the game with a 33-10 mark, a half-game better than the Spurs for best record in the West.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said before the game that Perry Jones will fill in for Durant.
“Kevin definitely loves the game. He’s not one that looks forward to missing games,” Brooks said. “The guy is a gamer. He loves to play.”
Durant also loves to score, something he’s done at will in the last nine games. Durant has scored at least 30 points in nine straight games, averaging 38.9 points over that run for the Thunder.
“It’s the best thing for him. Until he’s ready to play, he’s not going to play, regardless of how he feels or what he wants to do. It’s a medical decision,” Brooks added.
For the first time in Thunder history Durant and Russell Westbrook won’t be in their lineup.
“I never looked at it that way,” Brooks said. “I know we’ve always had guys that step up. We have a team that takes challenges every night. You never want to be without your players, not only us but the entire league. Regardless of if he’s a starter or not a starter, you want your entire roster to give yourself the best chance. We have more than enough to compete. Old coach of mine [said]: ‘All you need is five.'”
Durant is certainly a leader in the early MVP race, averaging a league best 31.0 points. Durant has already won three NBA regular season scoring titles.
“I’ve seen Kobe Bryant score 40 points in nine straight games,” Durant told NewsOK.com on Thursday. “Michael Jordan have 11 triple-doubles in 12 games. LeBron James have a month when he’s averaging 35 points. So those guys, that’s something to write home about.”
As for Durant, he may or may not return for the Thunder’s next game, in Philadelphia Saturday night. The
The Thunder, meanwhile, visit the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night. Brooks wasn’t sure if Durant will be back for that game.
The Thunder don’t figure to need Durant against the Sixers who, like the 15-29 Celtics, are bringing up the rear of the Atlantic Division.
|LeBron James, Kevin Durant headline NBA All-Star Game starters||01.23.14 at 9:44 pm ET|
The NBA announced the starters for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game, and naturally leading MVP candidates LeBron James and Kevin Durant are the leading vote-getters for the Eastern and Western conferences, respectively.
The roster includes no Celtics, who are in danger of failing to produce an All-Star for the first time since 2007, when Paul Pierce suffered through an injury-plagued season, and only the 10th time in the game’s 63-year history.
Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green are the C’s only hopes for a spot when the voting from coaches reveals the final seven Eastern Conference All-Stars on Jan. 30, but neither is expected the make the roster (unless Rondo receives the sympathy vote for his fifth selection). Each received more than 100,000 fan votes — well shy of a starting spot.
Old friends Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett edged out Rondo and Green in the fan voting for backcourt and frontcourt players, respectively, although Green received 26,006 more votes than Pierce. Here are your 2014 starters:
Bryant, who received his 16th All-Star bid despite participating in just six games this season, will likely be replaced in the starting West backcourt by Chris Paul (804,309 votes) due to the Lakers star’s knee injury.
Likewise, should Wade’s knee injury keep him from participating in his 10th All-Star Game, John Wall (393,129) would be the second starting guard alongside Irving in the East. Among the remaining healthy Eastern Conference guards, only Allen received more votes than Rondo, but his fate lies in the coaches’ hands now.
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