|Fast Break: Avery Bradley, Celtics can’t hold off Pelicans||01.03.14 at 10:10 pm ET|
In an ugly but entertaining game, Avery Bradley‘s contested go-ahead layup attempt ricocheted off the rim in the final seconds against the Pelicans, and — after a pair of Brian Roberts free throws — Jared Sullinger‘s game-tying 3-piont attempt sailed wide, as the Celtics fell short against New Orleans at home, 95-92.
The Celtics (13-20) lost their second game in as many nights and third straight — a killer for a team headed on a five-game-in-seven-nights West Coast trip against the Thunder, Nuggets, Clippers, Warriors and Nuggets on Sunday.
Bradley (22 points) led the Celtics in scoring while Sullinger (13 points, 11 rebounds) and Brandon Bass (16 points, 11 rebounds) each notched double-doubles. Jeff Green (16 points) also reached double figures.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Cold start: Whether it was the frigid temperatures, the same-day trip from Chicago or just plain stagnant offense, the Celtics scored just 13 points in the first 10 minutes against a team that allowed 108.9 points per 100 possessions entering the game. Bradley scored seven points (3-5 FG) in that stretch, but his Celtics teammates scored only six (3-11 FG) — including a zero-point, zero-rebound start for the ailing Sullinger.
The Stiemer: Battling a knee injury, old friend Greg Stiemsma hadn’t scored in double figures all season — until his glorious return to Boston. No Stiemboat whistle sounded in his honor, but the 7-footer who found his way back into the NBA under Kevin Garnett‘s tutelage scored 12 points on seven shots in 19 big minutes off the bench.
Ryan Anderson: In a scary moment that deserves mention, the Garden crowd sat in silence despite a 75-73 C’s lead early in the fourth, as Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson lay motionless on the floor following a head-to-head collision with Gerald Wallace. Considering all that Anderson’s been through already this season, it’s no wonder every player on both sides of the ball stood in support as paramedics carted him off in a neck brace on a stretcher. He was taken to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a cervical stinger.
|Irish Coffee: Why an Andrew Bynum trade isn’t crazy||12.30.13 at 11:02 am ET|
The Cavaliers suspended 26-year-old former All-Star center Andrew Bynum indefinitely over the weekend — a penalization for detrimental conduct that the team lifted after all of 24 hours before placing him on paid leave — so rumors have swirled around Cleveland dealing the oft-injured, much-maligned, weird-hairdoed 7-footer.
Naturally, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is doing his due diligence to determine Cavs owner Dan Gilbert‘s asking price. In a series of tweets on Saturday, Bill Simmons lumped the Celtics in with the title-contending Clippers and Heat among Bynum’s suitors, but there’s a catch to all this.
Regardless of whether or not Bynum eventually lands in Los Angeles or Miami — the latter of which Gilbert would probably like to prevent — the Celtics may still be interested in acquiring him, if only for his quirky contract.
|Brad Stevens on Celtics: ‘#EveryGameIsAnAdventure’||12.28.13 at 4:43 pm ET|
The Celtics watched a 22-point lead dwindle to two in the final minute, but coach Brad Stevens breathed a sigh of relief when his defense held the fort against the Cavaliers’ charge on the final two possessions.
“We did a really good job and played exceptionally well in the fourth quarter — for 18.3 seconds,” joked Stevens.
Brandon Bass blocked Dion Waiters with 8.9 seconds remaining and Earl Clark‘s last-second 3-point attempt missed the mark, so the Celtics avoided blowing a double-digit lead for the third time in three games.
“Sometimes you get on your heels, and we’ve got to figure out a way to not be on our heels,” added Stevens. “And I think sometimes when you win a game like this, that helps you the next time. Obviously, there’s that tension of, ‘Oh, no, don’t lose,’ and that’s no way to live life, that’s no way to play, but it’s a factor.”
After Bradley’s put-back dunk gave the Celtics a 94-84 lead, Stevens’ charges made just one field goal in the game’s final 6:36 — a spinning, off-balance Jordan Crawford runner amid a flurry of turnovers and failed 3’s.
“I was telling [Celtics president] Rich Gotham, it should have been promoted as part of our holiday package: Every game is an adventure. ‘Green runs deep #EveryGameIsAnAdventure,'” said Stevens, gifting the C’s pro shop a t-shirt idea. “That would be a great thing to promote. Maybe we can work on that — get that on the website.
“It was an adventure, and we’ve got to get better in those situations. Again, we have been for the majority of the time, but for whatever reason in the last two weeks we haven’t. Today, I just didn’t think we played purposefully when it mattered. You have to balance this idea of playing with extreme maturity with still playing clear and loose.”
The absence of Rajon Rondo is never more glaring than in their late-game execution , but despite a three-game losing streak that snapped Saturday, the C’s remain a half-game behind the Raptors for first place in the division.
“Hopefully people come in and say, ‘Hey, we can get down,’ but I think we’ve made the last couple weeks an adventure, and we haven’t played the right way the whole game,” said Stevens. “And whether that’s in the first half or the fourth quarter, we have to become a better team for 48 minutes. Three times we’ve not played well in the second half, but once we didn’t play well the whole game. So, we’ve got a lot of minutes we’ve got get better at.”
So it goes for these Rondo-less C’s. Improve every minute, every game; stem the tide until their fearless returns.
Still without Rajon Rondo to execute the offense down the stretch, the Celtics nearly blew another double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, but a balanced scoring attack helped stave off the Andrew Bynum-less Cavaliers, 103-100.
Jeff Green (19 points, 8 rebounds), Jordan Crawford (19 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists), Avery Bradley (18 points, 8 rebounds), Brandon Bass (15 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists), Courtney Lee (11 points) and Kris Humphries (10 points) all reached double figures to help the Celtics snap a three-game losing skid and improve to 13-17 — half a game behind the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
JG’s hot start: As always seems to be the case against Cleveland, it was evident early that this was a game in which Green was invested. In the first quarter, he scored 12 points on six shots, sinking both of his 3-point attempts, to stake the Celtics to a 24-22 lead in the first 12 minutes. Green scored a season-high 31 points against the Cavaliers a month ago.
Balance beaming: Through three quarters, seven Celtics scored between eight and 17 points (led by Green and Crawford), six C’s had between three and six rebounds (led by Green and Kelly Olynyk) and five C’s had between two and five assists (led by Crawford). This was Brad Stevens basketball at its best, resulting in an 85-66 lead on 52 percent shooting through three.
Big Bass: After struggling since the recent Omer Asik trade rumors, including a scoreless effort against the Timberwolves two weeks ago and a 2-of-9 shooting performance against the Pacers last weekend, Bass bounced back to the form we’ve grown accustomed to from him this season. Or better. He scored 15 points on eight shots, including his second career 3-pointer, grabbed six boards and matched a career-high with four assists. He also made the game-saving block on Dion Waiters in the final seconds.
The quickness and agility appear to be there. The jump shot appears to be there. The side-to-side strength and conditioning appear in place.
As rumors from New York continue that the Knicks are very interested in acquiring him, Rajon Rondo looks like a player that could break through his rehab from ACL surgery and return to game action any time.
Rondo, as he has done for the last two weeks, worked with strength and conditioning coach Bryan Doo before Saturday afternoon’s game with the Cavaliers at TD Garden.
On Saturday, Rondo spent 30 minutes getting fed passes from assistant coach Jay Larranaga from the top of the key and pivoting to his spot, before releasing a good-looking jumper from mid-range and 3-point range. After 20 minutes of shooting, Rondo strapped on a conditioning cord belt and moved side to side with Doo, working on his lateral movement and strengthening the knee, hamstring and quad.
Then, perhaps most encouraging of all, Rondo got into a defensive position and went back-and-forth, jumping up on Doo, who was dribbling the ball.
All of this is tempered by the fact that Rondo indicated this week that there’s a chance he won’t return to game action until February. Rondo is clearly aware of the time it took Derrick Rose to return from his ACL tear against Philadelphia in the 2012 playoffs and Ricky Rubio cautioned earlier in December that it took him a while to get back into game-ready action, both physically and mentally after a similar injury.
Rondo injured his right ACL last January in Atlanta and hasn’t played since.
|Rajon Rondo might not return to Celtics next month||12.23.13 at 11:30 am ET|
As a five-day Christmas break between games offers Celtics fans time to reflect on a somewhat surprising 12-17 start while looking ahead to a brutal start to the January schedule, the question remains: When will Rajon Rondo return?
While Celtics coach Brad Stevens believed Rondo was on schedule to play his first NBA game within a year of tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament on Jan. 27, the C’s point guard backed off that timeline, suggesting instead to The Boston Globe he may not make his comeback until February.
“I have confidence in my knee,” Rondo told the Globe’s Gary Washburn after the C’s third straight defeat, a 106-79 loss to the Pacers. “I’m excited to be playing the game of basketball again, so it’s just a matter of me getting a lot of repetition, 5-on-5 basketball and just playing the game. It might be mid-January, late February; I’m going to come back when the time is right and I get my stamina.
‘”I don’t think I have to pass any more tests. I have to pass tests for myself. I know what I felt like before I hurt my knee. When I get back to feeling that type of feeling the way I play the game, then I’ll be back.”
Rondo participated in a five-on-five scrimmage Friday, but the Celtics don’t have another scheduled practice until Thursday. Meanwhile, the beginning of the new year offers little respite for practice. The C’s play a road-home back-to-back against the Bulls and Pelicans on Jan. 2-3 before heading on a brutal week-long West Coast road trip against the Thunder, Nuggets, Clippers, Warriors and Blazers from Jan. 5-11.
The Celtics have dropped out of the Atlantic Division lead and into the No. 8 playoff seed. Only a handful of games separate them from the league’s worst record.
|Irish Coffee: Ranking Danny Ainge’s Celtics assets||12.20.13 at 1:59 pm ET|
The recent trade rumors surrounding the Celtics aren’t going away any time soon, so for the purposes of any trade discussion between now and the Feb. 20 deadline — real or imaginary — let’s rank all the assets available to president of basketball operations Danny Ainge in order of value (highest to lowest). Here goes.
RAJON RONDO: Albeit completely unfounded, the mere fact people debated whether a Kings package of Ben McLemore (2013 No. 7 overall pick), Isaiah Thomas (18.9 ppg, 5.5 apg, 59.5 TS%, 22.8 PER, 730 minutes), Jason Thompson (10.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg over six NBA seasons), Marcus Thornton (18.7 ppg in 2011-12) and two first-round picks was enough for Rondo should tell you all you need to know about the Celtics point guard’s value.
2014 CELTICS FIRST-ROUND PICK: Whether this was the stumbling block in an Omer Asik deal or not, Ainge should rightfully think thrice before dealing either first-rounder in this coming June’s loaded draft. While the Celtics still own a one-game lead atop the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference’s No. 4 seed, they’re only 1.5 games out of the lottery, and most GMs would be willing to gamble against the C’s making the playoffs.
JARED SULLINGER: If the 2012 NBA draft took place tomorrow, how many players would be selected over Sullinger? Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal and Andre Drummond are likely the only four you’d definitely take over the Celtics sophomore since he’s returned from back surgery. Under control at least through 2015-16 for a grand total of $5.1 million, Sully has arguably been the C’s most important player this season.
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