|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo-less Celtics defeat Heat||01.27.13 at 4:08 pm ET|
Ray Allen returned to Boston, and it wasn’t even the biggest story of Sunday’s battle between the Eastern Conference rival Celtics and Heat. While news of Rajon Rondo‘s ACL tear trickled out around halftime, the C’s submitted their most impressive performance of the season in a 100-98 double-overtime victory.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Starting Sully: Celtics rookie Jared Sullinger‘s production was finally too much for coach Doc Rivers to ignore. The C’s are 9.3 points better when he’s on the floor than when he sits, the best of any player on the team, so his replacement of Brandon Bass in the starting lineup was practically inevitable. His rebounding, ability to score on the inside and willingness to hit the floor for loose balls helped the Celtics remain tied going into halftime.
Brazilian Blur: Likewise, Leandro Barbosa gave the Celtics an energetic lift off the bench, scoring seven points in 10 first-half minutes. Entering the game, Barbosa’s 15.8 points per 36 minutes ranked third on the team behind only Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. While Jason Terry continues to struggle, there’s no reason Rivers shouldn’t give his minutes to Barbosa to kickstart a woeful Celtics offense.
“Pitbulls”: Apparently, that’s the nickname for the starting backcourt of Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee, who started in place of the injured Rondo. They lived up to the moniker, holding their Heat counterparts Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers to subpar nights. Even on a tough shooting night for both, their defense made a definite impact on the game. That’s what the Celtics will have to rely upon going forward.
Heart of a champion: With Rondo out for the season, Celtics veterans Paul Pierce (17 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists) and Kevin Garnett (24 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists) each came up huge in the final minutes of regulation and both overtimes, punctuating a valiant effort from a team without its brightest star. Pierce’s sweet spin move past Allen in the lane and Garnett’s 18-foot jumper gave the Celtics an 85-81 lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter. Pierce also fed Garnett for a pair of buckets to tie the game 93-93 with 1:14 left in the first overtime. And Pierce buried a jumper over LeBron James to give the C’s a 99-98 lead with 30.4 seconds left in double OT.
After getting a MRI at New England Baptist Hospital, the diagnosis was confirmed by team doctor Brian McKeon.
The Celtics said the star point guard would have surgery to repair the injury at an unspecified date.
Rondo returned to TD Garden in the third quarter in the warmups he was wearing when he left during pregame warmups, walking with a slight limp but no crutches. He walked down to the Celtics locker room on his own power.
Rondo came to the Garden Sunday morning for his normal pregame shootaround but went back in for more treatment on the knee as the pain continued in his right knee. He was taken to the hospital with a preliminary diagnosis of a hyperextended knee.
|Celtics pay video tribute to Ray Allen||at 1:32 pm ET|
In somewhat of a surprise, the Boston crowd gave Ray Allen a standing ovation during a first-quarter video tribute from the Celtics. Those cheers quickly turned to boos once Allen checked into the game for the Heat.
|Rajon Rondo out with hyper-extended left knee, getting MRI||at 12:55 pm ET|
According to the Celtics, Rondo showed up for the normal shootaround at 10:15 Sunday morning and taped a pre-game interview for ABC. He went in for more treatment and the discomfort did not subside.
He left the building and went to New England Baptist Hospital for a precautionary MRI.
The Celtics added that the injury had nothing to do with his departure early in the game Friday due to illness. Rondo is averaging 13.7 points and 11.1 assists in 38 games this season.
|Doc Rivers hesitantly starts Jared Sullinger in desperate move to shake up his Celtics||at 12:39 pm ET|
And sometimes that means making moves you don’t want to make.
Sunday, Rivers took Jared Sullinger out of his comfort zone off the bench and placed him in the starting lineup to add some energy to a team that has lost six straight.
“More because Jared is playing well,” Rivers said. “Honestly, I don’t love it because I worry about our bench. Our bench has been off the charts and that may affect them. But we’re doing it because he’s been playing so well.”
Sullinger has hit a speed bump in his last two games, being held scoreless in the double-overtime game against the Hawks Friday night and scoring just seven points with three rebounds in 15 minutes Thursday against the Knicks.
“Not much,” Rivers said. “Just the way our starters were playing, I thought our lineup needed a shaking up. I’m really doing it cautiously because I just think at some point our starters will find themselves. The one thing I always worry about is our bench. Our bench has been off the charts. The one thing about the Atlanta game, it was a six-point [lead] when they came in and it was 27 points when they left. You don’t hear that a lot from a bench.”
“We just took the game for granted.”
|Ray Allen warms up before Sunday’s game||at 11:52 am ET|
Heat sharpshooter Ray Allen warms up before Sunday’s game with the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Sunday marks Allen’s return to Boston for the first time since signing as a free-agent with the world champion Heat last summer.
Allen admitted that he doesn’t expect the reception in the Garden to be very warm when he takes the parquet for the first time since signing with Miami.
Allen had 19 points on 5-of-7 shooting in 31 minutes against the Celtics in the season opener on Oct. 30 in Miami. That was the game most-famously remembered for the cold shoulder Kevin Garnett gave Allen when Allen checked in for the first time in the first quarter.
|Is one NBA scout’s scathing take on Celtics accurate?||01.26.13 at 3:05 pm ET|
NBA general managers must be hovering like vultures over Danny Ainge‘s struggling Celtics, so it’s no surprise they are a main focus ESPN.com writer Marc Stein’s must-read Weekend Dime.
With all due respect to the NBA scout who rightfully ripped the Celtics to shreds in Stein’s piece, the outlook isn’t quite as bad as he makes it out to be, despite their current six-game losing streak.
“Their bench has to be playing at the top of their abilities for them to win.”
According to HoopsStats.com, the Celtics are 12-11 when their bench outperforms the opposing team’s and 7-11 when it doesn’t. That lends some credence to this statement, but they can win when their reserves don’t contribute. We knew these C’s would rely on their depth more this season than they have in the past, but Celtics coach Doc Rivers couldn’t even begin to structure a consistent rotation until Avery Bradley returned this month.
And they don’t have enough guys big-guy-wise that Doc [Rivers] is comfortable with.
The C’s everlasting search for frontcourt depth behind Kevin Garnett has been no secret. Hence, their rumored interest in both Marcin Gortat and DeMarcus Cousins. The struggles of Brandon Bass and the thumb injury to Chris Wilcox haven’t helped, but don’t rule out those two contributing more in the second half of the season.
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