|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo, Celtics tame Raptors||11.17.12 at 2:59 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo didn’t just reach double-digit assists for his 33rd straight game, he notched 20 dimes for the second time in nine games, and the Celtics rolled to a 107-89 Atlantic Division victory against the Raptors.
Rondo reached that plateau while playing just 32 minutes and sitting the final 10:33 of the C’s first comfortable victory of the season (and, obviously, Gino’s first appearance in the Garden this year).
Jared Sullinger (12 points, 11 rebounds) posted his first career double-double, Jason Terry reached 20 points for the first time this season and the triumvirate of Leandro Barbosa, Chris Wilcox and Jeff Green all scored at least eight points off the bench, giving Paul Pierce (19 points in 25 minutes) and Kevin Garnett (15 points in 17 minutes) the rest they’ll need in Detroit on Sunday.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Early Bird special: Despite the 12:30 p.m. Saturday start, the C’s Big Three awoke early. Garnett started 3-for-3 in his first five-minute stint, Pierce netted eight points in the opening 10 minutes and Rondo showed no ill effects from the sprained right ankle that kept him out of Thursday’s game, finishing the first quarter with seven assists. As a result, the Celtics shot 73.7 percent as a team and established a 30-17 lead through 12 minutes.
Domesticated dinosaurs: Raptors attack in packs, like hyenas. Unless they’re the Toronto kind. Even when the Celtics fell into their usual jump-shooting comfort zone, at least they were open shots. Wide open shots, to be clear. Toronto imports Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas were particular dreadful defensively. That repeatedly left Wilcox open for lobs, inflating Rondo’s ballooning assist total.
Tapping Sully: In recent games, Celtics coach Doc Rivers has avoided giving Jared Sullinger minutes without Garnett on the floor, but some Brandon Bass foul trouble forced the issue. And Sullinger delivered, grabbing six first-half boards off the bench and establishing a rare rebounding advantage for the C’s.
|Al Jefferson: ‘I would’ve traded me for Kevin Garnett, too’ and other memories of Rajon Rondo and the 2006-07 Celtics||11.15.12 at 1:40 pm ET|
During the 2006-07 NBA season, when the Celtics finished last in the Atlantic Division and earned the No. 5 overall pick (Jeff Green) that became Ray Allen trade bait and eventually altered the franchise’s future, I bought a ticket to the Garden for $8. Eight dollars. Even on a measly sportswriter’s salary, that was a bargain.
As Tommy Heinsohn said, the young core of Al Jefferson, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Tony Allen and Delonte West consisted of players who were “like puppies: Every time you saw them, you wanted to pet them.”
“We used to have a lot of laughs together, because when I was here, things weren’t going too well as far as winning,” Jefferson said. “But we always had the locker room live with me, [Rondo], Tony Allen, Kendrick Perkins and Delonte West. We all kept it live, and we were fun guys to be around. In the time we were here, when we were losing, we hardly ever got blown out. It was always close games, but we were just such a young team, we didn’t know how to finish those games. I knew if we could’ve stayed together, things could’ve got better for us.”
Considering how those players evolved — a double-double machine (Jefferson), a three-time NBA All-Star point guard (Rondo), a first-team All-Defensive wing (Allen), a starting center on a title team (Perkins) and one tough motherbleeper (West) — that team would’ve gotten better. Those Celtics wouldn’t have won a title in 2008, but you can see why some folks (wrongfully) thought twice about trading Jefferson as the centerpiece of a fairly famous 2007 trade.
“If I were Danny Ainge,” said Jefferson, “I would’ve traded me for Kevin Garnett, too.”
Just before Rajon Rondo “slightly” sprained his ankle against the Jazz, the Celtics point guard stretched his string of double-digit assists to 32 games. Only John Stockton (37) and Magic Johnson (46) own longer streaks.
Utah coach Tyrone Corbin played his entire 16-year NBA career either with or against Stockton, including three seasons as his Jazz teammate from 1991-94. In 1992, Stockton recorded another stretch of 29 straight games with 10-plus assists, which Rondo recently eclipsed, so Corbin knows first-hand what that does for a team.
“[Rondo]‘s a great player, a great competitive player,” Corbin said. “He’s doing a great job. He’s a big asset for this team. He reads his team well; he makes the right plays for them. Any time you get a guy that makes double-figure assists every night for you, that’s a great honor and you’ve got a chance to win games as a result, because you know he’s going to be able to get the ball to the right guys and spread it out well, so he’s a tremendous player.”
Asked if he sees similarities between Rondo and Stockton, Corbin made it clear: “They’re two different players.” But how different are Rondo and Stockton? Here are their numbers through their first six NBA seasons.
Read the rest of this entry »
|Doc Rivers: Leandro Barbosa ‘bailed us out’||11.14.12 at 11:46 pm ET|
Outside of trainer Ed Lacerte, Leandro Barbosa was the most important member of the Celtics bench Wednesday night as he scored 16 points and steadied the ship when its leader Rajon Rondo went down with a sprained right ankle midway through the third quarter. The Celtics were able to hold off the Jazz, 98-93, Wednesday night at TD Garden.
But as coach Doc Rivers points out, it wasn’t just his time replacing Rondo and running the point in the second half that turned out to be so important.
“Barbosa was terrific,” Rivers said. “I mean, he bailed us out. Not only just replacing Rondo; I thought in the first half – I thought our starters started the game out pretty flat and I thought our second unit with Courtney Lee and Barbosa, Jared [Sullinger], that group gave us a spurt, Jeff Green. And then obviously Rondo goes out in the second half and just putting LB in and we didn’t run much because he doesn’t know much. But everything was basically pick-and-rolls. We told him to just keep attacking to the basket and we’ll figure it out from there.”
Barbosa was so good, in fact, it kept Rivers from considering his worst nightmare, life without Rondo.
“It’s going to happen,” Rivers acknowledged. “He’s not going to play all 82 [games], I doubt. It’d be nice. You know how I think, guys, the next guy, just somebody has to step up and we have to figure it out. And tonight was a great example that we did that. We had other options; you could put JET [Jason Terry] in at the point. I mean, it was just one of those games. I thought the big lineup, or our semi-big lineup with Paul [Pierce] and Jeff changed the game for us as well. We had a post presence with those guys. So, it was an interesting game. When we get outrebounded by what we did, 18-4 [offensive rebounds], it’s hard to win a basketball game. And yet we still won it.”
|Fast Break: Leandro Barbosa, Celtics tune out Jazz||at 10:02 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo logged his 32nd consecutive game with 10 or more assists, but it was his replacement, Leandro Barbosa, and the rest of the Celtics bench that stole the show in their fifth win in six games, 98-93 over the Jazz.
Rondo played just 25 minutes — none after rolling his right ankle in the third quarter — but Barbosa and Jeff Green each scored 16 points, leading a reserve unit that outscored Utah’s bench, 47-25.
Paul Pierce (23 points) and Kevin Garnett (11 points, 8 rebounds) were the only other Celtics in double figures.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Brazilian blur: In 5:47 off the bench for Rondo in the first half, Barbosa scored seven points, including a string of five on consecutive trips to start the second quarter that tied the game, 25-25. It would’ve been seven straight had he hit his free throws on the next trip, but the effort alone gave the C’s the boost they needed. And then again, when Rondo turned his right ankle in the third quarter, Barbosa contributed quality minutes running the show.
Truth of the quarter: After shooting 2-of-7 and looking sluggish in the first half, Pierce made 5-of-9 attempts in the third quarter, scoring 15 points in the frame. His string of three consecutive 3-pointers midway through the quarter helped stave off a Jazz run and kept the C’s heads above water.
KG impression: What Barbosa did for Rondo, Chris Wilcox did for Garnett. The C’s backup center contributed 18 minutes off the bench, totaling seven points and five rebounds while holding down the fort in Garnett’s absence (and we all know how the Celtics have been struggling in that department). More importantly, his effort kept Garnett fresh for the fourth quarter, when KG wreaked his usual havoc.
Green with envy: This Jeff Green dunk on Al Jefferson. No words necessary.
|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo’s not enough vs. 76ers||11.09.12 at 10:11 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo may have continued his streak of games with double-digit assists, but the 76ers backcourt combined for 46 points, 18 assists and 15 rebounds, and the Celtics’ defense let another playoff foe from last season reach the century mark in a 106-100 loss to their Atlantic Division rivals.
Jrue Holiday (21 points, 14 assists) and Evan Turner (25 points, 11 rebounds) torched the C’s.
Rondo finished with 14 points and 20 assists while Paul Pierce (24 points), Kevin Garnett (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Jason Terry (13 points) all reached double figures, but the Celtics got little help from the bench beyond the guy who dubbed their reserves the best in basketball, as Jeff Green (1-5 FG) struggled once again.
WHAT WENT WRONG
A little help: Outside of Garnett and Lee, the Celtics started an atrocious 1-of-18 from the field, settling for far too many jump shots. Rondo (1-5), Pierce (0-5), Green (0-3) and Bass (0-3) all couldn’t find the basket through most of the first half, and the Celtics fell behind by double digits for the third time in five games.
Wet paint: While the Celtics seemed content launching from mid-range, the Sixers attacked the rim. In the first half, Philly scored 30 points in the paint and added 18 fast break points — compared to 14 and two, respectively, for the C’s — resulting in a 57-45 Sixers lead at the break. Evan Turner, in particular, victimized Pierce, scoring four of his six first-half buckets at the rim. In all, the Sixers outscored the C’s 56-38 in the paint and 26-9 in transition.
Downtown daggers: Somehow, the Celtics failed to defend the basket and the 3-point line. In all, the 76ers shot 7-of-13 from beyond the arc, including a Jrue Holiday triple with five minutes to play that helped keep the surging C’s at bay. In all, Boston opponents are shooting 34-of-84 from long-distance (40.5 3P%). Both the number of makes and attempts illustrates the inability of Celtics wings to close out on the perimeter.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
First five: The Celtics actually started off strong defensively, holding the 76ers to a 1-of-9 shooting start and building leads of 6-0 and 8-3 on the back of Garnett, but as has been the case all season, things went south when KG took his five-minute sabbaticals. Sullinger/Bass and Bass/Wilcox combinations quickly turned five- and six-point leads into five- and six-point deficits with Garnett on the bench.
Making a point: In the third quarter, Rondo did everything he could to will his lackadaisical team back into the game. He had his hand in the C’s first five buckets after the break (layup, jumper, assist, 1-2 FT, layup, assist). In the meantime, he notched his 10th assist, tying John Stockton for the NBA’s third-longest streak of 10-plus assists (29 games) and recording his fifth straight double-double to start the season.
Terry time: Often referring to himself as a clutch player, Jason Terry put his words into actions. Twice he drew the Celtics within three points in the fourth quarter — on a 3-pointer that trimmed the lead to 83-80 and a 12-foot floater that cut the edge to 93-90 — as he reached double digits off the bench for the third time in four games. Perhaps more importantly, Rivers has given the all-important closer’s role at shooting guard to Terry in the last two games, including all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter on Friday night.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, in his weekly interview on WEEI’s “Big Show,” acknowledged that his team’s play has been uneven in the early going of the season en route to a 2-2 record. However, Ainge also noted that it is not unusual for a team that’s gone through considerable offseason changes to endure some growing pains at the start of the year during which the team’s talent isn’t necessarily reflected in the quality of its play or record.
“I hope it doesn’t take a while. I feel like we’re playing very good in stretches, but we’re just having some ugly stretches. I think that all the guys playing together has not been pretty at times, but we’ve had some good stretches. We’ve got to hang on to those, hope those outlast the bad stretches for now as we continue to improve into the season,” said Ainge. “The other guys, the new guys, really have to find their way and earn the trust of the team.
“Generally it takes a while to figure out who your team is. This year’s not different than any other year. Last year, we started 0-3. As time went by, I think a month and a half into the season no one thought the team was going to be good,” he continued. “We’re not playing as well as we’re capable of, but I do think you see good things out of each player, and I also see how difficult it is to get each of the players involved. That’s always a challenge.”
Ainge did acknowledge that Jeff Green, averaging 7.8 points and 2.0 rebounds in 21.8 minutes per game, is still searching for his fit on the Celtics roster.
“We haven’t really figured out Jeff and when to use Jeff or felt an urgency to go to Jeff,” said Ainge. “I think that Jeff has had some favorable matchups through the course of the game, but at the same time our main offensive sets that go through [Rajon] Rondo and Paul [Pierce] and [Kevin Garnett] are working. There’s not really a need to change what we’re doing to go there.
“I think Jeff has been inconsistent in his production and just trying to find his way. I think him more than any other player, is just trying to find where he contributes. What we need from Jeff, is we need him to play that great defense, rebound every night. There’s going to be nights where he can get that 20 points off the bench, and some nights where his number isn’t called that much,” he added. “He’s been fairly productive when we’ve called his number, but he hasn’t been a productive playing off the ball and playing off of our stars.” Read the rest of this entry »
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