|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.
|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.
|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.
|Rajon Rondo: When a triple-double is ‘irrelevant’||01.25.13 at 11:18 am ET|
Rondo had 23 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, his 27th career triple-double and fourth the season. But that couldn’t prevent Boston from suffering its fifth straight loss, 89-86, to the Knicks Thursday, dropping to 20-22 on the season.
“It wipes it out. It’s kind of irrelevant. You score 40 or 50 points, you lose, you lose. All that matters is Ws and Ls.
“I like our group, I like our guys,” Rondo insisted. “We have a group of guys that listen. Right now, we’re not getting it done. It’s like night and day. We won six in a row and we were clicking on all cylinders. But now, it’s not all five guys at one time throughout the game for 48 minutes. We go through stretches where we’re not scoring the ball and our defense is lacking as well. We just have to pick it up collectively as a team, and individually as well.”
“We’re not worried about that,” Rondo said. “We’re worried about Atlanta.”
|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo’s triple-double can’t keep Celtics from five-game skid||01.24.13 at 10:43 pm ET|
Give them this: At least the Celtics played with heart, but the Knicks still handed them their fifth straight loss, an 89-86 defeat made even more discouraging by J.R. Smith‘s wide-open 3-pointer and Paul Pierce‘s turnover with several chances to tie the game in the final minute. Here’s what else went wrong (and right).
WHAT WENT WRONG
Terry dry: Since his return to the bench, where he’s been most comfortable during his career, Jason Terry continues to slump. He entered the game shooting under 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range in 22 minutes a night this month, and those numbers didn’t get any better. After getting off to an 0-for-4 start in his first six minutes, Rivers limited his playing time. Terry finished 1-for-6 in 14 minutes, including a costly fourth-quarter turnover.
Brain farts: As well as the Celtics played in stretches, they still took their foot off the pedal at times. The Knicks started the second quarter on a 9-0 run made up of a couple Amar’e Stoudemire buckets around the basket, a J.R. Smith layup and a Pablo Prigioni 3-pointer. In the third quarter, the Celtics committed five turnovers, including three that directly led to layups and New York’s 72-66 lead after three quarters.
Off the mark: While the C’s defense held the Knicks below 40 percent shooting on the night (38.6 percent FG), their offense wasn’t much better (40.8 percent FG). Despite getting a ton of open looks, the Celtics missed jumper after jumper. They combined for 3-of-18 shooting from beyond the arc, including an 0-for-5 night for backup guards Terry, Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa. Compounding that fact, the C’s didn’t tally a single point off their misses, getting outscored 16-0 on second-chance points.
|Was Avery Bradley firing a Twitter shot at Rajon Rondo?||01.23.13 at 3:08 pm ET|
After the Celtics‘ fourth straight defeat — a 95-90 loss suffered at the hands of Kyrie Irving (40 points) and the Cavaliers — guard Avery Bradley tweeted: “Nobody will score 40 on [me] unless they take 40 shots.”
Irving scored his 40 on 24 shots, although just three of those attempts came against Bradley; meanwhile, the Cavs point guard made 6-of-11 attempts against Celtics point Rajon Rondo, according to Synergy Sports (h/t @ESPNForsberg. That may not even include plays like Irving’s isolation drive past with 22 seconds left in the fourth quarter, when he blew by Rondo and got (questionably) fouled by Jared Sullinger on a three-point play.
So, why wasn’t Bradley — considered by many the best on-ball defender in the NBA — facing the surefire All-Star, particularly in that situation? While he’s recovering from a rib injury, Bradley played 26 effective minutes and was on the floor for the span from 2:31 to 0:22 of the fourth quarter, when Irving scored nine points on four layups.
When the C’s guard took to Twitter just minutes after the conclusion of the game, many considered it a veiled shot at Rondo, although Bradley quickly deleted the tweet and posted instead: “No shots at anybody. It’s confidence.”
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