|Celtics growing tired of explaining how they’re blowing big leads||11.15.14 at 10:06 am ET|
The Celtics are quickly growing tired of talking about blowing big leads. It’s hard to blame them, but the painful truth is that it’s an ongoing trend that’s obvious to anyone watching them play early on in the 2014-15 season.
And it’s been a trend from the start. Against Brooklyn in the season opener they led 101-72 after three quarters. Brooklyn closed it to 15 before the C’s eventually held off the Nets. Still, they were outscored 33-20 in the fourth and gave up 64 second-half points. It may not have been a concern at the time in a one-game sample, but it’s turned into a troubling trend.
Against the Bulls in Chicago, they led 83-67 after three. They held on for dear life for a 106-101 win. But on Wednesday against the Thunder, it finally caught up with them. The Celtics raced out to an 18-3 lead and led, 51-42, at the half. They were outscored 67-43 in the second half and lost. Friday night, they had their biggest lead going into the fourth quarter, 101-84 against King James and the Cavs. They were outscored 38-20 in the fourth. Against the Nets, Thunder and Cavaliers, they have given up 64, 67, and 63 points, respectively in the second half, losing the last two.
The Celtics are learning that there’s no better way to blow big leads than playing porous defense.
“I’m frustrated by it,” coach Brad Stevens said. “I want to be better at it. I thought our energy and togetherness and sustainability was much better [against Cleveland]. When things went south, we came back. They went up by three; we ended up tying the game. Jeff made a great hustle play to get the free throws. You know if you turned on the TV last night you saw it in at least two games, maybe three — and that happens. You’ve got to play all 48. You’ve got to be great all 48 against this team. And it’s not the same against everybody, but you still have to be on your A-game the whole time.”
‘We just got to win games, point blank, we just got to win,” Jared Sullinger added. “There’s no more lessons, no more moral victories, we just got to win flat out. Kyrie [Irving] made some shots, LeBron made some shots; that’s what great players do. There’s no answers we just got to win. In the NBA, no 15, 20-point lead is safe. You just have to keep playing.”
The immediate reaction by most Friday night was to blame Rajon Rondo for dribbling out the clock and not getting a shot off, the appropriate ending to a self-destruction at the hands of LeBron James and the Cavaliers in a 122-121 loss at TD Garden.
But to the cerebral Brad Stevens, there was much more to his star player not getting up a shot down a point with the game in the balance.
With seven seconds left, coming out of a timeout, Stevens watched as the Cavaliers and James took away the number one option in Jeff Green, forcing Kelly Olynyk to inbound to Jared Sullinger. The big man then dumped it to Rajon Rondo, who was fighting to get free from rookie Joe Harris. The Cavaliers switched Harris off a screen and Shawn Marion was on Rondo for the final four seconds. Then Rondo lost control before dribbling out the clock, firing up an off-balance attempt a full second after time expired.
“Well, we had a couple of different options,” Stevens said. “We had Jeff over the top, which I’d have to look at the film to see if he had LeBron sealed for a lob. Obviously, it’s a little bit riskier of a pass, but we had just thrown it to Jared and then we just had a simple swing to Rondo and our desire was to reject the screen. And he had a good match-up, but Joe Harris did a nice job on him, and we didn’t get a shot off.
“Rondo isolated on a rookie on the right wing. I felt pretty good when he got the ball reversed to him. Again, give Joe Harris a lot of credit. He did a great job on that possession. We were trying to space and rip and drive and play. I told Rondo those plays start with me. I’ll be responsible for that one.”
|Rajon Rondo passes Paul Pierce in career Celtics assists||11.14.14 at 8:04 pm ET|
After stealing the ball from Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love, Rondo found Kelly Olynyk for a layup 1:27 into the contest, recording his first assist of Friday’s game and the 4,306th of his nine-year career in Boston.
Pierce amassed his 4,305 assists in 1,102 games over 15 seasons on the Celtics. Rondo still trails Larry Bird (5,695 assists in 870 games), John Havlicek (6,114 in 1,270) and Bob Cousy (6,945 in 917) on the career list. Judging by the company he keeps, Rondo’s not so bad.
|Rajon Rondo feels he’s ‘still a long way’ from where he wants to be||11.13.14 at 11:09 am ET|
Wednesday night was an example of what can go wrong when he doesn’t. As a point guard and captain, Rondo has often been responsible for calling out defenses for the likes of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Avery Bradley. Rondo, by his own admission after a 109-94 loss to the Thunder, is still working his way back to form after missing training camp and preseason with a broken bone in his left hand.
“I think around Game 6 for me and still kind of preseason but everything counts,” Rondo said. “I’m still trying to get my rhythm, my wind and my timing with my teammates. I’m still a long way from where I want to be so I’m just going to continue to work.
“I’m OK defensively,” Rondo said. “I think it’s a team effort. I’m just trying to do my job in getting to the ball, contest shots. We didn’t do a great job of that, including myself. [Anthony] Morrow hit some tough shots but we still have to make them more uncomfortable off the ball. Give them credit. They made plays. They made the shots. They had our defense scattered all over the court. They went inside with dunks with Adams. And they went outside with Morrow and [Nick] Collison. They had us all over the place.”
The Helter Skelter defense allowed the Thunder to shoot 62 percent in the second half as the Thunder outscored Boston, 67-43, to cruise to just their third win in nine games.
“We let one slip away,” Rondo said. “They come off a back-to-back. They got in around three in the morning and we’ve been waiting. It’s a disappointing loss but we continue and have to move forward.”
Moving forward means LeBron James, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers on Friday night at the Garden. The Thunder shot lights out without Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook Wednesday. Celtics fans shudder to think what might happen if Cleveland’s “Big 3″ get hot Friday.
|Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins and a Celtics brotherhood||at 1:31 am ET|
Those 2007-08 Celtics share a bond that won’t be broken, so it wasn’t surprising to see Leon Powe waiting in the visiting locker room for Thunder center Kendrick Perkins to get dressed Wednesday night.
“Sometimes you just need a reality check,” said Perkins, who has worked through his share of ups and downs in Oklahoma City, coming off the bench in Wednesday’s 109-94 win over his former team. “Sometimes people you love just have to put you in place and talk to you, and that’s all you need at times, is just that one person to talk to.
“I go to a lot of people, man,” he added. “I talk to [Kevin Garnett] a lot. I talk to [Rajon] Rondo a lot. KG is the one who tells me the truth all the time. He’s going to tell me the truth whether I want to hear it or not.”
Rondo wouldn’t share exactly what he and he and his former teammate discuss.
“I can’t really say what we talk about, really,” he said. “He told me some things, too, but I won’t put him on blast.”
Perkins is a little more forthcoming about their relationship. They became best friends as the young tandem that filled out a starting five that featured Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, so when Perkins was dealt to OKC for Jeff Green at the 2011 trade deadline, it taught them both a less in NBA business. Still, they remain thick as thieves.
Naturally, as Perkins and Rondo approach unrestricted free agency for the first time in their careers, their conversations occasionally focus on the future. “I think it’s a great place for him,” Perkins told reporters prior to the game. “I think he wants to stay here. We talk on the regular, and I think he should stay. If I was him, I’d stay.”
Rondo didn’t disagree. “That’s about accurate,” said the Celtics captain. “From Media Day in the beginning, that’s what I said initially, so … my perspective hasn’t changed, and I love being a Celtic.”
|5 things we learned from the Celtics’ loss to the Thunder||11.12.14 at 9:54 pm ET|
The Celtics are tough to figure out.
Coming in riding a two-game win streak, the C’s raced to a 15-point lead in the first quarter, but then struggled against a star-less Thunder team that picked up its first road win of the season by a score of 109-94 (click here for box score).
The win for Oklahoma City was reminiscent of Boston’s short-handed victory against the heavily favored Bulls on the second night of a back-to-back last Saturday. The Thunder did not look like the team that lost Tuesday night in Milwaukee, beating the Celtics in convincing fashion.
Reggie Jackson and Anthony Morrow led the Thunder with 28 points each. Morrow came off the bench and was quiet much of the game, until exploding for 19 points in the fourth quarter.
Although Morrow’s contributions were well above average, the Thunder managed to take a 50-15 advantage over the Celtics in bench scoring. This was far from expected given that the Thunder’s depleted roster was facing off against a Celtics squad that prides themselves on depth. Perhaps the absence of Marcus Smart and Marcus Thornton (both out with sprained ankles) cost the C’s some bench production, but it would have been hard to predict such a stark difference from Saturday.
Here are five things we learned in a game that dropped the Celtics back below .500 (3-4):
|Rajon Rondo didn’t want to miss last Saturday’s game vs. Bulls||11.11.14 at 3:40 pm ET|
WALTHAM — The Celtics held practice at their training facility in Waltham on Tuesday as they prepare for a three-game homestand, beginning Wednesday night against the Thunder.
The most noteworthy news from practice was the fact that Rajon Rondo practiced in full after missing last Saturday’s game in Chicago to have screws removed from his surgically repaired left hand. Although minor, this certainly was not a procedure that was planned far in advance — nor did Rondo seem happy about missing the game.
“Danny [Ainge] made a decision at halftime [of Friday’s victory over the Pacers], I had no idea,” said Rondo when asked when it was made official he wouldn’t be joining the team on its flight to Chicago Friday night.
After Friday’s game was when Rondo was notified he would be staying back in Boston to get the screws removed. Even without Rondo Saturday night, the Celtics defeated the Bulls, 106-101.
“[I] came in very pissed off, but, you know, the team got the win. … I just wanted to go travel with my team and play against Chicago,” Rondo said.
Rondo added he thought he would have had the surgery on Sunday — an off day.
“Well, I thought we would have the day off Sunday anyway, and I thought I could do it Sunday, but they [Ainge and team doctors] make the decisions,” Rondo said.
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