|Why you should care about Thursday’s Celtics loss: Tyler Zeller emerged, and Evan Turner was ejected||10.15.14 at 10:00 pm ET|
On a night when Celtics coach Brad Stevens declared Kelly Olynyk “tough to unseat” for the starting center spot, Tyler Zeller broke out of his slump, converting all six of his shots and emerging as a potential solution to the C’s rim-protecting woes in a 92-89 preseason win over the Raptors in Portland, Maine.
Zeller entered Wednesday’s game averaging 5.8 points and 3.2 with just one block in 75 total minutes. In 12 first-half minutes against Toronto, he broke out for 11 points, three boards and a trio of blocks, anchoring a 13-3 run that tied the game at the half. He finished with 13 points, four rebounds, three assists and the three blocks in 18 minutes.
The 7-footer played well off the pick-and-roll with Evan Turner, who assisted Zeller’s first four buckets, all inside of 4 feet. And the Celtics enjoyed their best string of basketball with both Zeller and Olynyk in the frontcourt.
OTHER REASONS TO CARE AOBUT CELTICS-RAPTORS:
Avery Bradley pulled a Paul Pierce. With eight seconds remaining, Bradley made a step-back elbow jumper to tie the game at 89-89. But Lou Williams answered with a 3-pointer over Bradley with 0.6 seconds left, and Jared Sullinger’s buzzer-beating heave bounced off the back of the rim.
Evan Turner was ejected. In the third quarter, he mouthed off to the ref under Toronto’s basket, and sent the ball (gently) bouncing off the official’s leg for a second technical.
Marcus Thornton converted a five-point play. Yup, that’s right. During another offensive explosion by the oft-traded shooting guard, he made a 3-pointer, got fouled by Jordan Hamilton and then earned another free throw for a Hamilton tech. Thornton sunk both freebies and finished with a team-high 17 points on nine shots.
Jeff Green got poked in the eye. Green returned from a calf injury for his first action, and promptly found himself on the floor in the pain again. Amir Johnson poked the Celtics forward in the eye, and after a few scary moments Green returned to miss both his free throws. He left the game briefly and finished 0-for-3 after returning.
James Young is nearing a return. The Celtics rookie’s hamstring injury is scheduled to be reevaluated on Monday, and the team is optimistic he could return for their preseason finale. Meanwhile, Rajon Rondo was seen getting in a workout before the game in Portland. He still had a protective cast on his left hand.
|Raptors CEO to Celtics: ‘How’s that preseason going?’||10.22.13 at 5:38 pm ET|
Let’s just say the Raptors didn’t enjoy having a Celtics fan wearing an outdated Ray Allen jersey and naturally double-fisting a couple Molson Goldens at their annual town hall event for season ticket-holders.
“Where’s that guy with the Celtics jersey?” said Raptors CEO Tim Leiweke. “How’s that preseason going for you?”
Toronto, of course, handed the Celtics two of their seven losses so far this preseason. Ouch. You know it’s bad when the Raptors started calling the C’s out. [Insert "The Raptors have season-ticket holders?" joke here.]
|Rudy Gay: Rajon Rondo ‘will be stronger than ever’||10.08.13 at 1:34 am ET|
Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo might not share his thoughts on the last eight months with the Boston media, but he’s certainly opened to his friends, including Raptors star Rudy Gay, the recipient of Rondo’s greatest alley-oop pass. Not that Gay, who included Rondo in his wedding over the summer, is going to share that info, either.
“If he’s not telling, then I’m not telling,” said Gay, who just finished scoring 17 points on 11 shots in an efficient 23:12 during a 97-89 victory against the Rondo-less Celtics in Boston. “He’s working his hardest to get back. He’s not the type of guy to take a day off. He’s worried about the team, and he’s worried about himself.”
While it may be strange for Celtics fans to see their team without Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, it’s not all that weird for guys like Gay, who entered the league when Pierce’s Celtics won 24 games in 2006-07. Since then, he’s seen LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, James Harden, David Lee, Zach Randolph, Tyson Chandler and Jrue Holiday — each All-Stars last season — swap uniforms.
As Gay described it, “Listen, man, the league changes every year.” And he should know. The Grizzlies sent him to Toronto just last year. Really, the departure of Pierce and Garnett is nothing new in today’s NBA, so don’t you think Rondo eventually realized that, too? In fact, Gay believes Rondo will ultimately flourish without them.
|Fast Break: Raptors spoil Brad Stevens’ Celtics debut||10.07.13 at 9:58 pm ET|
The new-look Celtics may have lost their preseason debut, but the defeat wasn’t entirely discouraging.
In front of the handful of fans not watching the Red Sox, four Celtics reached double figures in the 97-89 loss to the Raptors. Gerald Wallace (16 points) led the way, followed by Jared Sullinger (14 points, 6 rebounds), Avery Bradley (12 points) and Kris Humphries (11 points). Of course, other things happened, too.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Tough start: Let’s just say the introduction to the Brad Stevens Era defense wasn’t pretty. The Raptors grabbed an 8-0 lead, including a pair of uncontested Jonas Valanciunas dunks, and then stretched it to 14-2 against a starting lineup of Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass and Kris Humphries.
No contest: The Celtics played everyone on the 14-man roster in the first half with the exception of Phil Pressey, and things didn’t get much better defensively. The Raptors shot 59.4 percent from the field and scored 53 points in the opening 24 minutes, including 26 in the paint and 10 on second chances. Somehow, only two of those 53 points came on the fast break, which means the half-court defense wasn’t so good.
Window watching: At halftime, the Celtics had six rebounds. Six. That’s one every four minutes. Their leading rebounder? Six guys with one apiece (four bigs, Gerald Wallace and Avery Bradley). Meanwhile, the Raptors had 22 boards at the break. Valanciunas had a half dozen, or as many as the entire Celtics roster combined. Things improved in the second half, but Toronto still out-rebounded the C’s 46-26 for the game.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Frontcourt depth: The first three non-guards off the bench — Wallace, Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger — transformed the early 14-2 deficit into a three-point lead late in the first quarter. Olynyk’s passing game was the biggest surprise, as the rookie registered more assists (5) than the rest of his teammates (4) through the first two quarters.
Vitor FAVErani: The mystery behind the Brazilian big man landing in Boston and the unveiling of his mohawk during a glorious Media Day interview established Faverani as the Honorary Brian Scalabrine Award winner of this preseason (also known as the Greg Stiemsma Lifetime Achievement Award), and he didn’t disappoint in his Garden debut. In the 7-footer’s first three minutes, he threw down a breakaway dunk, poached a pair of steals, blocked a shot and set a handful of hard screens. Vitor is still the best.
Over the Hump: For all the off-the-court drama that has plagued Kris Humphries, he quietly showed up early in Boston (in great shape, too), served as a leader to the younger Celtics during pre-camp workouts, earned a starting spot out of camp and then drew a pair of charges early in the first preseason game. In other words, he’s motivated and could win over some Celtics fans this season. In related news, Humphries is in a contract year.
|Fast Break: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce help Celtics spread wealth||03.13.13 at 9:58 pm ET|
Seven Celtics scored in double figures and every member of the team but Shavlik Randolph made a bucket as they handed the Raptors a 112-88 blowout win to bounce back from a loss to the Bobcats the night before.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
New Logo: In what’s becoming a nightly occurrence, Garnett passed another milestone, the Celtics crowd gave him a standing ovation and he reciprocated with a salute. This time, Garnett (12 points) passed Jerry West for 15th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with a layup two minutes into the second quarter. Midway through the third quarter, Pierce (15 points) surpassed Charles Barkley to claim 20th on the same list and also saluted the cheering crowd.
Green lantern: After shooting a combined 16-for-47 (34 FG%) in his last four games, Green came out firing. He made 5-of-7 attempts, including his lone 3-pointer, to enter the break as the lone player in double digits (12). His three rebounds paired with Garnett’s seven first-half boards gave the C’s an early edge on the glass. Green finished with a game-high 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting.
Air Jordan: Jordan Crawford submitted his best two performances in a Celtics uniform in back-to-back games. After scoring 14 points in the stinker against the Bobcats, he totaled 12 against the Raptors, and each basket was more improbable than the next. The off-balance 3-pointer to beat the shot clock and a half dunk over a chagrined Raptor in transition were just two of his highlights. At some point, as the kid keeps hitting ridiculous shots, it’s more skill than luck, right?
WHAT WENT WRONG
Worst first: It’s hard to tell whether the first quarter was even basketball or not. The Celtics and Raptors combined for 11 turnovers (BOS 6, TOR 5), Jason Terry (12 points) earned himself a silly technical foul for batting the ball off an announcer and the C’s allowed 14 points in the paint. The result? A 22-21 Toronto lead after one.
Turd-quarter runs: The Celtics built a 53-40 lead a minute into the second half, but they proceeded to watch as the Raptors ran off a 9-0 run that included three layups and a Rudy Gay (19 points) dunk. For the sake of Garnett and Pierce’s legs, thankfully the C’s closed out the third quarter on a 28-13 run, taking an 81-62 edge into the final frame.
Finish rim: Avery Bradley came into the game shooting a season-worst 56 percent at the rim. Considering the number of times he gets himself open under the basket, that’s disturbing, but most of his misses seem to come in transition, when he’s 1-on-1 with a defender as he was at the end of the first quarter. Since Bradley’s defensive prowess will so often put him in transition, he needs to work on finishing at the rim.
Garnett scored 12 points and passed Jerry West for 15th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with a dunk with 6:30 left in the first half. Pierce scored 15 and passed Charles Barkley for 20th place on the same list with a pair of free throws midway through the third quarters.
Both Pierce and Garnett received a video tribute during separate timeouts and a standing ovation from the Garden crowd.
Riding a two-game losing streak, the Celtics (35-29) raced out to an early 18-12 lead but thanks to six first-quarter turnovers, allowed Toronto to go on a 10-4 run to end the quarter and trailed the Raptors, 22-21, after 12 minutes. Seven Celtics scored in double figures and Shav Randolph was the only Celtic not to score.
The Celtics took better care of the ball in the second quarter and raced out to a 49-40 lead at the half, as Jeff Green scored 12 points in the quarter. Green finished with a team-best 20 points while Jason Terry and Jordan Crawford had 12 each off the bench.
THe Celtics quickly built their lead to 13 in the opening minute of the third, 53-40, but the Raptors came back to close to within four, 60-56. The Celtics finally put the game away with a 21-6 run to end the third and head into the fourth with an 81-62 lead. Former Celtic Sebastian Telfair picked up his second technical foul in the third quarter intermission and was ejected.
The Celtics built their lead up to as many as 25 in garbage time, allowing Doc Rivers to take out Garnett with just under 10 minutes left. However, unlike the night before, Garnett was getting rest because of a blowout lead.
The win came one night after arguably Boston’s worst effort of the season in a 26-point loss to the lowly Bobcats in Charlotte. The Celtics have Thursday off and will practice Friday in advance of their rare Saturday night home game, a revenge contest against the Bobcats at the Garden.
The Celtics will conclude their three-game homestand with a Monday night game at the Garden with LeBron James and the Heat, who ran their win streak to 20 games with a narrow 98-94 win over the Sixers Wednesday night in Philadelphia. The Heat have road games against Milwaukee Friday and Toronto Sunday afternoon before taking on the Celtics in Boston Monday night.
For more from the team of Mike Petraglia and Ben Rohrbach from the Garden, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.
|Kevin Garnett powers Celtics past Raptors||02.06.13 at 9:34 pm ET|
Kevin Garnett led all five Celtics starters in double-figure scoring with a season-high 27 points and powered a key run at the start of the fourth quarter as the Celtics outlasted the Raptors, 99-93, Wednesday night at Air Canada Centre in Toronto. His turnaround jumper with 46.6 seconds left put Boston up 96-91.
Garnett’s three-point play with 8:46 remaining capped a 10-0 run at the start of the final period as the Celtics overcame a sloppy third quarter to win their fifth straight game and improve to 25-23 on the season. Garnett was 11-of-18 from the field and added 10 rebounds in the win.
Paul Pierce had 12 points and 11 rebounds while former Raptor Leandro Barbosa chipped in 14 points off the Boston bench. Courtney Lee (15), Avery Bradley (11) and Brandon Bass (10) also scored in double figures. After dominating the previous four games, the Celtics bench was not a major factor Wednesday but still outscored Toronto’s reserves, 24-20.
The Celtics finished the first half on an 11-6 run to take a 50-45 lead. The Celtics scored first in the third quarter to increase their lead to seven, but Rudy Gay then came alive. Gay, who was 8-of-22 from the field, scored 13 of his team-leading 25 in the third.
The Raptors appeared ready to steal the game with a 17-4 run late in the third quarter. The Raptors would outscore the Celtics 34-19 to take a 79-69 lead heading into the final 12 minutes. The Raptors had five of their 11 steals in the quarter as Toronto took command.
But Garnett led a Celtics charge that saw Boston outscore Toronto 30-16 in the final 12 minutes to wrap up a fifth straight win. Barbosa had 12 of his 14 in the final period to help Garnett and the Celtics put the game away.
The Celtics will have little time to rest as they fly back to Boston and take on Kobe Bryant and the Lakers on Thursday at 8 p.m. at TD Garden. The Lakers will not have the services of Pau Gasol, as the Lakers big man was diagnosed with a torn plantar fascia.
For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.