Friday, March 27, 2015

Celtics beat Knicks, remain in 8th spot

This wasn't the greatest basketball game by any stretch of the imagination. It was ugly, chippy, and just not pretty. Turner committed five of Boston's 16 turnovers, and those turnovers aided the ugly night. Boston's defense was a key point for the Knicks not so pretty performance. Boston limited New York to just 43.7 percent shooting from the field and 29.2 percent shooting from 3-point range. Andrea Bargnani tied a season high with 25 points for the Knicks, who also had five players in double figures.

The Celtics led by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter, but like the game the Celtics played ugly. The Knicks hung around all night, simply by playing hard. Four Celtics scored at least 15 points Friday night against the Knicks. With Thomas shaking off some rust with an 18 point night. Bass scored 16 points and only needed seven field goal attempts to reach that total. Jae Crowder added 17 points and nine rebounds, as Boston held off a late rally by the New York Knicks to win 96-92.

"This was a hard game," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "I knew it was going to be a hard game. We all knew it was going to be a hard game. I'm happy that we won. I thought we made a few too many mistakes late that we need to clean up."

This felt like a trap game for some reason. The Celtics played down to the (14-59) Knicks. Andrea Bargnani tied a season high with 25 points for the Knicks, who also had five players in double figures. The Celtics hang onto the 8th after beating New York. The Celtics are 32-40 with 10 games to go.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Isiah Thomas struggles in return

Thomas had a lackluster return while putting up four points on 2-of-7 shooting over 20 minutes during Wednesday's 93-86 loss to the Miami Heat. It was clear that his legs were not there, and that his chemistry that he established was off. Thomas played less than seven minutes in the second half, with no action in the 4th quarter, where he leads the league in 4th quarter scoring.

I blame Thomas' poor performance on rust, and not rushing to comeback from the back injury. Thomas missed four free throws early, and he miss fired on a few jump shots early in the game. Thomas averaged 21.4 in his first 10 games with Boston, and the Celtics won 6 of his first 10 games. I think will see Thomas slowly get back into form, it's only natural showing rust.

The biggest concern that I have now is that the chemistry may not resume where it left off. I think it will comeback, but a part of me worries that it's gone. Thomas hopefully finds a way, because the Celtics playoff hopes may come down to him.

"I was playing so bad, I didn’t even care about the fall, honestly," said Thomas. "It hurt -- the initial hit when I took the charge -- but other than that, I was all right."

"There's no excuses, I have to play better," said Thomas. "I'm my biggest critic, I have to come out and play better, offensively and defensively."

Thomas will get back to his old ways soon. Stevens voiced some of his concerns after Thomas' first game back.

"Obviously, my bigger concern is, 'How’s he doing?' because he was a little bit out of rhythm tonight, so hopefully that was just a rhythm thing and not how he’s feeling," said Stevens. "That’s what I want to know and we’ll talk about that more. Guys aren’t going to be that honest during the game because they want to play, at least the really competitive ones are that way, and he’s a really competitive one."

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Celtics rally falls short, Miami wins 93-86

Miami made just enough plays to edge out Boston, 93-86, in a big win for two playoff hopeful teams. Boston had issues scoring the basketball, after pulling within 88-82. The Heat made four of their five free throw attempts during the final 30 seconds to secure the win. Although Boston's effort was great during their 4th quarter rally, they also know that playing from behind isn't the best way to win.

Nothing went right for Boston, and turning the ball over made it worse. Boston committed 17 turnovers, and their ability to stop second chance points was an issue all night. Miami (33-38) has won four of six and is seventh in the Eastern Conference playoff race. This win is huge for Miami, as any win is for all of the teams fighting for the final two playoff spots.

Crowder came off the bench Wednesday night and but scored a game high for the Celtics.The versatile Crowder scored 16 points thanks to his aggressive play.Crowder also grabbed seven rebounds and blocked a shot during his 27-plus minutes of action against Miami. Dragic led the game with 22 points, as he controlled the pace for Miami all night. Haslem notched the only double-double of the game with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

With the loss, Boston is now 31-40, and tied for the 8th spot with the Pacers. The Celtics currently hold the tie breaker, because they lead the season series. As for the other teams, Charlotte lost to the Nets, and their both tied at 30-40, a half game out of the 8th spot.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Boston wins, moves into 8th spot

Olynyk had been struggling with his shot, but Monday night, all of that would change. Kelly was just 9-for-40 from the field, for 22.5 percent, in his last five games.
Olynyk put in seven straight points for the Celtics in about a minute span in the fourth, giving the Celtics a 16-point lead over the Nets. Boston controlled the final eight minutes of the night, never allowing the Nets to chip away at their lead.

Kelly Olynyk finished with 18 points for Boston, which bounced back from a 105-97 overtime loss to Detroit at home on Sunday.

Evan Turner had a fantastic game from start to finish, notching the second triple-double both of his season and career. He put in 19 points, falling one point short of Avery Bradley’s total for the team high. He also dished out a game-high 12 assists to go along with a game-high 10 boards. As for the Nets, Brook Lopez scored a game-high 31 points. Tyler Zeller looked great again, he scored 18 points on 9-of-13 shooting.

A big stat for me was Boston's ability to guard the three-point line. The Celtics limited the Nets to just 1-of-17 shooting from long range, good for 5.9 percent. Brad Stevens spoke about Boston's win, and Evan Turners play as of late. That's What He Said

"He knows how to play and every night he fills the box score anyways – maybe not to that level. He was really good with the ball tonight. He was making great decisions off of the pick and roll. He was aggressive from the start. He had a tough assignment in Joe Johnson to start the game. He did a pretty good job with him, although we had Jae Crowder on him the rest of the game after that. He’s a good player. We need everyone to play well, and he played well tonight."

"I was just really pleased with how we responded to losing a tough one last night and then not playing great the first six minutes of this game. We responded, and the guys pulled for each other and it was galvanizing to see the ball go in for a couple of them. I thought the turning point in the game was when Phil Pressey came in and the pressure he put on the ball. Along with our other players, I thought it was our defense that was ratcheted up in that second, third and fourth quarters. Every game is so unique, and this is a hard league. You have to play all the way through the game regardless of what the score is. It was great to go up 16. Brooklyn cut it to five, and we go back up 15. Bottom line is it doesn’t matter if you win by 16 or win by one. You just try to get the result you want. I was encouraged by our play in responding."

The Celtics will face off against the 7th seed Miami this Wednesday, as Boston has taken over the 8th spot, with Charlotte losing Monday.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Boston wins 5th in a row, blowout 76ers 108-89

Tyler Zeller scored a career-high 26 points, and the Celtics roll to their 5th win in a row. Zeller has a nice two game stretch going, with 18 points against the Pacers Saturday, and a career night Monday. Boston swept the season series, 4-0, in the 108-89 win over Philly. The Celtics are playing like a consistent basketball team right now, and it's translating with wins.

Stevens on the Celtics being consistent

"Well I think it’s the continuity of the guys that have been here the whole time. They’ve really helped and really helped the way in a lot of ways. And then I just think our additions have been good, good solid team guys that will compete, that are our there helping each other and supporting one another and so that’s been a positive."

The Celtics controlled this game from the start. In the second quarter, Boston used a quick 7-0 spurt to improve its lead to 51-24 on Bradley's third 3-pointer of the half. AB finished with 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists. For the longest time Boston didn't have a single turnover, but like most teams with big leads they got a little sloppy.

This team is clicking at the right time, and they kind of remind me of the fun Warriors team in 2007. That Warriors team won 16 of their 20 games I believe, and they made the playoffs on the final day of the regular season in 2007. The Celtics are young and fun. They have a coach who has excelled to greater heights in his second year, and the players listen to him.

Boston is 30-36, and they're tied with Indiana and Miami for the 7th and 8th spot.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Celtics win grit-and-grind game against the Pacers

The Celtics took another step toward locking up a playoff spot after beating the Pacers 93-89. It was the Celtics’ fourth in a row and their sixth in seven games, and it brought them to within half a game of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The Celtics had more well balanced team play behind Brandon Bass, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder each scoring 16 points. Bass sealed the win by making two free throws with 5.3 seconds to go, ending a three-game losing streak in Indiana and giving Boston a crucial 2-1 series lead with the final matchup set for April 1 at Boston.

This was a grit-and-grind kind of game once again for Boston. They battled again in a close game, but Boston took control with a 17-4 first-half run that gave Boston a 32-20 second-quarter lead. Indiana, spent the rest of the night playing catch-up. They got within 45-37 at halftime and 49-48 early in the third quarter. Boston committed only 12 total turnovers. They trust each other, and they've become high I.Q players behind Stevens' coaching.

Brad Stevens has made me eat my words. He's a good, if not great coach. Is he an NBA Championship some day kind of coach? I don't know, but he's a gifted leader, and basketball mind. The Celtics are better than expected,and he deserves a lot of credit for this unexpected push to the playoffs.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Celtics rally, beat Orlando 95-88

The Celtics had no business winning this game, but Evan Turner delivered in the 4th quarter for Boston in a big win Friday. The Celtics pulled out the 95-88 win, behind Evan Turner's season high 30 points. Turner delivered with 16 points in the 4th quarter as the Celtics were down by 10 in the final frame.

Turner on the 4th quarter.

"I get more comfortable down the stretch when it comes to big time moments, big time plays. It's always been that way. I think it's easier for me to lock in to a certain extent and obviously I already had it going a little bit and once the fourth quarter hit I took my shots."

With the win, Boston moved within 1 game of the final playoff spot in the East with 18 games to play. On Saturday, Boston will face the Pacers who are 2 games up while currently positioned at number seven in the East. The Celtics have won 5 of their last 6 games, and they currently have a 3 game winning streak. The Celtics seem to improve game by game, and their ability to closeout games is veteran like.

Kelly on the Celtics rally.

"Just sticking together, sticking to the plan... Eventually stuff is going to fall. We relied on our defense a lot this last stretch so we just have to stick with the plan and eventually it panned out."

Kelly Olynyk added 13 points and Avery Bradley had 10 for the Celtics. Pressey racked up his first double-double this season with 10 points and 10 assists, the third of his career. Pressey really controlled the temp of this game when Boston needed someone to lead. The Celtics will be tested Saturday night against the Pacers. They'll need a group effort again with their best scorer Thomas out again.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Rondo Reinvented

Recent crushing losses to playoffs bound teams suggest that the Mavs season is basically over.  This also suggests that Rondo's Mavs "stint" (as Carlisle so charmingly termed it) is also just about over.  And what does that mean for Rondo's ongoing career?  Does he even have one?  He's killed two teams this year.  His play has been historically bad for much of the season.  Rondo's season this year  may go down as one of the worst seasons in NBA history.  Every time he has a halfway decent game or two and one begins to think that maybe he is getting it together he goes into another and deeper slide.  Forget max, will any team even want Rondo after this season?

At first, the trade that sent Rondo to the Mavs looked hopeful.  It was a change of scenery for Rondo, who would have a chance to be on a contender, surrounded by outstanding scorers, while backed on defense by Tyson Chandler. But the problems with the deal quickly became clear.  Monta Ellis was the Mavs' ballhandler.  Period.  He was very very good at running the offense and, understandably, he certainly wasn't going to give up his role to Rondo. That pushed Rondo into a kind of three and D role, but that  would only work if Rondo was hitting threes pretty well.  His three shooting hasn't been bad - for Rondo - but it's not been good and the rest of Rondo's shooting game has been awful.   Rondo did raise his defensive game when he came to the Mavs and this seemed to rub off on his teammates, but that wasn't enough to make up for the team's downfall on offense post-Rondo trade.

Chemistry between players can resolve seemingly intractable positional problems, but the chemistry that could have saved the Mavs would have had to have been between Rondo and Monta, I suppose, and between Rondo and Carlisle too.  There have been a few good moments between Rondo and Ellis, but basically you have two guys who want the ball and you can't get past that.   As for Carlisle and Rondo, it looks like the Mavs are going to be lucky if those two guys can avoid actual physical confrontations.

This last summer I predicted that Rondo was going to have an awful year.  Recently  I found a quote at CelticsBlog -- posted by a longtime (relative) Rondo backer in a discussion about the possibility of Thomas starting -- that I think says a lot about what Rondo faced as the Big Three era came to an end:
Smart is the future
the way I see it, if you give Thomas a foot in the door (of the starting lineup) he’s not going to be happy going back to the bench
Smart is the future and I don’t think you want to mess with that going forward
maybe you could bring Bradley off the bench and go with two PGs, but we don’t have a 3rd PG to man the point when they both need a breather or get in foul trouble
I like Smart and Bradley starting and IT coming off the bench – it works, it makes sense, don’t mess with it
As I said, the context is a discussion of whether Isaiah Thomas should start for the Celtics, since he has been playing so brilliantly for them since being traded to B'town.  Isn't it remarkable that this writer has such intense faith in Smart that he'd rather sit Thomas than take any chance that Thomas might outshine Smart?   I can appreciate that sentiment to some extent, because Smart is a very impressive player and his positive effect on the team seems to be much bigger than his statistics suggest.  But what astonishing reverence suffuses the quote, a reverence so strong that it not only blots out memories of Rondo, but outweighs the mesmerizing play of current Celtics pg phenom Isaiah Thomas, not to mention the at times outstanding play of onetime draft fave and still sometimes brilliant Evan Turner.  This remarkable reverence is felt for a man who has barely played a full season in the NBA and has certainly not set the league on fire!  Meanwhile the guy who drove the Celtics deep into the playoffs repeatedly, who helped reset Celtics Pride and helped bring us a championship - that guy seems to be completely forgotten as if he never was.

My Dad used to tell me a story about my uncle, my Dad's brother, who was a pitching prospect for one season in the minor leagues.  His competition that year, on his minor league team, was a bonus guy, some sort of phenom.  My uncle felt that he outpitched the phenom during that season, but he could see that it didn't matter and so he left at the end of the year.  The perception that one guy was a hot prospect and the other guy was not was cast in stone.  I guess that is how it usually goes in sports.

So it has gone for Rondo, it seems.  Even with a potential HOF career firmly established -- complete with deep drives into the playoffs, four all-star appearances, a steals title, two assist titles, several all-defensive team selections, mad respect from legends of the game and a championship, a deep archive of highlights and a truly rare creative streak and  intense competitive fire -- Rondo was, it seems,  never regarded by the Celtics brass, or by the fan base, or by the media,  with the same reverence that Smart was given pretty much from the moment he was drafted.  Rondo was never The Future.  There was always this argument about whether the team could or should build around him and that really said it all.  So much doubt over a player with such a strong resume says so much.

Even during that short period of time when there was a lot of talk about the Celtics finally being 'Rondo's team' ... even then Ainge was already busy churning the team.  Rondo is a player whose game  relies quite a bit  on knowing his teammates well and having good chemistry with them.  Danny's churn and burn approach alone made it almost impossible for Rondo to begin to establish his leadership with 'his' team.  I would say that  Rondo was set up to fail by Danny and I think Danny knew it and I think Rondo knew it too.  In 2012-2013 Rondo struggled to put the team on his back amidst a barrage of criticism;  I think this burden probably contributed to his ACL injury.  Rondo had  the burdens of the Cs supposedly being his team, without the privileges that come with being The Future.  Even players who had just come to the team didn't have any problem suggesting that Rondo handled the ball too much, when their own play was questioned.   That alone indicated that they hardly saw it as 'Rondos team'.   When Rondo went down to his ACL injury, players,  fans and media seemed almost excited to see how the team would do without him.

Rondo was always on a very short and twisted string.  He was tasked to succeed with a team that was already being churned.  Then he was tasked to succeed with a team that was tanking, as he tried to come back from severe injury.  Then he was tasked to succeed with a team where his lame duck status was all too obvious.

It looks now like the prospect of all this may have contributed to Doc's departure in 2013.  Doc may have seen the future all too clearly:   Danny was planning to build without bridging and that meant the writing was on the wall for the Old Guard.  It looks now like Rondo was kept around another year after the ACL pretty much so that he could rebuild at least some of his trade value.  Danny is one cold-hearted dude.  He spent the summer of 2014 going after point guards, all the while continuing to try to maintain the front that the Celtics were, in some waning sense, still Rondo's team.  So  what did that mean in reality?  It meant that the pressure of being supposedly the 'chosen one' was even more intense for Rondo, with no upside at all.  It was almost as though he was being asked to audition for the team that he was supposedly leading!  How crazy is that?   The resulting mess, followed by Rondo's ill-fitting "stint" in Dallas, has probably trashed whatever was left of Rondo's reputation.  In three years he's gone from being a guy on the verge of superstardom to the object of mockery.  Sneering at Rondo has become an internet pastime.  How sad that there is no shame in Celtics Land.  There doesn't even seem to be a lingering sadness about what might have been.

Supposedly Rondo has been exposed now.  For sure, some deficiencies in Rondo's game have been writ large during the last three years, especially this year, but I think it is also the system itself that has been exposed, and shown up, though I suppose few will see it.  Does anyone seriously claim  that 30% shooting from the ft line represents Rondo's actual shooting ability?  It's as blatant a deformation as one could hope to see and that points to the kind of deeper problems that one would expect to see from a player who is feeling a lot of stress.  Of course, Rondo is not typically one who shows any distress he may be feeling, but there have been a few moments this season when it seemed almost visible, as it did when reporters were talking to Rondo about the rumored Mavs trade the night before it went down.  I can't find that video, but I remember how sad he seemed.  I thought he seemed heartsick.

How does Rondo rebuild his career at this point?  I don't think he has any chance at max this summer, and I don't think many teams will want him at any price.  Unless things turn around dramatically in Dallas, I think he will go into the summer with a firmly established reputation - however unfair -  as an uncoachable teamkiller who game fits nowhere in the NBA today.  Some of this is certainly Rondo's fault, but I think most of it is Danny's fault.  When it comes to basketball operations, he is a pretty cold dude.   Danny 'did it his way' and succeeded remarkably quickly.   Rondo is the one who has to reinvent his career now.  Rondo is paying the price for Danny's willfulness.

I suppose Rondo's situation is far from hopeless.  In a way, Rondo's rehabilitation may have already begun, simultaneous with his flaming crash.  While Rondo hasn't been a defensive ace in Dallas, he has definitely begun to rededicate himself on that end of the floor.  It was on the defensive end that Rondo's reputation began to slide.  That makes it a very logical place for redefinition and redemption to begin.  There is a lot of room for improvement in Rondo's defensive game too.  If I were him, I would put my primary emphasis there.  As Rondo himself pointed out, defense wins championships.  Precisely because the league has never been more loaded with offensive powerplayers at pg, there has never been a better time for a backcourt defensive master to emerge.  I think Rondo has the tools and with enough dedication, and the right teammates, he could be that master.

That said, I think it is unavoidable that Rondo really needs to start knocking down the threeball.  It really makes me sick to hear young pups today talk about the 'New NBA', as if the 'Old NBA' was a time when dinosaurs roamed.  Jeez, perimeter shooting didn't become important yesterday.  It has always been important.  Regardless of what 'advanced stats' say, it doesn't even have to be the three, but Rondo has got to establish a fairly reliable J.  Shooting is a funny thing.  You can't do it, can't do it, can't do it -- until you can do it  -- and while it sucks to have a firmly established reputation as a terrible shooter, there is a bright side to that situation.  If you ever figure out your stroke, you will seriously feast for quite some time.  That is the beautiful side of a bad reputation.

But what I really wonder is how Rondo thinks about his game.  I think that great players re-imagine the game.  I think Curry has done that this year.  I think he has done more with the three ball than Ray Allen did, more than any player since Bird.   He is so much more than a great sharpshooter.  Where Bird used the three as a knife in the back of the opposing team, Curry uses it as the basic building block of his game. It sets up the rest of his game.

 It's a beautiful thing to see a guy change the way everyone thinks about the game of basketball, as Curry has, but other players need to remember that they can do it too, if they are creative and determined and have minds of their own.

I expected that when the Big Three era was over, we'd learn more about Rondo Ball. I looked forward to that.  But we never did.  Maybe we saw some glimpses of what Rondo Ball might be in the way that Rondo seemed to delight in manipulating defenses after his return from his ACL injury.  Haters accused Rondo of pounding the ball, and maybe he did control the ball and the pace too much, but often what he was doing was pulling on the defense and shaping it, acting as a kind of basketball sculptor, a choreographer  of people moving in space.  Unfortunately, Rondo didn't have teamates and coaches who appreciated what he was doing with all his probing steps and his extended dribbling.   Rondo's teammates wanted the ball so they could create and Stevens wanted  a movement system.  Ainge?  I'm convinced he has been looking past Rondo for a long time.

On one hand it seems clear that Rondo would work really well in a situation where he had a Big who can really work around the rim to dump the ball off too on drives, one or two guys who can kill the threeball, and guys who can either hit elbow Js really well or cut to the basket really well, guys who can also make plays but who don't feel like they have to be controlling the ball to make a  play.  At the same time, I can imagine Rondo on a team of misfits, like Sacramento.  You'd have to have a really inventive coach who could impart discipline while also leaving plenty of room for improvisation.

That to me is when basketball really becomes great - when great players achieve discipline,  transcend discipline and improvise.  The Big Three were like that sometimes, especially when they became the Big Four.

To me, Rondo is like a jazz musician in a great jazz combo who  lost all his bandmates.   He's Charlie Parker without Dizzy Gillespie.   He's still a great player, but he can't recapture the magic with any new combo.  Part of the problem is perception.  Last year, for example, Rondo showed himself to be a master of playmaking that was almost unbelievable, but it went unappreciated because he emphasized solo brilliance so much and the team couldn't gel.  He was like an instrumentalist whose solos were astonishing but who couldn't find a way to connect musically with his teammates consistently.   People even said he was playing terrible basketball as if they could not  hear the notes he was playing.  They seemed to have fixed ideas about the notes that Rondo should be playing and they couldn't see the ones he was actually playing.

Rondo is an advanced  solo player,  but now how can he translate that to a team concept again?  If he succeeds he could break new ground, just as someone like Curry has this year.  It just takes a leap of imagination and the right teammates and the right coach.  But that's a lot to ask for in this year's NBA where everyone imitates last year's successful formula.  Rondo has got to reinvent himself  this summer.   It won't be easy.  It might be the hardest thing he has ever done.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Celtics pickup huge win against Memphis, 95-92

The Celtics run toward the playoffs continues with a big win over Memphis. The Celtics went into Wednesday's game shorthanded with Thomas, the best 4th quarter player in the game out with a bruised lower back. In Thomas' place Olynyk (15 points) and others pitched in to carry the scoring load for the Celtics Wednesday night. But it was Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart who put the finishing touches to this gritty win for Boston.

Brad Stevens drew up a Doc Rivers type play with Marcus Smart putting up an alley-oop feed off the inbounds pass and converted an and-one layup that put ahead Boston 91-90 with 51.6 seconds to go. Avery Bradley put the dagger in Memphis' heart, when he pulled-up and nailed a jumper with 7.9 seconds to go. Memphis seemed on the verge of pulling away from Boston in the 4th, but the young Celtics grinned another game out late.

The Celtics are now 27-36, with the Magic in town Friday. That should be a game that Boston wins, but you never know. Brad Stevens spoke about the win, and he felt that Boston shouldn't have won this game.

I was impressed with Kelly tonight, and his aggressive nature has increased. His scoring was huge in moments, as was his passing. Olynyk did a solid job defensively as well. He finished with 15 points, six rebounds and three assists.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Kobe can't let go of Rondo, and the idea of Rondo with the Lakers

Would Rondo want to play with Bryant, who will enter his 20th, and maybe his final, NBA season in 2015-16? Kobe isn't 2008 Kobe and not even 2012 Kobe. The Lakers are one of the worst teams in the NBA with very little assets in place to contend anytime soon. So would that still entice Rondo to join the Lakers? Bryant has expressed for the past two seasons that Rondo would be an ideal teammate. They both share values on winning and how to approach the game of basketball. I think it's a great fit in some ways..

But I hate the idea of Rondo in a Lakers uniform. I would cut all ties with Rondo as a fan. The Lakers are where I draw the line.

The two competitors and close friends apparently scheduled to have breakfast again. But then Lakers guard Kobe Bryant stood up Mavericks guard Rajon Rondo. [...] “A–hole,” Rondo joked, referring to the nickname they have for each other.

“I stay in touch with him. I stay in touch with some other guys, too,” Bryant said, though he said the two did not interact before, during or after the Lakers’ 100-93 loss to Dallas on Sunday at Staples Center. “I’ll look around and talk with management. We’ll look at what we can do and should do. Hopefully we’ll then have a more competitive team.”

“When he speaks, it speaks volumes,” Rondo said of Bryant. “It’s an honor and compliment he’d want to play with a guy like me. But right now I’m focused on winning a championship with the Dallas Mavericks.” [...] “It’s impossible to play with Kobe right now,” Rondo said. “I’m focused on playing with Dirk (Nowitzki), Monte (Ellis), Tyson (Chandler), J.J. Bare and playing for Rick Carlisle. That’s my team right now.”

We remember that breakfast when Rondo was still in Boston. It was one of Rondo's final moments in Celtics green. It was about 10 days or so before the trade. As for the possibility of Rondo and Kobe playing together. I think it's a mistake for Rondo. I'll leave it at that.

Celtics end trip 2-1 after beating Miami, 100-90

The Celtics improve to 26-36, after handling Miami 100-90 Monday night. The Celtics remain two full games back of the 7th and 8th spot.

Boston answered every basket Wade scored during the fourth quarter. Only twice did he score a point during the fourth quarter that wasn't immediately answered by a basket from Boston.. The Celtics took control of the game in the third quarter behind the bench once again. Boston went on a 15-1 run heading into the 4th quarter. Thomas scored 12 of his team-high 25 points in the final frame, but during the 4th Thomas suffered a bruised lower back and a bruised right elbow.

Boston controlled the majority of the game and never trailed by more than three points. The Celtics countine to play hard and disciplined. Boston committed only 11 turnovers on the night. The Celtics return to the TD Garden Wednesday night against former Celtic Jeff Green and the Memphis Grizzlies.

Datome tied his career high with 13 points, and Danny is looking better and better with all of these guys coming together. Brandon Bass pitched in 14 points and nine rebounds and was a team-best plus-20 in plus/minus.

This game was a little chippy.

Hassan Whiteside received a flagrant-2 foul and was ejected from Monday's game after leveling Kelly Olynyk from behind. In the final minute, Evan Turner and Henry Walker got into a little shoving match, and referees handed out double tech's and ejected both players.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Celtics fall apart in 4th quarter, Magic win 103-98

After the Celtics stormed out on Orlando with an early 20 point lead. The teams went back and forth for the remainder of the contest. The Magic made key plays down the stretch and held on for a 103-98 victory. Brandon Bass was Boston's work horse with his 19 points and 17 rebounds. The Celtics started out hot, but they finished with 39.3 percent from the field. Orlando dominated Boston in the paint out scoring Boston 52-26.

Thomas didn't have one of his big 4th quarters today. Isaiah Thomas had 17 points on 5-of-14 shooting over 30 minutes off the bench. Marcus Smart added 16 points, 5 rebounds, 5 steals and 2 assists for Boston before being ejected late for a flagrant-2 foul. This was a game that Boston needed to win. It was a game that should have been a win, or could have been an easy win. The Celtics fall to 25-36 and take a step back in the hunt for a playoff berth. They'll get another chance to inch closer to the playoffs against Miami.

Both teams are hoping to reach the playoffs. The Heat are fading as the Celtics are rising.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Celtics win second in a row, inch closer to playoff spot

The best 4th quarter player in the NBA was at it again. Thomas, scored 13 points through the first three quarters, and that was leading into his normal 4th quarter performance. Thomas scored 14 points in the fourth quarter. He finished with 27 points on 8-of-13 shooting (4-of-6 shooting beyond the 3-point arc) with three assists over 29 minutes. The Celtics put the Pelicans away in the 4th behind Thomas, as the C's won 104-98.

Brandon Bass added 17 points and six rebounds. Evan Turner added 16 points, 6 assists, and 6 rebounds. Turner as been very consistent across the board.

The Celtics moved within 1.5 games of the final playoff berth in the East. Charlotte and Indiana won on Friday night and they own the final two playoff spots. Miami lost a close game in Washington and now sit outside the playoff picture. Crowder grabbed a game-high four steals and also contributed 11 points and nine boards. He's just a unique player that provides so many different options for the Celtics.

Anthony Davis led the game in points (29), rebounds (14) and blocks (three). It was nice watching him again. The Celtic are now a win away from matching last years win total. I can see the Celtics winning 10-12 more game this season. That's a good jump for this team.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Celtics beat Jazz at the buzzer, 85-84

This was an ugly game with very little flow or reason. But the last play was beautiful. Tyler Zeller nailed a layup under the basket as time expired to give the Boston Celtics an 85-84 victory over the Jazz on Wednesday night. The Celtics blew an 8 point lead in the final minutes, and it was capped by a Hayward jumper with 1.7 seconds left, giving Utah a one-point edge.

Thankfully the Celtics were able to pull off a major win in the final seconds. Isaiah Thomas scored 19 of his game-high 21 points in the second half to aid Boston's poor offense. Crowder added 18 points in 33 minutes and started the second half for the struggling Celtics. The Celtics snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 24-36 with playoffs still on their minds.

Stevens had this to say about the final play of the game.

"They switched the play before when Marcus (Smart) couldn’t get it inbounded with (Gordon) Hayward and (Derrick) Favors. So we wanted to try to get that switch again, so we just ran a little action to get that switch again and then (Rudy) Gobert was on the ball so he wasn’t at the rim. So we were hoping to slip and catch it a little bit cleaner and lay it in, but, you know, that was the goal – and it ended up being okay."

Zyler on the winner.

"I saw Gordon (Hayward) flying in so I shot faked and just got the ball up, thankfully I was able to get up to the rim and was able to make it."

"This is definitely my first one in the NBA. I just wanted to make sure it was good. That’s really all I wanted to know. It was a great thing and Marcus (Smart) put it right on the money, made my job easier. It’s a great feeling, especially at the other end, Gordon had made the shot on me so being able to come back and make the game winner is an unbelievable feeling and this was kind of a must-win for us so being able to get this win was a big win for us."

Quotes from

Rondo's Free Throw Psychology

Kevin O'connor does a great breakdown of Rondo's free throw shooting skills here.  In a way, it is numbers crunching used to good effect, the really fascinating point being that for most of his career, Rondo has had difficulty with his first free throw but has shot his second free throw (or third) at an increasingly accurate rate, which - btw - disproves those who say that Rondo doesn't work at his game.  Last year he was shooting his second free throws at an 83% rate, which is really excellent.  What has really killed his free throw shooting this year is that his second free throw percentage has plummeted from 83% to 20%.

O'connor quite reasonably suggests that all these numbers suggest that Rondo has psychological issues with free throw shooting...

Is it not possible that Rondo has just been in his own head all these years? He might stick his elbow out when he shoots, because he has such long arms that naturally protrude outwards, but plenty of players have horrendous shooting mechanics and still shoot around the league average percentage or better.

That’s precisely why Rajon Rondo should put aside his biases against kooky sports psychologists, and try to work with one to see if he can solve his problem. 
O'connor thinks a Karl Malone type trigger word could be Rondo's solution.  Maybe so, but I think Rondo's problems run a lot deeper and that his tortured relationship with Danny Ainge - and I think that is almost certainly appropriate wording - has made those problems worse.  O'connor, of course, does not consider this for a moment.  I say "of course" because O'connor is one of the Celtics pseudo-media types who was most dedicated about hounding Rondo out of town, though he never did it with the vitriol of some and he has refrained, mostly, from gloating about it, to his credit.  Also to his credit, O'connor mentions the strain that the mid-season trade put on Rondo, but fails to point out that having to play out the string for a coach who you know is just itching for you to be gone and in front of at least two heir apparents and knowing that your gm tried to recruit a third over the summer - well that would pretty much just have to twist the mental strings of anyone.  I think even the most laid back person in the world would have been messed up by that.   Rondo is far from being the most laid back person in the NBA.  He may well be the most high strung person in the league.

What Danny has done to Rondo throughout his career, by keeping the Ainge Express rumbling in his ears, has been rotten.  What he did this year was heinous.  Once the decision was made to move on from the Rondo era before it even began, he should have let Rondo know and he should have traded Rondo, bought him out, waived him, whatever.   When players rake a team over the coals, folks often give them grief over it (though, weirdly, that didn't happen at all to Dragic).  Why is there no objection when teams do the equivalent thing to a player, coming the other direction?  Danny basically  ruined perhaps the single most important year of Rondo's career and it will take an amazing finish by Rondo to save it now.  We know Rondo has that kind of potential to rise above, so maybe he will manage such a herculean feat.  But it's going to be a tough climb for him, maybe the toughest challenge of his career.

Rondo would be well advised to seek out a good therapist.   There is no shame in that.  In fact, it can be a very smart thing to do.  The mind is a strong but also delicate thing.  Coping with the world is hard enough when someone you trust isn't messing with your mind and emotions, or at best being incredibly callous about them.  My advice is that you should think of the basket as a friend you are passing to.  The rim is their waiting hands and you want to put the ball right in the middle.  That's really what it is, because each time you score, you help your teammates, and you also set up your next pass.

Rondo is a high strung person.  This year his game came unstrung in some ways.  But he's also done in some ways an amazing job of holding it together.   There is still a chance to rise above all the dreck and help lead yet another team deep into the playoffs.