It didn’t come easy, but the Celtics earned their first three-game winning streak of the season.

It didn’t come easy, but the Celtics earned their first three-game winning streak of the season.

Longtime Celtics captain Paul Pierce was on the opposing side, just his third game in Boston as a visitor. The Celtics once led his Wizards by as many as 25 points, but Washington cut the lead to one late. Boston has blown several leads throughout the season and gone on to lose games. Not this time.

Avery Bradley hit a huge 3-pointer with 37 seconds to go that put the Celtics up by four points, then lobbed one up for Jeff Green on the next play after Boston forced a turnover. The Celtics’ late-game execution got them a 101-93 win in the end. (For the complete box score, click here.)

RAJON RONDO WAS AGGRESSIVE AGAIN

After admitting that he did not feel like himself for a stretch, Rondo made sure to put his stamp on Friday’s win over the Lakers. He maintained that aggressiveness on Sunday, collecting 13 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists for the 31st triple-double of his career.

Rondo had 11 points, five assists and four rebounds by the half, but more importantly he was shooting the ball. He made four of his first six attempts before finishing 5-for-17 in the game. Obviously, it’s nice when the shots go in, but it’s evident how much more effective Rondo is when he shoots the ball. He keeps the defense on its toes and seems to be a better overall player when he is confident in his shot.

AN IDEAL DEFENSIVE FIRST QUARTER LED TO THEIR MOST COMPLETE GAME

For seemingly the first time all season Boston grabbed a first-quarter lead without having to shoot the lights out. The C’s scored 24 points in the frame on 48 percent shooting, but it was their defense that was most impressive.

The Wizards scored a mere 15 first-quarter points, shooting just 25 percent in the process. Washington was sloppy, committing nine turnovers in the period, but their struggles can also be attributed to the Celtics‘ defense. The C’s put great pressure on  Washington’s ball-handlers and totaled five first-quarter steals in the process.

We know that no lead has been safe at the Garden this year. But it was nice to see the Celtics open up a lead with their defense and hold onto it. Washington heated up in the fourth quarter, but the C’s were still able to hold their opponent to just 36.6 percent from the field for the game.

MARCUS THORNTON SPARKED RUNS THAT BROKE THE GAME OPEN

After sitting on the bench the entire first quarter, Thornton came in and broke the game open in the second. In his nine minutes, Thornton scored 11 points on 3-for-6 shooting, making his only 3-point attempt. Thornton was also active in the paint, creating contact and finishing on all four of his free throws.

As a team, the Celtics turned their nine-point first-quarter lead into 17 by halftime, 53-36. After things got close again in the fourth, it was Thornton who came to the rescue again. He had eight points to counter the Wizards, who finally got hot in the fourth. The Celtics would not have won this game without Thornton’s contributions.

THIS WAS THE CELTICS MOST VALIDATING VICTORY OF THE SEASON

The Celtics had beaten the Bulls on the road, but it came without Derrick Rose. Their last three victories had been over the 76ers, Pistons and Lakers, who entered Sunday with a combined 10 wins. The Wizards came to Boston with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, and, although they aren’t favored, they are considered a contender to come out of the East. Add to that the Celtics making winning plays down the stretch of a close game, and this was no doubt their biggest win to date. The Celtics’ three-game winning streak improves their record to 7-11, just one game behind Brooklyn for eighth in the Eastern Conference. They will get the Wizards again on a back-to-back Monday in Washington.

BOSTON FOREVER WILL LOVE PAUL PIERCE

To the surprise of nobody, the former captain of the Celtics got the loudest ovation on the afternoon when he was announced during the starting lineups. Pierce had a nice game for the home crowd, finishing with 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting. Pierce was all laughs before the game, and clearly was happy to be back in a place he can call home. He still has a special relationship with the fans, and the fans give all the love right back to him. Not only did the crowd cheer for all of Pierce’s baskets during the game, but they didn’t miss an opportunity to applaud him when his name was called (even if it was because he committed a foul). He can wear as many different uniforms as he wants, but anyone in Boston will tell you that Pierce will always be a Celtic.

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

As Lakers coach Byron Scott gritted his teeth through another postgame press conference, this time after a 113-96 loss to their equally struggling rivals, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge stopped to ask, “Want to get some breakfast?”

He was joking, of course, about Rajon Rondo and Kobe Bryant sharing a morning meal at The Paramount in Boston on Thursday, a concept that might have seemed absurd when Ainge’s Celtics and Scott’s Lakers split four straight trips to the NBA Finals from 1984-87.

It’s a different NBA landscape nowadays — what with AAU, shared agents and summer workouts making bros out of foes more than ever before — and it’s a different rivalry.

“We’€™ve had our battles, but it doesn’€™t carry over,” Bryant said after his team fell to 5-15 on the season. “The stone-throwing and all that doesn’€™t carry over to these types of games.”

There were times when two straight wins over the Pistons and Lakers meant something — in 1987 and 2008, when Boston beat Detroit in the conference finals before splitting two more titles with L.A. — and both Bryant and Rondo are old enough now to reminisce.

“We just kind of talked about the 2008, 2009 and 2010 seasons,” Rondo said of his now notorious breakfast with Bryant, “him being a leader, leading a lot of young guys this year, and me doing the same thing, the struggles he’€™s going through, the struggles I’€™m going through as far as leading this team and just how to handle it.”

After six glorious seasons watching an insanely competitive Kevin Garnett bleed green “until we’re six feet under,” it’s hard to imagine the heart of the Celtics and the soul of the Lakers sitting down for “a basketball geek conversation,” as Bryant described it, over tea and crumpets. Then again, it’s hard to imagine KG sitting down to breakfast with anyone. I’m pretty sure he washes down the blood of nobodies with coconut water in the morning.

But Kobe’s been around long enough to remember the last time the rivalry reached a new low. It was Jan. 31, 2007, when he eviscerated the Celtics with 43 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in a 111-98 victory, as “MVP” chants rained from the Garden rafters.

“€œWhen there are a lot of Lakers fans here, they cheer,” he said. “When there are a lot of Celtics fans here, they boo. And I appreciate both of them, because they really understand the game here. When they get on me and they boo, I sincerely appreciate them. That means I’€™m doing something right, and I feel part of the history of the two ballclubs when they do it. So, it always feels good. When the Celtics struggle, there’€™s plenty of other things you can do in Boston, I guess. But, that year when they were rolling, man, this place was nuts. You definitely wouldn’€™t have heard Kobe chants in 2008, ‘€™09 and ‘€™10.”

There were no MVP chants this time around, either, although Bryant received a mix of cheers and boos during his pregame introduction. A porous Lakers defense made Tyler Zeller look like the second coming of Kevin McHale and the Celtics kept the Garden crowd awake long enough for Gino to come on the Jumbotron the second time all season.

“Right now, both teams are not what we used to be, but it’€™s always an eerie feeling walking down the hall and being surrounded by green,” added Bryant. “It’€™s always a weird feeling, but it’€™s a great one, though. Growing up watching this franchise and then being a part of some great battles and being here, it’€™s a very special place, man.”

With almost 55,000 minutes on his legs, Bryant is closer to retirement at the ripe old age of 36 than he is to competing for another title, so he can look back on the rivalry now. He has a fondness for Rondo, even after the Celtics captain collected 21 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and six steals in what Bryant describes as the worst Garden memory of his 19 NBA seasons — the 39-point Game 6 blowout that punctuated the C’s 2008 title.

“We see the game in a very similarly way in terms of demeanor and mentality,” said Kobe.

Not necessarily in the, “You pass the ball; I score the ball,” manner one might think, but as Bryant said this past January, “From what I understand, he’s an [expletive that rhymes with gas hole] like me.” So, while their breakfast could be interpreted as Bryant’s recruiting pitch to Rondo for one last title run, the soon-to-be free agent said otherwise.

“I think his initial interview he called me an [expletive], and I thought the same thing of him,” said Rondo, “so it’€™s just two [expletives] having breakfast.”

There you have it, folks, the Celtics-Lakers rivalry is still alive and well, apparently.

“Yes, you could say that,” added Rondo, “especially because they stole the last championship from me in 2010, so every time I play them I want to kick their butt.’€”

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Enjoy your breakfast.

 

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

The Lakers made their only trip of the season to the TD Garden on Friday night, and the fans turned out to see them.

Tyler Zeller dominated in the Celtics' lopsided win over the Lakers. (Getty Images)

Tyler Zeller dominated in the Celtics‘ lopsided win over the Lakers. (Getty Images)

The Lakers made their only trip of the season to the TD Garden on Friday night, and the fans turned out to see them. But in a building with a surprising number of Laker fans, the home team delivered a commanding performance against Kobe Bryant‘s squad, as the Celtics won, 113-96.

Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger had huge nights for the C’s (more on them later), while all five starters scored in double figures for Boston. Rondo was back to his old self, but Jeff Green and Avery Bradley were big contributors as well with 19 and 16 points respectively.

Bryant, of course, led the way for the Lakers. He finished with a pedestrian 22 points.

Here’s five things we learned in Boston’s victory:

TYLER ZELLER NEEDS TO REMAIN THE STARTING CENTER

Zeller was phenomenal in this game. In 17 first half minutes, he put together a near double-double with 14 points (on 7-for-8 shooting, no less) and nine boards. Zeller and Rondo have been fantastic together on the floor all season, but even more so on Friday. Five of Zeller’s seven first half field goals were assisted by Rondo. His combination of always being a pick-and-roll threat along with running the floor play perfectly into Rondo’s passing skill set.

Zeller wound up with a game-high 24 points and 14 rebounds — probably the best game of his career. His miss in the first half turned out to be his only one, as he went 10-of-11 from the field for the night.

Friday was Zeller’s fourth start this season in place of Kelly Olynyk, and Stevens claimed before the game that it remains a temporary role. If Stevens is watching what everyone else has seen, he should officially hand the starting center job to Zeller.

RAJON RONDO BROUGHT SOME MUCH NEEDED AGGRESSION

Rondo has scored two points in each of his last three games. He recently said that he hadn’t been himself during those games. Something evidently changed between then and the start of Friday’s game. Rondo got off to a hot start, scoring six first quarter points to go along with five assists. Rondo’s impact was clear: his plus/minus was +14 when he came out of the game for the first time, while the Celtics‘ lead was trimmed to as few as three points before Rondo reentered with his team up seven.

Rondo may have even taken it too far, attempting 17 shots in the game (and making six), but his attacking style represented a noteworthy departure. Even with all the misses, Rondo turned in a pretty effective game, scoring 12 points along with eight rebounds and 16 assists. On the other side, the Lakers only had 14 assists as a team.

JARED SULLINGER WAS A BEAST

Sullinger’s performance was easy to lose track of behind Zeller’s big night, but the front court duo was not one to mess with against the Lakers. Sullinger brought it in the second half, scoring nine points and grabbing five rebounds in the third quarter alone.

He finished the game with an energetic and efficient 17 points on 5-for-9 shooting with 13 rebounds. Sullinger has said that starting alongside Zeller or Olynyk doesn’t matter to him, but things seem to be going pretty well at the moment.

THE ROOKIES ARE OFFICIALLY OUT OF THE ROTATION

After all three were sent to the D-League on Thursday (and recalled Friday), none saw any meaningful minutes against the Lakers. James Young and Dwight Powell had only been playing in blowouts, but Marcus Smart had been a considerably large part of the rotation (especially for a rookie) prior to his ankle injury on Nov. 7.

Young ended up playing the final couple minutes with the game out of reach, but the DNP for Smart carries some meaning. Stevens has either under the belief that Smart is not healthy enough to play yet, or is going to make Smart earn his minutes once again. This is going to be something to keep an eye on, especially with Young knocking on the door for minutes after a some impressive performances for the Red Claws.

IT’S STILL CELTICS VS. LAKERS

Yes, both teams can be painful to watch at times, but people still care about the rivalry. Stevens is honored to be a part of it, Byron Scott is excited to once again be a part of it, and the players look forward to playing in it. And, maybe most of all, the fans get pumped up for it.

The building was packed before tip-off more than any game so far this season, including when LeBron James came to town. When Bryant decided to show up fashionably late for warmups, the crowd responded with a flurry of cheers (and some scattered boos). The ovation was amplified when Bryant was announced in the starting lineups.

But it wasn’t all Laker love. Fans brought the energy when the lights dimmed down before the game. The crowd initiated a “Lets go Celtics!” chant during the opening minutes of the game. There was a notable buzz in the building, and it can only be attributed to the green and gold uniforms that were on the court.

If there’s a sixth thing you need to know, it’s that much to the crowd’s delight, we got some Geno time at the Garden on Friday night.

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

As most know by now, Kobe Bryant and Rajon Rondo shared breakfast together in Boston on Thursday, but as Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported, there was nothing to the breakfast — it had actually been planned for weeks.

That doesn’t mean there haven’t been any trade conversations between the two legendary franchises recently, though.

According to one of Shelburne’s sources, the Celtics and Lakers did briefly discuss a Rondo deal a few months ago, but talks have since ended. The Lakers don’t have much to offer, and are not keen on including a first-round pick in a deal — something Danny Ainge would require at least one of one of in order to ship Rondo out. Although the odds of Rondo being traded are slim, a deal along the lines of a first-round pick, rookie Julius Randle (who is out for the year with a broken leg), and an expiring contract would be something Ainge would at least be forced to ponder.

But even at season’s end, assuming Rondo has not been dealt, it’s been no secret that the Lakers plan to pursue the crafty point guard in free agency. Rondo has long been one of Bryant’s favorite players.

However, Thursday’s hangout session had nothing to do with Rondo giving up Boston for Los Angeles. “It was a basketball geek conversation,” Bryant said to reporters earlier on Friday.

And as for Kobe’s thoughts on the breakfast? “It was delicious,” he said.

For more Celtics news, check out weei.com/celtics.

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

James Young played the best game of his professional career, scoring 31 points and pulling down nine boards for the Maine Red Claws in Thursday’s 110-106 win over the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Young was efficient, shooting 9-for-15 from the field, including 7-for-10 from beyond the arc. He still had some defensive lapses, but his shooting stroke was quite impressive.

Fellow Celtics rookie Marcus Smart struggled in his first Red Claws appearance. Turns out he can’t shoot in the D-League either, as he missed his first 11 shots.

Dwight Powell had a great fourth quarter, getting to the rim with ease. He was an efficient 9-for-14 and finished with 21 points.

Blog Author: 
Sam Packard

With the Lakers in town for Friday night’s game against the Celtics, Rajon Rondo and Kobe Bryant were spotted having breakfast together earlier on Thursd

With the Lakers in town for Friday night’s game against the Celtics, Rajon Rondo and Kobe Bryant were spotted having breakfast together earlier on Thursday.

With Rondo set to become a free agent following this season, could Bryant be doing some recruiting?

Blog Author: 
WEEI

When Pistons starting forward Josh Smith fouled out with 6:47 remaining against the Celtics on Wednesday night, Detroit trailed by nine. Enter backup Greg Monroe off the bench.