Rajon Rondo delivered 19 assists but turned the ball over seven times in the Celtics' loss on Tuesday. (Getty Images)

Rajon Rondo delivered 19 assists but turned the ball over seven times in the Celtics‘ loss on Tuesday. (Getty Images)

Evidently, there is no lead too big for the Celtics to bungle.

After the Celtics raced out to a 42-point first quarter and 16-point lead at the half, the Celtics were outscored by a staggering 20 points in the second half in suffering 109-105 loss. The Celtics have now lost five straight and eight of nine, falling to 4-11 on the year.

The team’s game-ending woes are becoming an ongoing theme. The team entered the night being outscored by 4.6 points a night in the second half (third worst in the NBA) and 5.4 points per game in the fourth quarter (worst in the NBA). In this case, the team was outscored by 20 in the second half and nine in the fourth quarter.

Boston once again offered little defensive resistance in the 59-point second-half eruption. The Celtics’ average yield of 107.7 points per game remains the worst total in the Eastern League.

The Hawks shot 52 percent from the floor, with Kyle Korver (8-of-9, 6-of-7 on 3-pointers) leading the way en route to 24 points and Paul Millsap filling the box score with 19 points, six boards, seven assists, three blocks and three steals. The Celtics received 25-point nights from both Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green.

Rajon Rondo had a game that was alternately brilliant and sloppy, scoring just two points (1-for-8 from the floor) and committing seven turnovers (two shy of his career worst), but he grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out 19 assists, his career high for a road game.

Click here for the box score.

Blog Author: 
WEEI

Let’s face it: This is the season of Rajon Rondo. As interesting as it is to evaluate the frontcourt progress of Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley‘s offensive potential and Jeff Green‘s surprising consistency, the biggest questions the Celtics must answer all involve Rondo. Just how good is he? Will he be traded? What can they get in return? In a weekly feature on Green Street, we’ll take stock of the Celtics captain’s status every Tuesday.

RAJON RONDO TRADE VALUE

Since last we evaluated Rondo’s status this season, the Celtics have won just once in five attempts, and that victory came against the winless 76ers. Because they play in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics (4-10) remain only 1.5 games out of the eighth seed through 14 games, but their 1-9 record against teams with winning records isn’t too encouraging for those holding out hope for the C’s playoff prospects.

Over the past five games, Rondo has averaged 8.8 assists, 7.2 points and 5.8 rebounds, so his overall numbers have dipped, even if he’s still the only NBA player currently averaging at least seven points, seven assists and seven rebounds. He remains the league’s leader in assists, passes and assist opportunities per game as well as points created by assists per 48 minutes, according to NBA.com/stats.

The Celtics point guard has always been a different breed of basketball player, capable of controlling games as a facilitator, but at what point does his inability to score become a problem? His current status as the worst free-throw shooting guard in NBA history has been well documented, but Rondo’s offensive woes go well beyond the charity stripe. He has attempted more field goals than he’s scored points in seven of his 12 appearances, netting single digits on eight occasions and scoring six or fewer points four times this season. Meanwhile, the C’s  dropped from a top-five offense through two weeks of 2014-15 to 17th in offensive rating (106.1 points per 100 possessions) a month into the season.

When you combine Rondo’s 13.7 points scored per 48 minutes (PTS/48) and 36.1 points created by assists per 48 minutes (PTSC/48), the four-time All-Star is still generating 49.8 total points per 48 minutes (PTSG/48). If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. Of the league’s 30 starting point guards, 20  have generated more than 40 points per 48 minutes, and Rondo ranks ninth among that group. Obviously, a player’s points created by assists depend on his teammates, but the list shakes out how you might expect.

Russell Westbrook (3 games): 53.0 PTS/48 + 25.4 PTS/48 = 78.4 PTSG/48
Stephen Curry (16 games): 35.2 PTS/48 + 26.1 PTS/48 = 61.3 PTSG/48
Ricky Rubio (5 games): 15.6 PTS/48 + 39.8 PTS/48 = 55.4 PTSG/48
John Wall (16 games): 24.6 PTS/48 + 29.8 PTS/48 = 54.4 PTSG/48
Chris Paul (17 games): 24.7 PTS/48 + 29.6 PTS/48 = 54.3 PTSG/48
Ty Lawson: 21.7 PTS/48 + 32.0 PTS/48 = 53.7 PTSG/48
Jeff Teague (15 games): 26.9 PTS/48 + 25.7 PTS/48 = 52.6 PTSG/48
Derrick Rose (9 games): 30.5 PTS/48 + 19.6 PTS/48 = 50.1 PTSG/48
Rajon Rondo: 13.7 PTS/48 + 36.1 PTS/48 = 49.8
Kyle Lowry (17 games): 27.2 PTS/48 + 22.0 PTS/48 = 49.2 PTSG/48
Damian Lillard (17 games): 27.3 PTS/48 + 21.6 PTS/48 = 48.9 PTSG/48
Brandon Jennings (14 games): 26.8 PTS/48 + 21.5 PTS/48 = 48.3 PTSG/48
Tony Parker (16 games): 25.5 PTS/48 + 20.6 PTS/48 = 46.1 PTSG/48
Michael Carter-Williams (10 games): 24.6 PTS/48 + 21.5 PTS/48 = 46.1 PTSG/48
Mike Conley (17 games): 24.2 PTS/48 + 20.5 PTS/48 = 44.7 PTSG/48
Brandon Knight (18 games): 25.0 PTS/48 + 19.3 PTS/48 = 44.3 PTSG/48
Deron Williams (15 games): 23.0 PTS/48 + 19.3 PTS/48 = 42.3 PTSG/48
Jrue Holiday (15 games): 21.9 PTS/48 + 19.8 PTS/48 = 41.7 PTSG/48
Kyrie Irving (15 games): 27.0 PTS/48 + 14.4 PTS/48 = 41.4 PTSG/48
Darren Collison (14 games): 21.5 PTS/48 + 19.1 PTS/48 = 40.6 PTSG/48

That’s about where Rondo should fall on the NBA’s point guard rankings this season. You’d probably take Rondo over a couple who have generated more points per 48 minutes this season (Rubio, Teague), but you might also consider a handful who rank below him on this list. Lowry, Lillard and Parker are a few that come to mind. Of course, offense isn’t the only factor in rating a point guard, but defense hasn’t helped Rondo’s cause, either. The Celtics rank 27th in defensive rating this season, allowing 110.4 points per 100 possessions, and that number is slightly worse with Rondo on the court (110.9), according to Basketball Reference.

Based on his production this season, the overall conversation about the Celtics captain is shifting from, “Is Rondo a top-five point guard?” to, “Is Rondo a top-10 point guard?” And that’s a concern.

Value: Descending

It's time now to ask the Magic 9-Ball.

It’s time now to ask the Magic 9-Ball.

RAJON RONDO TRADE IDEA

If the Celtics were interested in trading Rondo, team president Danny Ainge might look to the 10 teams with a point guard generating more than 40 points per 48 minutes for a deal: the Hornets, Mavericks, Rockets, Pacers, Lakers, Heat, Knicks, Magic, Suns and Jazz. Among that group, Houston probably has the most to gain from adding a former All-NBA distributor.

Currently in possession of the Western Conference’s No. 4 seed despite the absences of Dwight Howard (knee), Terrence Jones (leg) and Patrick Beverly (hamstring) for a combined 30 games, the Rockets have started either Isaiah Canaan or Jason Terry and relied upon James Harden to do most of the facilitating. Rondo’s pass-first instincts could potentially pair well with Harden’s scoring load, Howard’s interior presence and Trevor Ariza’s spot-up shooting stroke, creating a title contender in Houston.

In the absence of Jones, European imports Donatas Motiejunas (8.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 25.2 minutes a night) and Kostas Papanikolaou (6.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 25.5 minutes a night) have proven productive players. Rockets GM Daryl Morey also has New Orleans’ 2015 first-round pick (so long as it falls between 4-19), his own first-round selections the following few seasons, his top pick this past June — 20-year-old Swiss center Clint Capela — and an $8.4 million trade exception.

While a package of Beverley, Papanikolaou, Jason Terry‘s expiring contract and a couple first-round picks is the kind of four-quarters-for-a-dollar trade the Celtics front office detests, both Morey and Ainge are creative enough to get other teams involved. Beverley, for example, might be attractive to a third team in need of All-Defensive help in the backcourt.

Idea: Not the brightest

RAJON RONDO TRADE ODDS

If we realize Rondo ranks on the lower end of the league’s top-10 point guards, and the difference between him and the NBA’s best floor general is greater than the split between him and the No. 20 distributor on that list, then we must consider the Celtics star will command nowhere near a maximum contract this summer. That understanding could benefit the C’s should they re-sign him.

It could also benefit any potential trade partners, since any team acquiring Rondo may not have to carve out as much cap space to keep him beyond the remainder of this season. Still, the realization that two-thirds of the league already features a point guard capable of creating better than 80 percent of Rondo’s offense severely limits the market for his services. In some respects, Rondo’s fall from the current list of top-five NBA point guards might actually mean there’s a better chance he stays in Boston.

Odds: 50-1

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

Despite the popular belief that this season’s Celtics team has to be better than last year’s laughable team, Boston holds a record of just 4-10 after 14 games. You could make the argument that they have played a tough schedule in its first 14 games, but they also sat 4-10 last season, and that was without Rajon Rondo playing in any of those games.

Sunday’s loss to the Spurs was just another collapse at home — one of seven games the Celtics have let slip away in the fourth quarter on their home parquet. The losses are getting so bad that it convinced Celtics color commentator and former player/coach Tommy Heinsohn to go into the locker room and have his voice heard.

When media was allowed to enter the locker room following the game, Heinsohn was already perched over by Rondo’s locker. The two seemed to talk for around 15 minutes, mostly Heinsohn speaking to Rondo, who would nod and acknowledge the advice he was being given. Although not alarming, this isn’t something that would normally happen following a Celtics’ loss, or any game for that matter.

“Just keep chugging away at it,” Rondo said was the advice of the Celtic legend. “He shared his thoughts, I shared my thoughts as well. Tommy is a guy I’ve been talking to since day one. He’s been a big fan of mine and I believe in what he’s done here in the past. He’s coached, he’s played, he’s done it all. So anytime a guy like Tommy has advice, or wants to share something with me, I always try to listen.”

“He’s the biggest supporter here,” Rondo went on to share on the value of Heinsohn’s words. “He’s here every night, every home game, and he’s rooting for us. He wants the best for our team and he had some great advice for me. So I’m going to take that and share it with my guys, and try and figure some things out.”

Heinsohn may come off as a bit crazy as a broadcaster in his later years, but don’t forget that this is the same guy that won eight titles as a player and two more as a head coach. Heinsohn’s passion for the Celtics is genuine, as was his advice for Rondo. What Rondo and the C’s can do with that advice is another story.

Being compared to the 2013-14 Celtics is nothing that Rondo wants for his team long-term. However, last year’s team was able to improve to 5-10 by getting a road win in Atlanta, and this year’s squad will have a shot to do the same as with Tuesday night the Celtics taking on the Hawks in Atlanta.

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

In case you missed it this earlier because you were busy working, getting your kids or school or doing any of those things people who don’t cold-cock their spouses in elevators do every morning, Ray Rice‘s wife/lover/best friend/beating victim Janay was on the “Today” show talking to Matt Lauer about the events surrounding that sickening press conference she and Ray gave back in May. It shouldn’t shock you to learn that on the Ravens Bad News Scale, between 0 and “Your Franchise Player Was Involved in a Double Homicide,” this interview was about a 9. Here are the most damning parts:

Lauer: Did you want to be a part of that press conference?

Janay: I was ready to do anything that was going to help the situation.

Lauer: When you say, “Help the situation.” Help Ray and his career?

Janay: Both. Help the way we looked in the media. Help his image. Help, obviously, his career. So they told us earlier that week that we would do the press conference, and I was fine with it.

Lauer: And did anyone at the Ravens say, “Janay, it would be really good if you issued some kind of apology.”

Janay: They suggested it, yes.

Lauer: Did they come up with the wording?

Janay: No, not specifically. They basically gave us a general script.

Lauer: Had it not been for the Ravens urging you, or suggesting, you apologize, you would have not been at that press conference and you would have never apologized.

Janay: No.

So there you have it. Back in May it was obvious to anyone with an ounce of brains and milligram of humanity that the Ravens forced Janay Rice to be part of that despicable dog and pony show. But if you were one of the few holdouts (I’m looking at you, Roger Goodell) here’s your proof.

They carted her out there like the wife in a Lifetime original movie and told her to say everything just short of “My eye? Oh, I walked into a door. Silly me, I’m such a klutz!” And yet weirdly, the Ravens organization still is completely unanswerable for this.

I mean, outlets like Time magazine have taken the time to rip Tom Brady for going on Dennis & Callahan and declining to comment on Ray Rice and hinted the Patriots organization won’t speak out because it might sign Rice someday. But the actual team that actually employed this monster and put words in Janay’s mouth? It gets a free pass. Just like it did with Ray Lewis. Just like it did with Terrell Suggs, who beat his wife much more severely, only not on video.

You know, I get accused a lot of being a shameless Patriots suck-up. It’s been said in print. On the air. I’ve gotten it from callers. It’s on my Tinder profile. I’ve defended the way they’ve handled guys with arrest records like Aaron Hernandez, Alfonzo Dennard and Aqib Talib, and I stand by every word. Because this is what much of the rest of the NFL is like: A wretched hive of scum and villainy who’ll bully a beating victim into playing along if it’ll help keep their running back on the field. At the time of that presser, I just thought the Ravens organization had no morals. After hearing this in Janay Rice’s own words, I think the team should be indicted under RICO.

@JerryThornton1, jthornton@weei.com

Blog Author: 
Jerry Thornton

The defending champions came into Boston on Sunday and blew the doors off of the struggling, young Celtics. The Spurs scored 66 points in the second half en route to a 22-point victory after the C’s led by four points at the break. It was a dominant performance, and Brad Stevens took notice.

“I told the guys in the locker room, it’s probably the best basketball team that I’ve seen in my adult lifetime, as far as how they’re coached, how they play, their understanding, their roles,” the Celtics coach said. “And you can hear them walking back in their locker room. There’s a reason they’re really good. They’ve built a bond and a trust that is very special.”

Stevens has admired the Spurs since he joined the league following the Spurs’ Game 7 loss to the Heat in the 2013 NBA Finals. He often spoke of them as a model of success, and then even more so after the Spurs were able to dethrone the Heat in convincing fashion in 2014. During draft workouts and summer league practices in Waltham this past offseason, Stevens seemingly was obsessed with finding anything he could steal from Gregg Popovich to incorporate into success for the Celtics.

The 38-year-old Stevens even reached out to the 65-year-old Popovich to pick his brain — something the Spurs coach was asked about before Sunday’s game.

“He didn’t find much,” Popovich offered (with his typical smirk while speaking with media members).

“It’s both flattering and embarrassing [that Stevens looks up to the Spurs], in a way,” Popovich added. “We’ve been so fortunate over the years with the people we’ve had. As I’ve said often, who wouldn’t want to follow David [Robinson] by drafting Tim Duncan and go from there. Your biggest job is not to screw it up. And we haven’t, we have not screwed it up. That’s the credit that we deserve. But that good fortune, anybody would like to start a program that way. I’m flattered by what he said. We do try and do things in a certain way. I think a lot of the things we do are pretty universal, but we make mistakes, too.”

Stevens didn’t notice any of those mistakes. At least not on the court Sunday.

“They just crush you,” Stevens said after the loss. “And that’s what happened [Sunday]. And I think that’s what the Spurs do. I told them, I thought it was really the greatest example of the Spurs, is the dunk [by Aron Baynes] at the end of the game, because the Spurs play the right way all the time. They never change. They do it for 48 minutes, they do it for 82 games. There is no circumstance that affects how they approach the game. And I think that’s hopefully something that we can learn from.”

So far, Stevens has a record of 0-3 against the Spurs. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t learned anything. The lessons those losses have taught him, along with the studious mentality he has taken toward Popovich’s team in general, seem to be motivating Stevens to get better. If Stevens’ goal is to obtain the type of success that the Spurs have obtained, Celtics fans should be pretty pleased. It may take a while to achieve, but Popovich can see success in Stevens’ future. Asked about what his advice to Stevens was after the game, Popovich actually answered without being forced.

“Coaches always talk to each other,” Popovich said. “But he doesn’t need much from me. He was a hell of a coach before he got here and he’ll be an even better coach as time goes on. He’s a special guy, that’s why Danny Ainge went and got him.”

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

When you’re launching a brand new blog on the world’s greatest sports radio website, there’s only one way to create your first post. You find the best and brightest minds you can at America’s greatest educational institutions. You put a microphone in front of them, ask them probing questions and find out what’s going on in their highly educated brains. Preferably when they’re knee-walking drunk at 10 o’clock in the morning. Enjoy.

Harvard-Yale football: Putting the “higher” in higher learning since 1875.

@JerryThornton1, jthornton@weei.com

Blog Author: 
Jerry Thornton

After another collapse at home on Friday, the Celtics played their second afternoon game of the holiday weekend against the Spurs on Sunday at the TD Garden.

After another collapse at home on Friday, the Celtics played their second afternoon game of the holiday weekend against the Spurs on Sunday at the TD Garden. Similar to Friday, the Celtics dropped another one in which they remained competitive until late. This time, however, the Spurs’ hot second half led to a 111-89 victory for the road team.

The Celtics high man was Jeff Green with 16 points. He was one of five Celtics in double figures, while Tyler Zeller ripped down 10 rebounds. The Spurs also had five players in double figures, led by Danny Green with 18 points. San Antonio had much deeper contributions than Boston, though, as 10 of their players scored five or more points.

Here are five things we learned in another home loss for the Celtics:

BRAD STEVENS IS NOT AFRAID TO PLAY MATCHUPS

 Stevens told the media prior to the game that Zeller would be getting the start at center over the struggling Kelly Olynyk.

The coach felt that the decision was based more on a need for Zeller in this particular game more than anything. When asked why the choice to start Zeller was made, Stevens simply responded, “Defending Tim Duncan would be the obvious answer.”

Although the move may last only one game, Stevens didn’t close the door on Zeller remaining in the starting lineup in the future.

“I look at this as a very temporary thing,” Stevens said before tip-off. “I don’t look at this as a full-time thing, nor do I look at it as something that our guys will over-blow. I just think it makes sense today and we’ll reevaluate things on Tuesday.”

The move may not have paid off exactly how Stevens wanted it too right away — Duncan had six points and two rebounds in the first quarter. However, Zeller was able to neutralize him in a sense, finishing with four points and five rebounds of his own.

In the end, the matchup was almost meaningless. Duncan played only 24 minutes and scored 14 points, while Zeller played only 18 minutes before finding himself on the court during garbage time.

THE CELTICS PLAYED DEFENSE IN THE FIRST HALF

The Celtics entered Sunday’s game ranked 28th in the NBA in opponent points per game, giving up 107.3 through 13 games. It’s safe to say that defense has been a struggle for Boston all season long.

Sunday was a different story. The Celtics kept the Spurs to 45 points in the first half, but it was how they did it that was most impressive. The C’s forced 10 turnovers in the half, blocked four shots and held San Antonio to 39.5 percent shooting. The second quarter swung the game significantly, as the Spurs shot just 29.4 percent and committed seven of their turnovers. The Celtics were able to outscore the Spurs in the second quarter by seven points, 27-20.

THE CELTICS DIDN’T PLAY DEFENSE IN THE SECOND HALF

After managing just 20 points in the previous quarter, the Spurs came out and scored 17 in the first six minutes of the third. San Antonio finished the period scoring 33 points, just 12 fewer than they had in the entire first half.

Even if you are good enough to stop the Spurs for a portion of the game, they also brought the league’s best defense to town, allowing only 92.7 points per game. Still …

THE CELTICS FOUND WAYS TO SCORE ON THE LEAGUE’S BEST DEFENSE FOR THREE QUARTERS

As they have all season, the Celtics found ways to score the ball. Through three quarters, the Celtics put up 73 points on 44 percent shooting — not great, but not bad. It was enough to keep the Celtics in the game (along with their early defense), as the Spurs shot 44 percent through three quarters as well. An 18-4 Boston run in the second quarter showed what they are capable of when playing their best on both ends of the floor.

However, as we know, basketball is a sport where you play four quarters. The fourth one can be tricky for these Celtics.

THE CELTICS LET ANOTHER ONE SLIP AWAY IN THE FOURTH QUARTER

As they have against the Raptors, Thunder, Cavaliers, Suns, Blazers, Bulls, and now Spurs, the Celtics lost a home game that was close in the fourth quarter.

All seven of those loses have either gone down to the wire, or have been winnable at the start of the fourth quarter on the Celtics’ home floor. Good teams win games in situations like that. Even bad teams win some of those games. But the Celtics couldn’t find a way to win any of them.

Boston only managed 16 fourth quarter points, while the Spurs scored 33 again, as they had in the third quarter. The Spurs’ 66 second half points are everything that is wrong with how the Celtics have played at home this year.

The Celtics have shown they have potential this season. None of it will matter until they prove they can close out a tight game at home.

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

Winners go for the jugular. Losers allow victory to slip through their hands.

Unfortunately, for Brad Stevens, he’s seeing much too much of the slipping and not enough killer instinct, with Friday’s 109-102 loss to the Bulls the latest example.

There’s a common, unsettling theme developing between Stevens’ rookie season of 25 wins and this season. The Celtics‘ coach watched Friday as a 16-point second-quarter lead evaporated. He then saw his team bounce back as they have so many times this season, taking an 81-72 lead late in the third quarter.

Was Friday finally going to be one of those rare days where the Celtics show the mental toughness to hang on for a quality win like they did on Nov. 8 in Chicago against these same Bulls?

Nope. Not when you shoot 5-for-26 (19.2 percent) in the final quarter, score 11 points, miss all eight 3-point attempts and convert just one of five free throws. The Celtics, like they did against Toronto, Oklahoma City and Cleveland just crumbled on their own parquet floor.

“I felt good coming into the game,” Stevens said. “I felt good about what we did at the end of the game. I’€™m not going to lose too much sleep over the ball not going in the basket. I’€™ll go back and re-watch the execution and the defensive possessions and those types of things, but I felt pretty good about it. Hey, we scored 102 points on Chicago and that’€™s with an 11-point quarter. So we’€™re doing a lot of good things, but we’€™ve got to finish. It’€™s the difference between winning and losing.”

After his team fell to 4-9 on the season, losing for the fifth time in six games, Stevens was asked if he’s starting to question what he’s doing based on all the losing.

“We can win by 30 and I’m questioning me,” Stevens said. “This has nothing to do with [score]. I don’t change game to game, as far as my own analysis or being overly critical or any of those types of things.”

So what went wrong?

“The ball didn’€™t go in,” Stevens said. “So I think that sometimes it’€™s as simple as that; sometimes it’€™s as difficult as they were making it difficult for us. And it was probably a combination of those two things. But I thought in the last three minutes, especially, we executed pretty well. And obviously would like to have those misses back, but that’€™s basketball. That happens. But the execution I felt pretty good about; got the ball where we wanted to get it on most every occasion. We had a little bit of a dip around the five- or six-minute mark, but other than that, you know, I think it was more just unfortunately the ball didn’€™t go in for us.”

Stevens insists the winning is right around the corner as soon as the Celtics add the “little things” that are missing right now late in games.

“Yes. So I think you just have to go out and earn it,” Stevens said. “You have to go out and do it. Like I don’€™t think there’€™s two ways around it. I don’€™t think that all of a sudden winning magically appears, because you’€™ve put your time in. I think it’€™s about having opportunities and seizing them and grabbing them.

“And we’€™re not doing that right now, and then when we do do it, it’€™s not going to be a given the next time. You have to seize it and grab it every time. It’€™s not like you cure some ill. You have to do it every single time, and that’€™s what makes it tough. And that’€™s why some of these teams in this league win so consistently and perform so well consistently throughout the season.

“Obviously, we believe in them. They know we believe in them. And that’€™s all that we can do. And then it becomes, we have to seize it. You know, again, it goes back to you’€™ve got to go get it. There’€™s nobody ‘€“ nobody on an opposing sideline’€™s going to feel sorry for you; nobody on the outside looking in is going to feel sorry for you. So it’€™s a matter of curing the things you can cure and fixing the things you can fix and then going and taking the game.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia