Tyler Zeller

Tyler Zeller

If someone asks you about Sunday’s Celtics game, make sure to emphasize its “€œgreat personality,”€ because by no means was it visually pleasing.

In a low-scoring affair that saw neither team playing particularly well, the Celtics ‘€” wearing their bizarre and unbecoming gray “€œParquet Pride”€ jerseys ‘€” fell 83-75 to the Heat at the TD Garden. The C’€™s struggled early and couldn’t regain the lead despite coming back to tie the game.

Without stars Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng, Miami relied heavily on their big men. Hassan Whiteside led all scorers with 20 points and nine rebounds while Chris Bosh added 18 points and seven rebounds. Avery Bradley and Tyler Zeller each netted 17 points to lead the way for the Celtics. Zeller started in place of Jared Sullinger, who was benched to start the game for arriving late to a pregame walkthrough. Marcus Thornton (15 points) was the only other Celtics player in double figures.

For the complete box score, click here.

CELTICS SHOOT TERRIBLY IN THE FIRST HALF

Even if there was some sort of bucket emporium that exclusively sold buckets and the team had a variety of currency options available, the Celtics still would not have been allowed to purchase a bucket. The C’€™s finished 13 for 41 from the field for an unimpressive 32.7 percent. Chris “Birdman” Andersen made as many 3-pointers as the Celtics, who made just one of their 10 attempts. Their inability to acquire aforementioned buckets, I’d argue, directly contributed to their 13-point deficit at halftime.

12 GOOD MINUTES OF BASKETBALL

Evan Turner may have started the game at point guard, but after missing his first six shots he quickly found himself on the bench. With Marcus Smart playing in his place to open the second half, the Celtics cut the Heat’€™s 13-point lead down to two. With the hyper-athletic lineup of Smart, Bradley and Jae Crowder in the game, the C’€™s increased their intensity and ball pressure on the defensive end. The Heat scored only 17 points in the quarter, turning the ball over seven times.

Bradley played extremely well, reminding Celtics fans why the team signed him to a four-year, $32 million dollar contract in the offseason. He scored 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting and added a pair of steals in the quarter. If Bradley is going to be a starter on the Celtics moving forward, he is going to have to play like this for more than 12 minutes at a time.

PUSH TO PLAYOFFS?

Don’€™t look now, but even after the departures of Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and Brandan Wright, the Celtics are still in the playoff hunt. Sunday’s loss dropped the Celtics (16-30) to 3.5 games behind the eigth-place Hornets and a full four games back of the seventh-place Heat. With the season-ending injury to Brandon Jennings in Detroit and the general dysfunction in both Charlotte and Brooklyn, the C’s head-to-head record against the Heat may have a huge impact in the final standings. After Miami took the first two games, the Celtics do have a chance to even the series, as the two teams will play twice more this season.

JAMES YOUNG

While on assignment with the Maine Red Claws in the D-League on Saturday Night, Young scored 33 points, including an astounding nine 3-pointers.

The Celtics rookie was recalled before the game, and coach Brad Stevens mentioned that Young may see more minutes moving forward. With the entire team struggling from the outside, Young made his first appearance in the first quarter of a game this season. In his eight minutes, he did not provide the offensive spark Stevens was looking for. Young continues to struggle with his defense, and he did not see any playing time until the final moments of the fourth quarter. He finished with three points on 1-of-2 shooting.

WHY CAN’T THE CELTICS GET RIM PROTECTORS LIKE HASSAN WHITESIDE? 

Whiteside was selected by the Sacramento Kings with the 33rd pick out of Marshall in the 2010 NBA draft. After a couple stints in the D-League and a few more seasons overseas, Whiteside signed with the Heat at the beginning of the season. Over the last month, the 7-footer has played his way into the starting lineup by averaging 13 points and 10 rebounds per game. Whiteside is also the elusive rim protector every team seems to be in the market for, averaging 3.5 blocks as well. Last week, he notched his first triple-double with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 12 blocks in only 25 minutes on the floor.

Whiteside continued his amazing run on Sunday, dominating the C’s frontcourt with 20 points and nine boards. Whiteside has the longest arms I have ever seen and is able to score with ease in the paint. His presence down low created open looks for Chris Bosh, who scored 18 points of his own.

Blog Author: 
WEEI

After a dismal start, Marcus Smart’s defense and offensive contributions from a band of Celtics veterans sparked a furious comeback against the visiting Rockets, but the C’s couldn’t get over th

After a dismal start, Marcus Smart’s defense and offensive contributions from a band of Celtics veterans sparked a furious comeback against the visiting Rockets, but the C’s couldn’t get over the hump in a 93-87 loss at TD Garden.

Smart held Houston’s MVP candidate James Harden to just 14 points on 4-of-21 shooting and the trio of Brandon Bass (17 points, 8 rebounds), Marcus Thornton (17 points, 4-6 3P, 7 rebounds) and Tayshaun Prince (13 points) combined for 47 points, leading the Celtics within a single possession yet again in the final minute after trailing by as many as 19 points in the first half — but it wasn’t enough to upset another Western Conference power.

The Celtics dropped to 16-29, falling two games in the loss column behind the Charlotte Hornets for the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed. For a complete box score, click here.

NO DEFENSE EARLY

The Celtics entered Friday’s game with the NBA’s third-worst defensive rating in January (106.7 points allowed per 100 possessions), and the first half against the Rockets didn’t help matters. Houston made 52.2 percent of their 46 shots to build an 18-point halftime lead against the C’s, who allowed 60 points in a half for the first time since November.

BIGS PROBLEM

The Rockets were without Dwight Howard (knee), seemingly giving Boston’s undersized starting frontcourt duo of Bass and Jared Sullinger (8 points, 7 rebounds) a break, but Houston still set an early tone inside. Seven-foot power forward Donatas Motiejunas scored 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting to go along with six rebounds before halftime. The Lithuanian finished with 26 points and 12 rebounds on the night.

POINT OF NO RE-TURNER

Let’s just say this was not Evan Turner‘s finest performance in a Celtics uniform. He missed three straight layups, couldn’t corral a wide-open pass in transition, got abused by James Harden on defense and air-balled a 3-pointer. And that all came in his first 15 minutes on the floor. After starting 2-for-10 from the field, Celtics coach Brad Stevens mercifully sat Turner, who finished with four points and three rebounds in 21 minutes.

CUTTING IN THIRDS

Receiving offensive contributions up and down the lineup, the Celtics slashed Houston’s 18-point halftime lead to five by the end of the third quarter — thanks to a defensive effort led by Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley that limited the Rockets to nine third-quarter points. After shooting better than 50 percent over the first 24 minutes, Houston made only 20 percent of their attempts in the third frame (4-20 FG).

SMART-D PANTS

Despite having only one point to his name early in the froth quarter — in part due to an offensive foul call that negated a second-half 3-pointer — Smart was somehow omnipresent in the second half, frustrating Harden (three second-half points) to no end and getting the Celtics out in transition offensively. His presence is always felt beyond the box score — where he contributed four points, four assists and three rebounds — but it would be awfully nice to see a signature 20-point, seven-assist type of performance from the Celtics rookie.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach
Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

Is anybody on this Celtics team capable of playing in a future All-Star Game?

The current 14-man roster shares one All-Star bid, as Gerald Wallace appeared as a reserve in 2010, but the real question is whether or not any of the eight players currently under the age of 25 will ever receive an invitation. Needless to say, nobody on this year’s Celtics even cracked the top 50 vote-getters for good reason.

While we shouldn’t give up all hope on Kelly Olynyk or James Young just yet, it’s safe to assume Jared Sullinger and Marcus Smart offer the best hopes among these Celtics for a future All-Star nomination. So, let’s take a look at how the 2015 NBA All-Stars fared at the same stage of their careers as that C’s tandem.

BACKCOURT

Midway through his rookie season, Smart has averaged 6.7 points (54.3 true shooting percentage), 3.2 assists against 1.2 turnovers, 2.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 22.2 minutes over 30 games. How do those numbers rate against the pre-All-Star rookie averages for the 12 guards who made this year’s East and West rosters?

Stephen Curry (51 games): 34.5 min, 14.8 pts (56.3 TS%), 4.9 ast (2.7 to), 3.8 reb, 1.9 stl
Kobe Bryant (39 games): 14.5 min, 7.8 pts (55.4 TS%), 2.0 reb, 1.0 ast (1.6 to), 0.6 stl
Jimmy Butler (20 games): 7.5 min, 2.5 pts (63.4 TS%), 1.2 reb, 0.4 stl, 0.3 ast (0.3 to)
James Harden (51 games): 22.7 min, 9.7 pts (53.0 TS%), 3.2 reb, 2.0 ast (1.3 to), 1.0 stl
Kyrie Irving (28 games): 31.0 min, 18.1 pts (56.9 TS%), 5.1 ast (3.1 to), 3.5 reb, 0.8 stl
Kyle Lowry (10 games): 17.5 min, 5.6 pts (55.6 TS%), 3.2 ast (1.2 to), 3.1 reb, 1.4 stl
Chris Paul (48 games): 35.4 min, 15.9 pts (54.2 TS%), 7.7 ast (2.4 to), 5.6 reb, 2.2 stl
Jeff Teague (45 games): 9.7 min, 2.9 pts (40.8 TS%), 1.7 ast (0.7 to), 0.9 reb, 0.5 stl
Klay Thompson (30 games): 16.5 min, 7.2 pts (56.1 TS%), 1.6 reb, 1.3 ast (1.1 to), 0.5 stl
Dwyane Wade (36 games): 36.0 min, 16.3 pts (52.3 TS%), 4.4 ast (3.0 to), 4.3 reb, 1.3 stl
John Wall (42 games): 36.9 min, 15.0 pts (49.1 TS%), 8.9 ast (3.7 to), 4.2 reb, 1.7 stl
Russell Westbrook (53 games): 31.7 min, 15.0 pts (50.2 TS%), 4.9 ast (3.1 to), 1.4 stl

While Smart hasn’t been handed the workload of Irving, Paul, Wade, Wall or Westbrook in Year 1, the Celtics rookie’s 36-minute averages [10.8 pts (54.3 TS%), 5.1 ast (1.9 to), 3.9 reb, 1.8 stl] aren’t all that far off from almost everyone on this list through the first half of their rookie seasons. And that’s an encouraging sign.

FRONTCOURT

Despite back surgery that cost him the second half of his rookie campaign, Sullinger is averaging 14.3 points (53.4 true shooting percentage), 8.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists against 1.4 turnovers and 0.7 steals in 28.8 minutes over 44 games midway through his third season — by far the best year of his young career. So, what kind of numbers were the current All-Star frontcourt players posting halfway through their third NBA seasons?

LaMarcus Aldridge (51 games): 38.0 min, 20.9 pts (52.6 TS%), 8.8 reb, 2.5 ast (1.9 to), 0.8 stl
Carmelo Anthony (53 games): 36.8 min, 26.0 pts (55.0 TS%), 5.3 reb, 2.7 ast (2.7 to), 1.3 stl
Chris Bosh (53 games): 38.8 min, 22.5 pts (59.0 TS%), 9.2 reb, 2.5 ast (2.2 to), 0.6 stl
Anthony Davis (42 games): 36.1 min, 24.5 pts (61.3 TS%), 10.4 reb, 1.7 ast (1.3 to), 1.6 stl
Tim Duncan (49 games): 39.6 min, 24.6 pts (56.5 TS%), 13.1 reb, 3.0 ast (3.3 to), 1.0 stl
Kevin Durant (51 games): 39.8 min, 29.7 pts (60.6 TS%), 7.4 reb, 2.9 ast (3.8 to), 1.4 stl
Marc Gasol (56 games): 33.3 min, 11.8 pts (57.5 TS%), 7.0 reb, 2.7 ast (2.0 to), 0.8 stl
Pau Gasol (52 games): 32.3 min, 17.6 pts (54.1 TS%), 7.9 reb, 2.4 ast (2.4 to), 0.6 stl
Blake Griffin (54 games): 32.5 min, 18.5 pts (57.4 TS%), 8.7 reb, 3.6 ast (2.4 to), 1.5 stl
Al Horford (51 games): 34.9 min, 13.4 pts (59.9 TS%), 9.4 reb, 2.1 ast (1.5 to), 0.7 stl
LeBron James: (52 games): 42.2 min, 31.2 pts (57.2 TS%), 7.0 reb, 6.6 ast (3.2 to), 1.7 stl
Paul Millsap (47 games): 32.1 min, 14.7 pts (58.6 TS%), 9.2 reb, 2.2 ast (2.1 to), 1.0 stl

While many on this list were well ahead of Sullinger’s pace through two and a half seasons, there is hope for the Ohio State product, especially if he dedicates himself to getting in better physical shape. Just look to Millsap, the undersized Hawks forward whose work ethic has led to steady improvement and his current status as arguably the Eastern Conference’s best low-post player. Of course, he didn’t make his first All-Star roster until leaving the team that drafted him, so only time will tell if any current C’s make a similar leap.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

As the Celtics take on water, Brad Stevens keeps plugging holes. (Getty Images)



Last season the Celtics‘ record against the Western Conference on the road was 0-15. If there’s a positive way to spin that, it’s that Brad Stevens certainly left his team with room for improvements on the road for this season.

“It could go a bunch of different ways,” Brandon Bass said as the C’s prepared to depart for the six-game trip through three different Western Conference time zones. Yes, Brandon, it could have gone a bunch of different ways. However, I don’t think many predicted the Celtics would return home to almost three feet of snow with three more victories under their belts.

Finishing the trip with a loss in Minnesota left a sour taste in the team’s mouth, but the trip could have been far less successful in Stevens’ eyes.

“We had our moments where we played well,” the coach said of the road trip after returning home to practice on Thursday. “We won two 1-point games [back-to-backs in Portland and Denver] which could have gone either way. If we’re sitting here at 1-5 because those last two shots bounce in, do we feel worse about ourselves? Absolutely. Is it a lot less of a successful trip? Absolutely. But, because those bounces went our way, we feel better.”

With the unexpected success, the Celtics amazingly sit just two games back of the eight-seed in the Eastern Conference at 16-28. But the C’s haven’t just been getting lucky bounces in their own games lately, they’ve been lucky across the league.

The Pistons had been surging, and sit just a half-game back of Boston in the standings. But Brandon Jennings‘ achilles tear recently ended the point guard’s season, and may well keep Detroit from rolling into the playoffs after their turnaround in the post-Josh Smith era.

The Nets are currently sitting in the nine-seed, but Brooklyn has made it clear that they intend to sell, sell, sell as the deadline approaches. Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson are all on the table. If they can find a taker on even one of those players, especially Johnson, Brooklyn could remain looking in from the outside at the playoffs.

The eight-seeded Hornets have lost arguably their best player in Kemba Walker for a long period of time after the UConn product recently underwent knee surgery. Unless they make a trade that brings them back some high-end talent, it would be silly to think that they wouldn’t slip in the standings.

Finally, there’s the Heat. Miami has a grasp on the seven-seed, but with a record of just 20-25, and Dwyane Wade injured again, they are far from untouchable in the standings.

Enter the Celtics. Their goal (or at least Danny Ainge’s goal) might not be to make the playoffs this season. Ainge admitted it wasn’t a goal of his last season. But the Eastern Conference is shaping up in a way that they just may sneak right in, even with a losing record. This current Celtics unit has not been together particularly long — it’s been a season filled with moving parts — but as Stevens said on Thursday: “There’s no better team building activity than winning a close game on the road.”

If the C’s can pull out a couple more close games on the road, then who knows? We might be watching this team compete during the playoffs whether it’s in Ainge’s plans or not.

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

When the Celtics left for a six-game road trip against a brutal Western Conference slate, many believed their season would fall apart.

When the Celtics left for a six-game road trip against tough Western Conference opponents many believed this would be where their season started to fall apart. Well, the C’s are now heading home, and the conversation has shifted to chatter regarding a playoff birth.

Boston didn’t play like a playoff team in this one, though, as they fell to the Timberwolves 110-98. Jared Sullinger was the high scorer for Boston with 16 points and eight rebounds, but did it on just 6-for-16 shooting and was a team-worst minus 22 in +/-. The loss drops the green to 16-28 on the season.

The Timberwolves on the other hand picked up just their eighth victory of the season to improve to 8-37. Kevin Martin was the high man for Minnesota with 21 points off the bench. Martin was one of seven Wolves in double figures, including all five starters. Marcus Thornton was effective for the Celtics with 15 points off the bench, while Tayshaun Prince and Marcus Smart were also key reserves with 12 apiece.

For a complete box score, click here.

SOUR ENDING TO AN ENCOURAGING TRIP

The Celtics are heading back to Boston after going 3-3 during six games in three time zones. That’s a victory in itself. But ending it by losing to the worst team (record-wise) in the NBA with a chance to go 4-2 instead should sting. It puts all the playoff talk into perspective. This team still isn’t very good on the whole. But they showed plenty of promise in three huge road wins. Let’s face it, this team did something three times on this trip what they were unable to do once all of last season: Win a game in a Western Conference building.

ZACH LAVINE IS FOR REAL

Marcus Smart is the future in Boston and Andrew Wiggins is the future in Minnesota, but don’t overlook LaVine. Danny Ainge did his homework on the explosive UCLA product and brought him to Waltham for an audition. Many draft boards had the Celtics selecting LaVine with the No. 17 overall pick, but that wound up being James Young after the Timberwolves scooped up LaVine at No. 13. Getting the start at point guard due to injuries, LaVine showed the C’s what they were missing out on by pouring in an impressive 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting. He also rounded out his performance with six assists, four boards and three steals. Don’t be shocked to see LaVine shine in both the Rising Stars game and the Dunk Contest on All-Star weekend.

MARCUS SMART’S IMPROVEMENT FROM DOWNTOWN IS ASTOUNDING

I wrote about this a couple weeks back, but it needs to be readdressed. Smart knocked down his first four attempts from 3-point range against the Wolves. It has been amazing how quickly the rookie has shaken the label of being a poor shooter and turned into a consistent threat from deep. Smart finished with 12 points to go along with six helpers while facing off against fellow rookies Wiggins and LaVine. But unlike his counterparts, Smart won’t be playing in the Rising Stars game. The assistant coaches who vote on the players must not have taken notice of Smart’s improvements.

Now, time to give some props to the veterans that have anchored recent success for the bench and the starters during the trip out west.

TAYSHAUN PRINCE FOR SIXTH MAN

Never did I think I would type the following sentence. Tayshaun Prince has been a huge difference maker in his brief time in a Celtics uniform. After scoring 19 points in a victory against the Jazz, Prince came out hot again on Wednesday, going 4-of-5 from the field in the first half for eight points. It wasn’t all Prince in this one, though. Although he did finish with 12 points, the veteran has been leading the young bench throughout the road trip. Prince is a voice in the locker room after just six games.

BRANDON BASS FOR MVP

Prince was an unexpected surprise, but Bass we have known about for a long time. The difference? Bass is putting his stamp on the game as a starter. Like Prince, Bass shot 4-for-5 in the first half for eight points. The best word to describe Bass? Solid. As another local team (who happen to be playing in a pretty big game on Sunday) says: “Do your job.” That’s exactly what Brandon Bass does. He had a horrible second half and only scored two more points, but the team being 3-2 since Bass became a starter is no coincidence. The real question is how another team has not traded for Bass yet.

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

Against all odds, the Celtics own a winning record on their West Coast road trip.

Tyler Zeller

Tyler Zeller

Against all odds, the Celtics own a winning record on their West Coast road trip.

For the third time in five games against Western Conference opponents over the past week, the C’s came out on top, holding off the Jazz 99-90. The Celtics improved to 16-27 on the season, moving within two games of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. Even more promising, they wrap up the road trip on Wednesday against the Timberwolves, owners of the league’s worst record.

Tayshaun Prince of all people led the scoring effort with 19 points on 10 shots off the bench. Fellow reserve Tyler Zeller added 14 points and seven boards while Jared Sullinger (9 rebounds) and Avery Bradley each contributed a dozen points. Gordon Hayward led the Jazz (16-29) with 26 points against his former coach at Butler.

“He’s just like me,” Stevens told reporters of Prince. “He knows what’s going on. He’s lived it all. They’ve got you down by 20 in a quarter, and it doesn’t look like his pulse has moved. You go up by 20 in a quarter, and it doesn’t look like his pulse has moved. He’s just playing. He’s playing the right way. He made us better today. He’s made us better with his presence already, and that’s been fun. It’s been fun for our young guys to have another older guy to kind of lean on and learn from.”

For a complete box score, click here.

SECOND TO NONE

Fielding a lineup of Marcus Smart, Marcus Thornton, Gerald Wallace, Prince and  Zeller to start the second quarter, the Celtics ignited a 30-7 run over the course of 7:32, transforming a 21-21 game into a 23-point lead. Proving he’s still a capable contributor, Prince highlighted the effort, scoring 10 of his 12 first-half points and adding three assists during the run. After trading buckets with the Jazz early, the Celtics never trailed again.

TURD QUARTER

As is so often suggested, basketball is a game of runs. The run giveth, and the run taketh away. And boy did the run taketh away in the third quarter. The Celtics went nearly six minutes without scoring a field goal in the frame. Meanwhile, the Jazz starters rattled off an 18-0 run that slashed a 22-deficit down to four.

FREE FALLING

Since Jan. 25, 2013, the Celtics haven’t finished perfect from the free throw line when attempting more than 15 freebies in a game. After making their first 16 free throws to start the game, Prince’s miss in the final minute kept the streak alive. Still, those free throws made much of the difference, as the C’s finished 21-of-23 from the line (91.3 percent) while the Jazz missed eight of their 19 tries (57.9 percent).

BENCH MOB

As Celtics coach Brad Stevens continues to search for the right rotation, the Boston bench proved more effective than the starters in Utah. Led by Prince and Zeller, the C’s bench scored 53 points on 20-of-35 shooting (57.1 percent). With Bradley (4-12 FG) and Evan Turner (2-7 FG) struggling to find their shooting stroke, the starters scored 46 points on 15-of-39 shooting (38.5 percent), suggesting the depth of Stevens’ rotation is proving effective in the February doldrums of the NBA season ‘€” particularly during their fourth game in five nights.

“You can’t come out the way we came out in the third quarter,” Stevens added postgame, “and I thought we were pretty locked in and engaged, but we looked like we were running in the mud a little bit with that group, so I went to the bench quicker, and I thought the bench really did it’s job both times pushing the lead out.”

ROAD WARRIORS

Credit Stevens for motivating an ever-changing Celtics roster in the wake of the Rajon Rondo trade. After losing 24 straight to Western Conference foes on the road, the C’s have shown considerable fight during their six-game West Coast trip, winning three of their first five contests and giving the Warriors more than they bargained for. Despite the turmoil, this Celtics team is developing. So, cue a Tayshaun Prince trade, I guess?

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach