Rajon Rondo dishes one of his 18 assists Sunday night against the Pistons. (AP)

Rajon Rondo dishes one of his 18 assists Sunday night against the Pistons. (AP)

Rajon Rondo dished out a season-high 18 assists to go with 11 points and the Celtics rode a red-hot third quarter from the field to post a 118-111 win over the Pistons Sunday night at TD Garden. Jeff Green scored 27 while Kelly Olynyk provided a big first-half spark off the bench, scoring 13 of his 18 points in the opening 24 minutes.

Rondo’s 18 helpers were all the more remarkable considering he had no turnovers, just two assists shy of matching the NBA record for assists in a game without committing a turnover, achieved three times.

Kris Humphries added his sixth double-double of the season, scoring 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting, while grabbing 10 rebounds. The Celtics improved to 22-41, winning consecutive games for the first time since beating Orlando, Philadelphia and Sacramento to open February. Josh Smith led Detroit with 28 while Greg Monroe added 22 for the Pistons, who fell to 24-39. The Celtics are just five games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 19 games remaining.

As was the case in Friday’s win over the Nets, the Celtics took a lead after the first quarter and were in command most of the way. Jared Sullinger’s layup with 31.3 seconds left in the first gave the Celtics a 24-22 lead, an advantage they would not relinquish.

Green scored 11 of his 27 in the second quarter as the Celtics took 57-49 halftime lead.

The Celtics came out blazing hot in the third, making 11 of their first 16 shots to open a 17-point lead. After shooting just 2-for-14 from long range in the first half, the Celtics drilled 8-of-12 from long range to put up 31 points in the first nine minutes of the quarter. The Celtics, thanks to 68 percent (15-of-22) shooting, scored 38 points in the quarter taking a 95-84 lead into the fourth.

The 38 points was the third-highest total in any quarter this season, behind the 42 in the first quarter against the Pistons on Dec. 18 and the 39 against the Bucks on Dec. 3.

While the Celtics were on fire offensively, they were leaking oil badly on defense, allowing 35 points as Detroit kept the game within range by shooting 60 percent from the field.

The 73-point quarter was a throwback to the old days of the ABA when little defense was played and open shots were the norm.

Green’s ill-fated behind-the-back pass to Will Bynum set up a Pistons fast break layup and three-point play on the other end as the Pistons drew to within eight, 95-87, in the opening 90 seconds. The two teams went back and forth. Josh Smith hit a three with 4:43 left to cut the Boston lead to nine before Jeff Green answered on the next possession.

Another Smith three cut the lead to eight, 111-103 with 2:53 left. Will Bynum hit two free throws with 2:29 left to make it 111-105. Rondo found Humphries under the basket for a nice reverse layup to make it 113-105. Bynum converted another pair of free throws with 1:10 left to make it a six-point game. His two free throws with 48.2 seconds left cut the lead to four, 113-109.

The Celtics will leave Monday after practice for a game at Indiana Tuesday night. They return to Boston to play the Knicks on Wednesday night at TD Garden. Head coach Brad Stevens indicated before the game that Rondo will likely not play in the second game of back-to-backs the rest of the season and is expected to sit out the Knicks game if he plays Tuesday night.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Not that it should surprise anyone at this point of a lost season but Celtics coach Brad Stevens hinted at the obvious before Sunday’s game with the Pistons at TD Garden.

Rajon Rondo will likely not be playing in the final five sets of back-to-backs this season.

Brad Stevens (left) and Rajon Rondo have been carefully working out his playing load. (AP)

Brad Stevens (left) and Rajon Rondo have been carefully working out his playing load. (AP)

Not that it should surprise anyone at this point of a lost season but Celtics coach Brad Stevens hinted at the obvious before Sunday’s game with the Pistons at TD Garden.

Rajon Rondo will likely not be playing in the final five sets of back-to-backs this season.

“My guess is probably that he will not play on the second game of a back to back,” Stevens said of Rondo, who had played in 17 of Boston’s 22 games since coming back from his right ACL tear.

The Celtics play on the road at Indiana Tuesday night before returning home to take on the Knicks Wednesday night at the Garden. Since Rondo came back on Jan. 17 against the Lakers, the Celtics have played four sets of back-to-backs and Rondo has missed the backend each time, including his now-infamous LA birthday bash on Feb. 22 in Sacramento.

The Celtics travel to Indiana Tuesday before returning home to play the Knicks Wednesday. There are four remaining sets of back-to-backs after this week.

“In this league, at his position, he’s going to get tested,” Stevens added. “There’s really good players at the point guard spot every night.”

Rondo is averaging 12.2 points and 8.2 assists per game in his 17 games back this season.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Paul Pierce sees what Danny Ainge sees and what most Celtics fans see in Rajon Rondo when the Boston point guard is on his game.

“He’s unstoppable,” Pierce said of Rondo. “I always said the more he’s improved, the more he’s expanded his game, he’s one of the best. If he’s coming down and knocking down threes, it’s almost impossible to keep him out of the paint at times, he has the floater, the way he finds people in traffic. If he continues to consistently knock down that [3-point] shot, watch out.”

Rondo drilled his first three 3-point attempts Friday night and, except for a hiccup at the end of the third quarter, Rondo and the Celtics didn’t look back in a 91-84 win over Pierce’s Nets Friday night at TD Garden.

Rondo nearly had a triple double, with 20 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.

Pierce even gave Rondo an assist of his own, helping Rondo to his feet late in the first half after Rondo took a spill to the floor. He gave the Celtics point guard a pat on the rear and got an ovation from the crowd.

“In the end, me and Rondo share a special bond,” Pierce said. “We’ll always be friends, we’ll always have something in common with our championship, our kids still hang out together.”

Then Pierce went a little further, offering that their kids share that same bond and “hung out for his birthday, actually.” Pierce laughed out loud very hard for several seconds.

Of course, Pierce was very aware of the much ballyhooed Rondo birthday party in Los Angeles last month, when he skipped out on a trip to Sacramento after being asked to travel with the team and not stay behind. Ask Pierce and he’ll tell you all things considered, he’d want Rondo as his captain any day.

“Rondo, I respect him and what he’s doing moving forward with this franchise and it will always be that way,” Pierce added.

If anyone can understand what Rondo is going through right now it’s Pierce. Pierce made the Eastern Conference finals in 2002 and were in the playoffs the next two seasons before the team went through a massive rebuild, bottoming out in 2006-07 with a 24-win season.

“I try to forget those days,” Pierce said, laughing again. “Those were trying days. But you grow from there. I think it made me a better player, physically, mentally, it made me stronger. You can only learn from this process. You find out what type of players you have when you go through moments like this.

“They are a young team, they got a mix of some veterans, some young guys they are developing and they are only going to get better,” said Pierce. “Rondo is leading them right now, moving into the next generation of Celtics. I think their future is going to be very bright.”

There was one bit of advice Pierce had for Rondo when asked how the sometimes temperamental point guard could best handle his situation.

“Just being patient,” said Pierce. “When you’re in the middle of your prime like Rondo is and you’re frustrated with the losing, it’s about staying patient, staying with the guys, helping them develop. At times, it’s going to be frustrating, and you have to understand that and the position you’re in.

“At times, things don’t always go your way and you want everything to be better right away. But you understand it’s a process. Danny Ainge understands it’s a process. And they have to be on the same page. Your lead player, your franchise player, your organization, you have to be in communication with what they want from each other and you go from there. You build with each other.”

While talking about his former teammate, Pierce even offered that a return to Boston isn’t out of the question. But for now, he’ll let Rondo handle the leadership role in Boston.

“I think Rondo really understands it,” Pierce said. “He understands probably more than I did at the time. When I first got here, we were in rebuild mode, we made the playoffs, then we went back into rebuild mode. Same with him. He came in, we were rebuilding, we went through a phase of winning, now he’s back in rebuild mode. But he’s still young enough to see it out to where he’s still going to be in his prime. I know the Celtics are going to do whatever it takes. They’ve got great owners, great management, to get back to that top level again.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Boston’€™s favorite ‘€œSpider’€ turns 84 Saturday.

Rudolph “Spider” Edwards helped the Boston Garden run for 33 years during his time working with the building’€™s manual labor team, the acclaimed “Bull Gang.” Though he won’€™t be celebrating his birthday at the Garden, he will be wearing a fedora, a trademark of his ever since 1941.

“€œWe were visiting my grandmother in St. Petersburg, Fla., for my 11th birthday,” recalled Edwards. “My grandmother gave one to me, and I’€™ve been wearing one ever since. She said a man wasn’€™t dressed unless his shoes were shined and he was in a suit, tie and a hat.”

Spider is remembered fondly for his time cleaning the Garden parquet with style, grace and even a touch of flair during home games for the Celtics. Mop in hand, striding across the parquet, he always commanded more of the spotlight than one might expect from his 5-foot-5 frame. His enthusiasm resonated with those around him. The bounce in his step and his shamrock-covered Celtics jacket were fixtures of any game at the Garden from the day he started in 1964 all the way to end in 1997. Throughout his three decades at the Garden, Edwards took a great deal of pride in doing his job.

“Oh, absolutely,” said Edwards. “€œOtherwise, there was no point in doing it. I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed the people who were around me.”

And the people enjoyed him, too.

“€œHe’€™s one of our great treasures,”€ said NBA Hall of Famer and Celtics all-time leading scorer John Havlicek. “€œHe seemed to be enjoying his job at the Garden and the familiarity with many of the basketball and hockey players.”€

“€œSpider always greeted you with a smile,” recalled Havlicek. “He’€™s one of the people that contributed behind the scenes to make things run smoothly.”

Originally from South Philly, Edwards now has lived in Boston for almost 70 years.

“€œI had an uncle here who lived in the South End,” said Edwards. “I was 15 when I came here, and that uncle connected me to the Garden.”

Edwards never had any aspirations of working with basketball or hockey games, as boxing stole his heart and filled his dreams as a child.

“œI wanted to be the next welterweight champ of the world,” said Edwards. “€œI never liked basketball then.”

The Celtics were so beloved by the city of Boston that Edwards became well-known by players, coaches and fans at the Garden.

“€œIt’€™s the people like him,” said Celtics legend Dave Cowens, confirming that he, too, is a Spider fan. “€œIt’€™s the fact that people like him have been around for such a long time working so hard in the Garden.”

Edwards still attends games to visit old friends.

“€œI go to see some of the old-timers,” he explained. “I went to the Houston game because of Kevin McHale, but I normally go when some of the ex-Celtics come in and talk with Tommy [Heinsohn] about the old-timers.”

He’€™s the first to admit the old Garden had its faults, but its mystique will never be matched by the current TD Garden on 100 Legends Way.

“€œI worked in the new building for three years,” he said. “But it isn’€™t the same. There was a lot of things going on in that building.

“€œThe lights went out during a hockey series, and they had to finish that series up in Canada,”€ he said, referring to Game 4 of the 1988 Stanley Cup Finals between the Bruins and the Edmonton Oilers. The game began in Boston but was postponed in the second period due to a power outage and was resumed in Edmonton.

Edwards was also working the night of November 28, 1990, when condensation caused the Celtics and Atlanta Hawks to postpone their game in the middle of the second quarter. NBA official Dick Bavetta reached out to Edwards before sending everyone home.

“€œThe Garden was very special,” he said. “I miss the old place.”

After spending 33 years on Causeway Street, Edwards still struggles to name a favorite player.

“œOh goodness,”€ he said with a laugh, “I could name you almost 100 of them. Bobby Orr. Satch Sanders. We had one, Gene Conley, I’€™ll always remember. Gene was a 20-game winner with the Red Sox and he played with the Boston Celtics. We’€™ve had some beautiful athletes here, ones who were simply outstanding. Havlicek was drafted as a wide receiver by the Cleveland Browns. Red [Auerbach] and I were buddies.

“They were regular guys to us. To the fans, they might have been something special, but to us, they were regular guys who we saw every day.”

Even if Edwards can’€™t decide on a favorite player or team from the Garden, he knows exactly what he misses the most.

“€œThe people,” he answered. “All the people from the Garden, the fans, and the games.”

The people in the stands and the ones in uniform, he explained, gave the building more meaning than any other in the world.

“€œOh yes, it was indeed special,”€ said Edwards. “There was the closeness of it, and the players were a lot more friendly.”

Fortunately for Celtics fans, there are some more recent Celtics that Edwards adored.

“€œSome of the young guys today are standoffish, but [Paul] Pierce, [Kevin] Garnett and Doc [Rivers] were throwbacks. They were very friendly.”

For those wondering about the key to Edwards’ longevity, he has the answer for any inquiring minds.

“Stay around young people,” advised Edwards, which is easy for him. He has 15 grandchildren, 42 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-granddaughter.

“€œOh my goodness, please,”€ laughed Edwards. “It’€™s incredible, yes indeed.”

Blog Author: 
Justin Barrasso

Asked if he would consider playing for the Celtics again, the team’s former captain Paul Pierce said, “Yeah, why not? Maybe play for them. Maybe work for them. Who knows what the future holds?”

Asked if he would consider playing for the Celtics again, the team’s former captain Paul Pierce said, “Yeah, why not? Maybe play for them. Maybe work for them. Who knows what the future holds?”

Pierce, who scored 10 points in a 91-84 loss to the C’s on Friday night, has told reporters all season he would like to join the team’s front office when his playing career is over, but this is the first time since joining the Nets he has mentioned potentially playing for his former team again. Pierce is in the final year of his contract with the Nets.

Meanwhile, Pierce had plenty to say about current Celtics captain, even joking about the media firestorm that raged after Rajon Rondo stayed in Los Angeles for his birthday while the C’s played on his off day in Sacramento.

“Me and Rondo share a special bond. We’ll always be friends. We’ll always have something in common with our championship. Our kids still hang out together. They hung out for his birthday actually.” Pierce paused for laughter. “I respect him and what he’s doing moving forward with this franchise, and it will always be that way.”

After watching Rondo surpass his career-high in 3-pointers for a season with three in the first quarter, Pierce complimented his former teammate on the added dimension to Rondo’s game.

“He’s unstoppable. I’ve always said, the more he improves, the more he expands his game, he’s one of the best. If he’s coming down and knocking down 3′s, it’s almost impossible to keep him out of the paint at times. The way he shoots that floater, the way he finds people in traffic, if he consistently knocks down that shot, watch out.”

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

There wasn’t nearly as much fanfare surrounding this Paul Pierce return to Boston, but the Celtics ended up on the winning side this time around, defeating Pierce’s Nets by a score of 91-84.

There wasn’t nearly as much fanfare surrounding this Paul Pierce return to Boston, but the Celtics ended up on the winning side this time around, defeating Pierce’s Nets by a score of 91-84.

Rajon Rondo led all scorers with 20 points, adding nine assists and seven rebounds, and the Celtics (21-41) recovered from Wednesday’s miserable loss to the Warriors to snap a two-game losing streak. Jeff Green (15 points), Kelly Olynyk (13 points) and Jerryd Bayless (14 points) also reached double figures.

The Nets (30-30) fell back to .500, as Pierce finished with 10 points.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Moto Rondo: Perhaps motivated by the presence of rival Deron Williams and old friend Paul Pierce in town, Rondo came to play. He connected on his first three 3-point attempts, setting a new personal standard for a season, and scored 13 first-quarter attempts. The triple-double watch began early, and the C’s led 26-20 after one.

Technical KO: After scoring a team-high 19 points against the Warriors (somebody had to), Olynyk said he felt like he was figuring out opposing NBA defenses — how different players defend the pick-and-roll, drive-and-kick, etc. — and it showed again Friday. Scoring from 3-point range, on the drive and in the post, he abused Mason Plumlee early, even if Plumlee isn’t exactly Kevin Garnett. Now, Olynyk only needs to figure out his own NBA defense, but he showed grit, slapping the ball out of Shaun Livingston‘s hands as he attempted a few post-whistle layups. Had he made the trip, Garnett would’ve respected that. If only he were in Boston to tutor Olynyk on that end.

3 party: In addition to Rondo’s trio of 3-pointers, undrafted rookie Chris Babb drained a couple and the Celtics connected six of their 13 attempts from long-distance before the break. (Like Chris Johnson before him, Babb is earning well deserved playing time purely on effort.) But the bigger story was Brooklyn’s futility from beyond the arc. The Nets missed all 17 of their first-half attempts and naturally trailed 53-41 heading into the locker room.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Ja-red alert: Doesn’t it seem like Jared Sullinger should be starting for these Celtics? After all, he’s arguably the second-best player on the roster. But he’s coming off the bench, and maybe it’s time to start wondering why. Whether it’s his hand, conditioning or another factor, Sullinger doesn’t look like the same player who averaged 19.8 points and 12.8 rebounds from Jan. 29 to Feb. 10. Sullinger fouled out with five points and 12 rebounds.

Big Apple turnovers: Considering the Nets shot 34 percent in the first half, it’s a wonder they only trailed by a dozen at the break. But they managed to hang around all night by winning the turnover battle. Olynyk and Rondo were the worst offenders for the Celtics.

Turd quarter: After winning the first two frames by six apiece and stretching the lead to 18 early in the third, the Celtics fell apart. With a lineup of Marcus Thornton, Shaun Livingston, Joe Johnson, Anrdrei Kirilenko and Andray Blatche on the floor, the Nets rattled off a 22-6 run to slash the C’s advantage to 70-68 with 14 minutes left.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

Wednesday night represented the lowest point of the Celtics‘€™ frustrating season. A 20-point home loss to the Warriors ‘€“and it wasn’€™t even as close as it sounds.

Jabari Parker could be slipping right to the Celtics. (AP)

Jabari Parker could be slipping right to the Celtics. (AP)

When lottery day arrives, this could be the loss Celtics fans look back on as the straw that broke the camel’€™s back. Losses aside, when you think of this struggling Celtics squad, you still think of a team that plays hard. Wednesday night that thought disappeared.

‘€œI didn’€™t think our energy was an A-plus,’€ coach Brad Stevens stated postgame, ‘€œlet’€™s just put it that way.’€

We have seen all season long that no matter what, Stevens’€™ team plays hard ‘€“ but not anymore. Lack of effort will make for horrible basketball to watch over the final 21 games, but it will yield a fantastic draft pick at the end of the not-so pretty rainbow.

Boston still holds the fourth-highest lottery odds, sandwiched between the Magic (third) and Lakers (fifth). The Lakers saw the Celtics lay an egg and came out Thursday night determined to one-up them — by suffering the most lopsided loss in franchise history. The Lakers fell to the Clippers, 142-94, and it seemed like Blake Griffin and company finished off every possession with a dunk. I turned it off at 104-56 with three minutes remaining in the third quarter — it got that bad. Orlando, on the other hand, has only one less win than Boston, so the third spot in the lottery is not out of the question.

What would finishing as the third-worst team in the NBA mean? It would give Boston a 96 percent chance at a top-five pick and a 47 percent chance at selecting in the top three. The worst result would be the sixth pick, and that would only have a 4 percent chance of happening.

We have been under the impression that owning a top-three pick is an absolute must in order to obtain one of the top-tier prospects expected to enter the draft. There are very intriguing players to be had throughout the entire lottery, but Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker seem to have separated themselves from the pack. However, Chad Ford‘€™s most recent mock draft for ESPN insider had a new view of the draft. Embiid and Wiggins hold down the two top picks, but Parker is not in the third spot. Ford has the Magic using their pick on Dante Exum, who is said to be climbing draft boards (by working out in a gym in Australia). This leaves the C’€™s selecting Parker in the No. 4 spot, and making out like bandits.

 

I had the Celtics using the fifth pick on Exum in my mock draft last week, but there are two things that I do not understand about Ford’€™s most recent mock. Firstly, Exum has always been a projected top-five pick, but how has he climbed all the way to third by doing nothing? The Magic really want to use their top pick on a wing, yet Ford believes they are very high on Exum. But more importantly, why is the best player in this draft dropping to fourth? I’€™m still waiting for a good answer on this one, but Celtics fans will gladly take it.

Parker would not only be a perfect fit in Boston, but he is an immediate upgrade over Jeff Green at small forward. Parker is clearly one of the most skilled prospects in recent years, but unlike the other projected top picks who are hyped on potential, Parker is NBA-ready right now. He is the complete package on the court, his game is just as smooth on the perimeter as it is in the paint, and standing 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds doesn’€™t hurt, either.

However, Parker is just as good a person as he is a basketball player. His parents both push him to be great but encourage him to remain humble. After one of Parker’€™s better high school games for Simeon Career Academy in Chicago, the press was waiting for him to leave the locker room to give interviews. Parker never appeared. He had returned to the gym to sit with the junior varsity team and cheer on those players while passing out water. Keep in mind that he was the top prospect in the country at the time. That’€™s the type of guy Jabari Parker is.

Parker remains the top player on my big board, even though I have Embiid going with the top pick. There’€™s a difference. If I had to pick next season’€™s Rookie of the Year, I would pick Parker. If I had to pick the first 2014 draft pick to become an All-Star, I would pick Parker. It is unjustifiable to allow Parker to slip to the fourth pick, but it sure makes things easy for Danny Ainge if Boston can land him in that spot.

By now I’€™m sure all of you have seen what Parker is capable of on the court. Take a look at him off the court in one of his recent sit-downs with ESPN.

Parker also was featured on ‘€œGood Morning America’€ while in high school, and he discussed his Mormon faith (Ainge is Mormon as well — just another reason Parker is such a perfect fit with the C’€™s). It’€™s an old interview but a good look at how grounded he is, and it shows the good family he comes from.

It’€™s impossible not to like Parker as a young man, he will surely find success at a high level in the NBA. Not to say that Wiggins and Embiid will not, but Parker is a sure thing.

Shifting the focus over to the Kansas duo, Embiid, who has been banged up recently, has been shut down for at least the remainder of the regular season. Embiid sat out Wednesday night against Texas Tech and will miss at least one more game to rest his back. The big man’€™s status for the Big 12 tournament in up in the air, but he is considered a sure thing to play come March Madness.

Wiggins has remained consistent of late, but his numbers are merely acceptable, whereas Parker’€™s stats really go above and beyond to show what type of player he is. Wiggins scored 15 points in last Saturday’€™s upset loss to Oklahoma State, then ended his double-figures streak on Wednesday with nine points, although he only played 23 minutes in a blowout win.

Not much movement to report this week on the draft board in terms of quantity, but the potential fall of Parker, from No. 3 to No. 4, right into Boston’€™s lap, is a story in itself. Keep an eye out for another mock draft from me next week, pending any big news that steals the story. But this week Parker has stolen the headlines in terms of NBA draft talk in Boston. Parker continues to play the best basketball in the country, yet slowly slide down draft boards. Don’€™t let it fool you, this kid is special.

Parker spoke Friday about the chances he will even enter the NBA draft after his freshman season. He has not changed his stance at all since the last time he discussed his future, maintaining the image that he very well could play his sophomore season at Duke if he thinks it will benefit him.

“If I feel like there are things I could improve on or things I left, like during the season, then I will probably come back,” Parker said. “A deciding factor is where I’€™m going to grow the most, whether it’€™s in the NBA or even in college, the learning experiences that I need as far as [growing as] a basketball player.”

If you are a Celtics fan, you now are also a Blue Devils fan this March. Both Parker and his team’€™s success could be the determining factor on whether or not we see the freshman standout in the NBA next season.

The closer the draft gets, it is scary that Parker is still talking about returning to Duke when he clearly knows how high his NBA value is. With Parker’€™s NBA-readiness, I believe going to the league now is indeed the best move for him to grow next season.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow.

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow