The Celtics didn’t have Rajon RondoJared Sullinger, Jerryd Bayless or Kris Humpries, yet their undermanned roster still managed to claim a comfortable 111-99 victory over the Cavs in Cleveland. The win snapped the Celtics’ 13-game road losing streak.

Kelly Olynyk matched a career-high with 25 points and set a new career standard with 12 boards, while Avery Bradley likewise poured in 25 and Phil Pressey distributed 13 assists. For a complete recap of the game, click here.

Of course, the victory — the Celtics’ second straight — wasn’t necessarily the ideal outcome for a franchise in a pitched battle for ping-pong balls in the NBA draft lottery. The Celtics are now 25-55, the fifth-worst record in the NBA, with their victory having pushed them behind Utah (24-55 as of the end of the game in Cleveland) and neck-and-neck with the Lakers (25-54). A team that looked earlier in the week like it might be spiraling towards the third-highest number of ping-pong balls in the lottery for the top three picks is instead now in danger of falling to sixth, with an outside chance (if the Celtics win out and Kings lose out) of matching the Kings for the sixth-worst record (rather than claiming it outright).

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The Celtics coughed up a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, but an inspired Rajon Rondo-less effort fended off the Bobcats in a 106-103 victory that snapped a nine-game losing streak. Meanwhile, Orland’s loss to the Wizards gave the Magic sole possession of the NBA’s third-worst record.

The Celtics coughed up a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, but an inspired Rajon Rondo-less effort fended off the Bobcats in a 106-103 victory that snapped a nine-game losing streak. Meanwhile, Orland’s loss to the Wizards gave the Magic sole possession of the NBA’s third-worst record.

Avery Bradley led the Celtics (24-55) with 22 points. Jared Sullinger scored 20 while Jeff Green, and Brandon Bass each added 18. Kelly Olynyk (12 points) and Phil Pressey (10 points, 13 assists) also reached double figures. Pressey’s rebound tap to Bass in the closing seconds sealed the victory.


Avery good night: The real shame in Rondo’s absence was another missed opportunity for the Rondo-Bradley backcourt. While the two provided the few highlights (43 points, 14 assists, 8 rebounds, 6 steals) against Atlanta in their first game together in almost two weeks, Rondo was not in uniform to play Batman to Bradley’s Robin against the Bobcats. Not that it mattered, as the soon-to-be restricted free agent led the Celtics with 14 points by halftime.

Triple take: Almost everybody got in on the C’s 3-point shooting effort, but Bradley again led the way, draining his first three attempts. Pressey and Olynyk also buried a pair each during their 9-of-13 start from distance.

Fighter’s mentality: Led by the consistent effort of Bass and a surprising spark from Green, the Celtics closed the third quarter on a 12-0 run, snagging an 84-75 lead entering the fourth quarter. Pressey’s dive for a loose ball and pass from his behind to a breaking Olynyk drew a playoff-like response from the Garden crowd. While the C’s would have been better served with the loss, the fight they showed may also pay dividends down the road.


Rondo no go: While Rondo’s absence should have benefited the Ping Pong count, his late scratch surprised the Garden crowd. When Brad Stevens addressed the media two hours before the game, Rondo was slated to start the first night of the team’s final back-to-back, but he returned from  warmups with a bruised left shin. His status for Saturday’s game in Cleveland — originally a scheduled day off — remains uncertain. With Kemba Walker (groin) also sidelined, fans instead watched a starting point guard matchup between Phil Pressey and Luke Ridnour.

Big Al: As the Celtics have all season, they struggled against a talented offensive big man. This time it happened to be old friend Al Jefferson (32 points, 10 rebounds), who torched Sullinger & Co. with a variety of post moves for 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting in Charlotte’s 29-point first quarter. He signed a three-year, $41 million deal with the Bobcats over the summer, and while pundits criticized his move to a franchise in perennial peril, his 21.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists for a team surprisingly ranked among the top defensive units in the league. Suddenly, that $41 million doesn’t seem so bad, especially when you consider the C’s are paying Gerald Wallace $30.3 over that same span.

Bumps and bruises: Jerryd Bayless suffered a right knee sprain in the fourth quarter and did not return. Additionally Sullinger rolled his left ankle and left for the locker room in the third, but returned after getting some tape on it. The last the Celtics want to see is injuries pile up in the last few games.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach
Jackie MacMullan talks some Celtics with Mut and Merloni as the season is winding down and the team is positioned to have a high draft pick.

[0:07:51] ... it started to be at three point contest between Jared Salinger and Kyle Korver. -- -- -- And you know to leave Korver open not once but twice senior transition -- I think there is no ...
[0:09:25] ... to have Bradley in the locker room. Ridiculous but the east because Miami Heat the nets now I think what to two out of three from these guys don't look at the Eastern Conference and you ...
[0:09:58] ... little lackeys in net I don't think the net compete at the Miami Heat a seven game series in spite of that small sample site. But I am confused about the Indiana Pacers. And you know I did talk to Larry -- about last week. And and actually someone else in the front -- more recently than that. And I think this move was a good one what Frank -- did I'm sitting in both starters and he probably will get kinda think I don't know we'll see what Adam Paul Adam silver. Would take he had -- but those guys did look fatigued David West particular with the heart solidarity to -- looks run down. He played and played Georgia and western Hibbert and those guys a ...

I have been saying for about a month now that the bottom three teams in the NBA are etched in stone: Bucks, 76ers and Magic. However, thanks to a nine-game Celtics losing streak, combined with an unlikely two-game Magic winning streak, I was wrong. Both teams enter Thursday with records of 23-55, sharing the third spot in the lottery.

This is exactly what Danny Ainge had in mind at the start of the season, and now his plan is coming to fruition. But with only four games remaining for both Orlando and Boston, losing has become as important as ever this season. The Magic still have the inside track, as they play the Wizards, Nets (looking for revenge for Orlando’€™s win Wednesday), Bulls and Pacers.

The Celtics, on the other hand, have some very winnable games, so this is going to require some dedication to losing. The C’s face the Bobcats, Cavaliers, 76ers and Wizards in their final four outings. Yes, that’€™s right, the Celtics and 76ers will face off in another dreadful battle like the one we saw last Friday night at the Garden. Boston’s other three opponents are either trying to fight their way into the postseason or are jostling for position, so they arguably have something to play for.

This is all speculation at the moment, but if we are going by what the numbers tell us, Orlando will lose out. Meanwhile, the C’s should lose three of those games, leaving us with the 76ers contest. Look, the Celtics roster is clearly better than Philly’s, but Brad Stevens and company are going to have to understand the importance of sacrificing this game. This single game could hold the value of moving up one spot in the lottery — or not falling back a spot, depending on which way you want to look at it.

On top of that, unless the 14-win Bucks finish on a hot streak, the 76ers have nothing to lose by winning games now. They are six wins behind the Magic and Celtics, so even if they win out they still hold the second spot in the lottery. Essentially, I am saying the 76ers can stop tanking and it will not affect their lottery odds. Monday night in Philadelphia is the Celtics’ biggest game of the season.

This is all premature, as we have no clue what will happen in these games. The Magic are hot, maybe they can win another one and the C’€™s finish with sole possession of the third lottery spot. Maybe Orlando’€™s schedule is too much and Boston slips back to the fourth spot. Then there is the event of a tie, which actually is more likely at this point — both teams could easily go winless the rest of the season. If Boston and Orlando share the third-worst record in the NBA, they would split the lottery odds of third and fourth down the middle — a 42.4 percent chance at a top-three pick and an 89.4 percent chance at a top-five pick each.

So the Celtics actually are improving their lottery chances, unexpectedly, and the timing couldn’€™t be better. Five the top seven prospects outside have declared for the draft, and Jabari Parker and Julius Randle still have until April 27 to decide. Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Dante Exum, Marcus Smart and Noah Vonleh all have confirmed they will be on the board come June 26. Doug McDermott is a senior, so we know he is in. Expected top-10 pick Aaron Gordon is still weighing his options as well.

Regardless of what Parker and Randle decide to do, this is still a very deep draft with some headline talents at the top. Certainly Parker and Randle entering would put the class over the top, I am on the record that Parker is the perfect fit for Boston. But just getting a high pick this early into a rebuild on a roster with Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger is a great start. Whether Ainge decides to use the pick and go young, or trade it and pair a star with Rondo is all up to him, but either way, it gets the Celtics closer to contending again than they are now.

There is a lot on the line the last week of the NBA season. Teams are battling for playoff position and playoff spots are even still up for grabs, but the Celtics have a pretty big final week themselves, albeit for very different reasons.

Stay tuned next week for another mock draft once all the final lottery seeds are locked in. We finally find out where the Celtics land, and who they may choose.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

The Celtics continued their losing ways, dropping their ninth straight game, losing to the Hawks, 105-97, Wednesday night in Atlanta.

The defeat was also the Celts’ 13th straight road loss, tying a franchise record originally set in 1979. The C’s only two road wins over their last 15 games away from TD Garden came against the NBA’s two worst teams, Philadelphia and Milwaukee.

The Celtics continued their losing ways, dropping their ninth straight game, losing to the Hawks, 105-97, Wednesday night in Atlanta.

The defeat was also the Celts’ 13th straight road loss, tying a franchise record originally set in 1979. The C’s only two road wins over their last 15 games away from TD Garden came against the NBA’s two worst teams, Philadelphia and Milwaukee.

The Celtics are now tied with Orlando for the third-worst record in the NBA, standing at 23-55. They have four games remaining, playing the Bobcats and Wizards at home, with road games against Cleveland and the Sixers.

Milwaukee owns the NBA’s worst mark at 14-63, while Philly stands at 17-61. Utah (24-54) and the Lakers (25-53) are right behind Boston and Orlando.

Rajon Rondo played 40 minutes in the Celtics’ loss, scoring 19 points to go with 12 assists. Avery Bradley led the C’s with 24 points.

Doing in the Celtics against the Hawks — who are clinging to the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference — was a fourth quarter in which the C’s were outscored 35-20.

For a complete box score, click here.

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ESPN college basketball insider Jeff Goodman joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday to talk about the Celtics and who they could draft, Duke star Jabari Parker, and the rumors about John Calipari going to the Laker. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

With the Celtics out of playoff contention and the season almost over, Celtics observers are looking at the upcoming NBA draft. Goodman sees a variety of players who could fit the Celtics, depending on where they are picking.

“If they go six, I would say a guy like Noah Vonleh,” Goodman said. “Local kid, from the North shore. Played in Indiana this past season. He’€™s about a [6-foot-9 1/2] 4 man and can kind of be a little bit of a 3. Played 5 this year at Indiana. A great, great high-character kid. He’€™s only going to get better. I think he’€™d be in the mix if they pick somewhere around that six range.”

Added Goodman: “€œThey really need to get in the top three, and then if they’€™re drafting four or five, you’€™re probably talking about picking from a group of Julius Randle, who we saw really struggle the other night in Kentucky. Dante Exum, that combo guard from Australia who’€™s really athletic, got size, about 6-5. But a lot of people don’€™t whether he’€™s a 1 or a 2. Many people haven’€™t seen him against high-quality competition.”

Parker and Andrew Wiggins are considered two of the top prospects, with many analysts going back and forth on who is better. Goodman prefers Parker, comparing him to Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony.

“€œHe’€™s as much of a given in this draft that you can’€™t miss,”€ Goodman said. “I know people are going to say, well, you shoot for the stars and Andrew Wiggins could be — I don’€™t know, who do they say, Tracy McGrady I guess. Jabari Parker could be Carmelo without some of the issues. That’€™s how good he is offensively. That’€™s how good he’€™s going to be. You’€™re not missing on Jabari Parker. But the bottom end of Jabari Parker, this is the worst-case scenario to me, is he’€™s a 13[-point] and six[-assist] guy. The top end is he’€™s Carmelo and he’€™s averaging 22 [points] and eight [assists].”

Goodman is more lukewarm on Wiggins. While he sees potential in the 19-year-old, he doesn’t see Wiggins as having that killer instinct.

“I was there for that last game against Stanford,”€ Goodman said. “He had four points. Four points. Biggest game of the year. … Maybe it’€™ll come to him, maybe the light will go on in the NBA. Maybe the spacing will make it a little bit easier for him. … You don’€™t develop a killer instinct, you either have it or you don’€™t, and I don’€™t think Andrew Wiggins has it.”

Earlier, Goodman touched on the rumors that the Lakers would get Calipari. Goodman sees no chance of it happening, citing Calipari’€™s ego as the biggest problem.

“€œI talked to probably 30 or 40 NBA guys prior to the season and did something on if they were to hire a college coach, who would it be,”€ Goodman said, adding. “John Calipari got very little love from the NBA. … You’€™re not hiring a guy like that. It didn’t work the last time around. He’€™s still got a huge ego. The NBA doesn’t want that out of their coaches unless it’€™s Phil Jackson or somebody who’€™s already established themselves at that level, at the highest level of winning championships.”

Blog Author: 
Arjuna Ramgopal

Which Celtics will go down fighting with Brad Stevens? (AP)

When even the coach is admitting some Celtics may be mailing in the remaining five games, it’s hard to ask a serious question without receiving quips like, “Is it possible for them to go 0-6?” or “Can they sign Walter McCarty to a 10-day contract?”



That is my tweet following Friday night’€™s nine-point Celtics loss to the 76ers in a game in which Boston was favored by double digits. And after sleeping on it, I feel even more strongly that this was the C’€™s best loss of the season.

Now sitting alone in the fourth lottery position, Boston is coming off of a crushing blowout at the hands of the Wizards and an embarrassing home loss to Philly. Seriously, everyone who came off the Sixers bench I had to Google to find out who they were. This season is not worth trying to figure out anymore.

The only thing worth understanding? Nothing is more valuable than losing these final games. Boston could realistically finish with anywhere from the fourth-best to seventh-best lottery odds, it’€™s that tight. Look, it sucks to cheer for your team to lose, I get that, but it’€™s almost over. Next year the Celts are going to be on the rise whether Danny Ainge uses his draft picks or trades them. So if you truly bleed green, you can cheer for just a few more losses before we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But is anyone even paying attention? The Red Sox are kicking off their World Series defense, the Bruins are at the same point of the season as the Celtics, only as the top team in the East, and the Patriots are working out some of the top quarterbacks in May’€™s draft.

Honestly, there is nothing on the court worth watching right now when it comes to Celtics basketball. The highlight of the last couple of months came on Monday when Rajon Rondo was in the booth calling the first half of Celtics vs. Bulls. The next big date for the Celtics is May 20 — the draft lottery. So here is something short term and something long term for Celtics fans to pay attention to until the big date.

In the short term, well, fortunately, we have the Final Four. This is our last chance to watch college hoops until next season, at the price of many of the top prospects already being sent home. But Kentucky is an interesting team to watch simply because of Julius Randle. A lot can happen between now and June, but right now Randle is expected to be about the fifth pick in the draft — the Celtics are expected to hold about the fifth pick in the draft. See the connection there?

We know the book on Randle by now, but the team goes much deeper than its best player. Kentucky will try to do what the Fab Five were not able to do, capture a national title while starting five freshmen ‘€“ all of whom project to the NBA. A big reason Kentucky is where it is today is because of the Harrison twins. Andrew Harrison (PG) and Aaron Harrison (SG) both will be first-round picks when they choose to leave school, as they have really matured during March Madness. James Young is a talented wing player who has struggled with consistency this season, but his potential is obvious. That alone will keep him an intriguing NBA prospect when he decides to declare. Finally, there is Dakari Johnson, the 7-foot project. It seems like almost all 7-footers these days come as a project, but at only 18 years old he is an interesting prospect given his combination of size and skill.

Although the Wildcats steal all the headlines, each of the other three finalists has some sneaky-good NBA talent. UConn has been carried to the Final Four by star guard Shabazz Napier, who still is only projected as a mid-second-rounder by many. Even if the Huskies do not win it all, Napier’€™s Kemba Walker-like tournament makes him a first-round talent in my mind. Remember that back in 2011 scouts were lukewarm on Walker before he launched himself to the ninth pick with an impressive March.

Florida’€™s Patrick Young is another upperclassman projected to fall in the same area as Napier, which sounds about right for him. But it’€™s more of a hidden prospect from Florida who no one seems to be talking about who could have the biggest NBA impact. Freshman Chris Walker came in with high regards but was unable to play until February due to academics. With a team as hot as the Gators were, there was really no reason to force the 6-foot-10 Walker into the lineup. He plays sparingly, but when he does he has an impact. Walker’€™s stat line against UCLA in the Sweet 16 was seven points, three rebounds and a block in merely six minutes. He is all potential at the moment and clearly would benefit from another year in college. But if he does declare, he is a first-round talent.

And then there’€™s Wisconsin, almost the underdog at the Final Four at this point. The Badgers usually tribute their success to their coach and their system, and although that plays a huge role, they also have a clear star: Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky does not have athleticism that will blow you away like many of the other players in this draft (he currently does not even project to be taken with a pick), but he does have a skill set that fits the NBA. As much of a pick-and-roll league as it has become, the NBA is just as much a pick-and-pop league, and Kaminsky can do both. At 7 feet he also can score in the low post as well as defend on the other end of the floor. Kaminsky is a junior, so if he feels he does not have decent draft stock he can return, but in my eyes he is an NBA-ready player.

So those are some fun short-term things to watch if you’€™re a C’€™s fan. However, the long term leading up to late May is much more unsettling. We know Andrew Wiggins will be on the draft board in June (and quickly taken off the board), but we can’€™t say the same for fellow top prospects Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid.

Some scouts have gone as far as to stop scouting Parker because they are already convinced he will be returning to Duke next season. Here is ESPN’€™s Chad Ford on the stars returning to school: ‘€œBoth are weighing their options. Both are seriously considering returning … with Parker so much so that several scouts are claiming he’€™s coming back to school.’€ Ford did go on to say that all of this is ‘€œpremature’€ since both players will have until April 27 to make their decisions. ‘€œParker is really NBA ready,’€ Ford noted. ‘€œHe could obviously improve if he stayed, but he’€™s a NBA starter from Day 1. He’€™ll get minutes, and playing against the best competition is the best way to improve. The only good reason for him to stay is because he loves college, wants to lead Duke to a NCAA championship and is OK just waiting. But as far as development goes, the NBA is his best option.’€

This is a scary situation. All this losing, and now two of the best players expected to be in the draft might not enter? Either way, continuing to chalk up losses is the right move, you never know how the ping-pong balls will fall or what prizes this draft class could yield. At the same time, this is something Celtics fans have to monitor leading up to the lottery.

The bottom line is simply this: We know so little right now! This summer is going to clear it all up, and by fall I can guarantee you one thing I know — this Celtics team is going to look completely different.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow.

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow