entered Wednesday’s meeting with the Pistons at the TD Garden as losers of eight of their last nine games. Not a good look to begin with, but even worse when you factor in that the C’s only win during the steak came against the winless 76ers. Detroit came into the game in Boston with a record of 3-15, so if there was a time for the Celtics
to get back on track, this was it.
It took overtime to get the job done, but Boston finally got its victory, 109-102. Caron Butler hit a 3-pointer with just 14 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to tie it up at 88 apiece. The Celtics then failed to convert on the final possesion of regulation as Andre Drummond swatted away Jeff Green‘s layup attempt at what seemed to be its highest point.
The C’s put forward a well-rounded effort despite an off night from Rajon Rondo, but Green and Kelly Olynyk were the two stars. Green had 18 points through the first three quarters, then Olynyk took over with seven quick points to begin the fourth. Green finished with a game-high 32 points, netting six 3-pointers on the night. Olynyk had 20 points of his own, while also putting forward an uncharacteristic three blocks. Jared Sullinger was the only other Celtic in double figures, as he hit two big 3-pointers (and another deep 2-pointer) in the overtime en route to his 14 points.
RAJON RONDO NEEDS TO PLAY MORE MINUTES AND FIND WAYS TO STAY ON THE FLOOR LATE IN GAMES
Rondo has been playing seven minutes per quarter pretty consistently. Despite some questions about his late game antics and ability to close out games, the Celtics are a much better team (at least offensively) when he is on the floor. Rondo had played a mere 19 minutes entering the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s game. He wasn’t having anywhere close to his best game, but in his defense, it’s pretty hard to find a good rhythm when playing such few minutes.
A good example of this was when Stevens removed Rondo from the lineup with six minutes remaining in the game, seemingly without reason since Rondo had played only 24 minutes to that point. Rondo wound up scoring just two points for the second night in a row, this time with just three boards and eight assists. He played 34 minutes, but committed a huge turnover with under a minute to go in the fourth quarter, and Stevens ended up benching him for the Celtics‘ second to last possession of regulation.
The benching ended up being a big deal. Stevens sat Rondo on another important possession in overtime, likely to hide Rondo from being sent to the free throw line (where he shoots an atrocious 30 percent on the season). Rondo also seemed to hide from the ball on possessions leading up the the second benching, which could have been reason for Stevens to sit him down.
Long story short: Rondo absolutely needs to fix his free throw shooting problem. The fact that an All-Star point guard needs to be bench late in games due to foul shooting is unheard of.
MARCUS SMART RETURNED AFTER MISSING 10 GAMES WITH A SPRAINED ANKLE
However, it ended up not being much of a return. Brad Stevens waited until the 10:38 mark of the second quarter to insert Smart into the game. He certainly took his time getting Smart out there as Phil Pressey even saw some unexpected time in the first frame (more on Pressey later).
When Smart did see the floor, he seemed timid, or at least not the ferocious defender we grew used to seeing in the rookie’s first five games (plus preseason). He played just under five minutes in his first shift, missing all three of his attempts from the field. His first shift ended up being his only shift, though. Smart didn’t see the court again.
PHIL PRESSEY EARNED MINUTES OVER MARCUS SMART
Smart’s recovery was probably part of the issue, but Pressey played a lot in this game in favor of Smart. In nine first half minutes, Pressey connected on both of his field goal attempts for five points to go along with three rebounds and a pair of assists.
Pressey even saw some fourth quarter minutes in place of Rondo during crunch time. Stevens clearly has trust in his second-year point guard right now. By game’s end, Pressey totaled seven points, three rebounds and four assists. Nothing too flashy in the box score, but he had a strong impact on the game in his 18 minutes (which were two minutes short of his season-high).
STOPPING ANDRE DRUMMOND WAS TOO TALL A TASK
The Celtics frontline has been undersized all season. Stevens tried to get more physical and defensive minded by inserting Tyler Zeller into the starting lineup to stop guys like Drummond. It didn’t work.
Drummond is an athletic freak that any NBA big would have trouble facing off with, but the Celtics had an even tougher time. Drummond went for 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the first quarter alone, while also ripping down 6 rebounds and swatting a shot.
Drummond was a beast through out the entire game, finishing multiple difficult ally-oops around the rim. He has 27 points and 14 rebounds in his 41 minutes played, shooting 12-for-18 overall. Drummond also had four steals and five blocks, include the block that prevented Green from winning the game in regulation for the Celtics. Frankly, Drummond is the exact type of player that the Celtics need to add.
THE CELTICS FINALLY FINISHED A GAME
Repeat: The Celtics finally finished a game. There’s not much more to say about it, other than that this was an important win for a team having major issues with closing out games. At times it felt like we would never see the Celtics figure out how to wrap up a win again. It took playing opposite the now 3-16 Pistons to find that win, and as ugly as the overtime victory was, the C’s got it. Let’s see if this can give them any momentum going forward, or if they fall back into their losing ways when Kobe Bryant and the Lakers come to town on Friday night.