With a 102-93 victory agains the visiting Celtics on Monday afternoon, Clippers coach Doc Rivers improved to 3-0 against his former team.

The Boston bench scored 59 points — including double-digit production from Brandon Bass (17 points), Marcus Thornton (15 points), Marcus Smart (14 points) and Kelly Olynyk (11 points) — but the Celtics never led after falling behind by double figures in the first quarter. At least the recently traded Austin Rivers (2 points) didn’t make much of a difference for L.A.

The loss marks the C’s third straight and 12th in their last 15 games. They currently own the fifth-worst record in the NBA, leading only the Knicks, Timberwolves, 76ers and Lakers in the wins department with 13.

The Clippers’ victory keeps them in the sixth seed out West, seven games out of the lottery — an important distinction, since the Celtics own their first-round selection in June as a result of Doc’s departure.

SLOW START

After Celtics center Tyler Zeller made a baby hook shot to tie the game at two apiece 63 seconds into the game, the Celtics missed their next 10 shots and committed a trio of turnovers over the next six minutes, digging themselves an 11-2 hole against a championship-caliber starting lineup.

Meanwhile, Clippers center DeAndre Jordan dominated on both ends of the floor in the first quarter, scoring 10 points on 4-for-4 shooting offensively while collecting five rebounds and a pair of blocks defensively in the frame.

BENCH PRESS

While the triumvirate of Jordan, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul gives the Clippers an overwhelming advantage at the top end of their rotation, their bench stands between another second-round playoff exit and the franchise’s first conference finals appearance. The Celtics took advantage of that weakness, closing the gap to four behind Bass and maintaining a single-digit deficit until a Jamal Crawford triple gave L.A. a 47-37 halftime lead. Still, without the C’s reserves scoring 17 first-half points, the score midway through the first game of a two-week trip out West could’ve been a lot worse.

SMART DECISION

The Celtics have been working with Marcus Smart to square his feet under his body and not fade on his jump shot, and the rookie has made significant improvement from the perimeter in his first NBA season, knocking down four more triples against the Clippers. After struggling from 3-point range to start the season, Smart entered Monday’s game shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc in January — this after connecting on a respectable 38 percent of treys last month. Considering he entered the league an above-average defender, the Celtics now must encourage Smart to attack the rim more often.

SILENCING THE CROWDER

Since scoring 22 points in a 108-100 win over the Pelicans last week, netting double figures for the sixth time in nine games and earning a starting spot in the process, Jae Crowder’s contributions have fallen off a cliff. The newly acquired forward was underused in a loss to the Hawks two nights later, when he had seven points on four attempts, and then finished with just two points in 21 minutes in Friday’s four-point loss to the Bulls. Against the Clippers, he went scoreless and committed as many turnovers (2) as he had combined rebounds and assists in 13:26.

FRONTCOURT FAILURE

The C’s young frontcourt trio of Zeller, Olynyk and Jared Sullinger continue to get outworked on the defensive end. Jordan and Griffin are a tough matchup for any opposing big-man combination, but the Clippers duo combined for 41 points on 27 shots, 21 rebounds, seven assists, six blocks and three steals in a game-deciding effort.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

There comes a point in time where an NBA coach can’t worry about massaging the egos of his team. That time has come for Brad Stevens.

There comes a point in time where an NBA coach can’t worry about massaging the egos of his team. That time has come for Brad Stevens.

After another close-but-no cigar special Friday night at TD Garden, Stevens said that he’s seeing some signs of life from his now 13-25 squad. But not enough. The Celtics shot 60 percent in the first half, competed hard for three quarters and even led the Bulls by three at the half. But Boston, as it often has this season, ran out of gas in the fourth and fell, 119-105.

Asked if he’s concerned about his constantly changing roster and the impact it might have heading on a brutal six-game western road swing, Stevens was brutally honest.

“I’€™m not as worried about keeping them up,” Stevens said. “I think we need to get better off of that. I thought we didn’€™t have enough ‘€“ we weren’€™t as tight as we need to be against that level of talent. We were loose in our coverages and a little loose on the ball and it hurt us. They’€™ve got some great, great players that stepped up and made plays and really separated the game.

“But even when we were going back and forth I didn’€™t feel like ‘€“ I didn’€™t feel like it was sustainable at that rate, the way we were playing. So, yeah, I don’€™t know, hey’€¦we’€™re employed to do everything we can, to have everything we have, and to manage the ups and downs throughout a season. Players and coaches. And it’€™s on us as individuals to be up and ready. And certainly you have to help some guys through that and help manage some of that but, you know, we can’€™t spend our time managing feelings right now; we have to spend our time getting better.”

As was the case with the Hawks on Wednesday night, Stevens didn’t have as big a problem with the defense in fourth quarter as he did with the poor offensive execution that led to easy baskets and open looks.

“Well I thought our offense provided them some baskets with our ‘€“ you know, we had some moments of shoddy ball-handling in that stretch,” he said. “We were pretty sure with the ball most of the night. The offensive glass hurt us, as it has against them, but again, I thought we were better than we were before but they just seemed to get some timely baskets off of that.

“But then the three-pointer by (E’€™twaun) Moore that he hit at the top of the key that stretched it from three to six I thought took the wind out of our sails; I didn’€™t think we responded well to that. The next play they hit another three; it’€™s nine. And it snowballed on us. We can’€™t, we can’€™t let that happen. We’€™ve just got to say hey, we guarded, that was one of our best possessions defensively, and Moore hits a big shot. Move on, move on to the next play. We didn’€™t respond as well as we need to.”

And like Wednesday against Atlanta, Stevens is hoping his team was paying close attention to how the Bulls play.

‘€œTheir offense was excellent,” Stevens said. “And their offense was well-choreographed, well-designed, and well executed by multiple all-stars. But that means we have to be tighter, and we weren’€™t tight enough. We’€™re just going to hold them to that standard; I think it’€™s easy to look out there and see (Derrick) Rose being Rose, which is good for him, not good for everybody else that’€™s playing against him. And then (Pau) Gasol and (Jimmy) Butler just continue to play at the level they’€™ve been playing at.”

Stevens did get a vote of confidence from a man who knows a thing or two about coaching defense.

“Brad’€™s done a great job with these guys,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “Their young guys are tough and you can tell that their veterans have done a great job, they’€™re playing for the team. They’€™re in every game, I watch a lot of their games and they’€™re hard to guard’€¦.They play very unselfishly and that says a lot about Brad and the guys they have on the team.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

The Chicago Bulls defeated the Celtics, 119-103, Friday night at the TD Garden (Box Score Here).

The Celtics played well offensively through three quarters, shooting 52 percent from the field, but were unable to sustain the effort for the entire game. The veteran Bulls played a complete 48 minutes and pulled away during the final frame, outscoring the inexperienced Celtics, 31-17. Boston only managed to force 7 turnovers, while Chicago made 13 of their 25 three point attempts.

Star point guard Derrick Rose led the way for the Bulls, with an exceptional third quarter in which he had six assists to go along with nine points. He finished with 29 points and 10 assists, notching his second double-double of the year.

SULLINGER FLU GAME

The seasonal flu ripped though the entire Celtics organization. CSNNE play-by-play commentator Mike Gorman was forced to miss the game against the Pelicans. Friday, James Young was sent home sick and may be delayed in joining the team for their upcoming West Coast road trip. Only nine players participated at practice on Thursday. Jared Sullinger, battling flu-like symptoms, played 28 minutes, scoring 20 points and grabbing 8 rebounds.

HAND INJURY DOESN’T EFFECT TURNER

Evan Turner, after injuring his right thumb in Wednesday’€™s loss to the Hawks, played with a heavy bandage on the thumb. Turner, who normally excels when playing in Chicago, did a bit of everything while starting at point guard, scoring 11 points, dishing out eight assists, and grabbing six rebounds.

JIMMY BUTLER IS A STUD

Butler is in the midst of a breakout season that will likely earn him a max contract when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. Butler is leading the league in minutes played and has evolved into a potent scorer. Each year Butler has been in the league, he has increased his average points per game. This year he is scoring 20. 7 ppg, a seven-point jump from last season.

Before the game, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens noted Butler’€™s remarkable improvement:

“€œJimmy might be the most improved guy in the league and is probably an All-Star,” Stevens said.

Friday, Butler did a bit of everything in his 39 minutes for the Bulls. In addition to dropping 22points, he dominated defensively, snatching up a career-high six steals. If the Bulls make a deep run in the playoffs, it will likely be on the back of Butler.

CELTICS COULDN’T GUARD BULLS FRONTLINE

Even with starting Joakim Noah inactive, the Celtics struggled to defend the frontline of the Bulls. Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson, and rookie Nikola Mirotic combined for 38 points and 20 rebounds. The Bulls had 48 points in the paint

TEAM OFFENSE IMPRESSES EARLY

In what has seemingly become a theme of their better performances, the Celtics shared the ball extremely well. Five  different players scored in double figures, The majority of their points came off of smart passes in the pick-and-roll. Turner, Smart, and Bradley did an excellent job distributing the ball to rolling bigs, as the point guard trio combined for 17 assists. Despite their early success, the Celtics only managed to score 17 points in the forth quarter, going 8 for 20 from the field. 

Blog Author: 
Sam Packard


Joakim Noah didn’t play in Friday’s win over the Celtics, but he still managed to find his way into the box score with a technical foul in street clothes from the bench. The call sparked one of the loudest ovations of the night from the TD Garden crowd — a fan base that has despised Noah dating back to his battles with Kevin Garnett when he was wearing green.

Noah’s cockiness was something that Garnett and Celtics fans have come to hate over the years. So in typical fashion, Noah took credit for the Bulls run against the C’s, claiming it was his technical that sparked his team. Jimmy Butler was asked about Noah’s claim after the game.

“No comment, man. Jo always thinks it has something to do with him. That’s your guy. Look at him over there,” said a smiling Butler gesturing towards a laughing Noah on the other end of the locker room. “Something’s wrong with him.”

So is Noah a player Butler loves to have on his team but would …

“Yes, I always say that,” Butler said emphatically before the second half of the question was even posed to him. “If I didn’t have Jo on my team I would hate him. So hopefully he’s on my team for forever because I really would not like him if I was going up against him.”

“He just talks to much. He gets on my nerves. I don’t know,” he continued while both smiling and shaking his head thinking he may have gone too far. “I love him because he’s on my team, but if we end up playing towards the end of each of our careers if we go separate ways we will end up fighting. I guarantee it.”

Butler’s honesty came as a little bit of a surprise. So this seemed like the perfect time to see if one of Noah’s own teammates could see things from Garnett’s point of view during the many altercations the two shared while the Big Ticket was still in Boston (and even during his time with Brooklyn).

“Oh yeah, definitely,” Butler said. “I think that comes with the game, you know, two fierce competitors that want to win. [They’re] really great at their position. That’s what your going to get. Especially out of that one,” he finished while gesturing towards Noah once again.

Even though Butler is open minded enough to see things from Garnett and the Boston fans’ point of view, he is very grateful to have Noah on his side.

“Jo makes everyone around him play harder, dive on the floor, take a charge, because when you see how emotional he is you know that he’s really into the game,” expressed a now more serious Butler. “You want to go to war, you want to battle with a guy like Jo.”

Look, Jimmy Butler does not dislike Joakim Noah, “Jo’s my guy,” Butler said multiple times in the locker room. But Celtics fans may just find it refreshing to know that someone in the Bulls locker room can justify that he too would hate Noah if he were an opponent. KG might even find it a bit gratifying as well.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

The Celtics have now made nine trades on the season, four of them coming in just the last week. Brad Stevens has joked that he asks Danny Ainge to e-mail him the roster every morning just so he knows who he will be coaching. Evan Turner, who enjoys a good laugh, claimed that the C’s had to take attendance at practice this week to make sure all were accounted for. Bodies are flying in and out of the locker room. Stevens informed the media on Friday that the team will be joined in Los Angeles this weekend by both Tayshaun Prince and Shavlik Randolph.

But all kidding aside, Boston’s young coach feels as though 16-year veteran Gerald Wallace is as important as anyone throughout all the changes.

“I’m not too worried about chemistry in the locker room, and large credit for that goes to Gerald Wallace,” Stevens told reporters prior to Friday’s home game against the Bulls. “Because of the way he, at his age, has accepted his role and how he talks to the young guys. It kind of makes everybody else say ‘I’m going to do what I can the right way every time.’ So I give him a lot of credit for that.”

Wallace is in a unique situation. The former All-Star is not in the C’s rotation at the moment, and when he is he plays minimal minutes, yet is still expected to lead. Not only by his coach, but by his young teammates.

“It’s a challenge for sure,” Jae Crowder admitted after Thursday’s practice about the team’s ability to remain focused. “I think that’s when guys like Gerald Wallace have to step up.”

Turner goes as far as to refer to Wallace as “uncle”, although he couldn’t resist taking a shot at his elder: “You got two types of uncles, there’s the cool ones and the ones that don’t want to be bothered, and he’s the latter.”

So the next time you see a shot of Wallace sitting on the C’s bench, remember that his role is not quite that simple. “G”, as he’s known around the league, is looked up to by Boston’s youthful locker room. That makes him a key contributor to this rebuild simply by example.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow 

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

In a series of smaller moves, the Celtics have adjusted their roster once again.

In a series of smaller moves, the Celtics have adjusted their roster once again.

The Celtics finalized a three-team trade that will send Austin Rivers to play in Los Angeles for his father, former C’s and current Clippers coach Doc Rivers, in exchange for a 2017 second-round pick, a $2.4 million trade exception and the expiring contracts of old friend Shavlik Randolph and journeyman Chris Douglas-Roberts.

The Celtics recently acquired the younger Rivers as part of last week’s Jeff Green trade, which also brought Tayshaun Prince‘s expiring deal and a future first-round draft pick (most likely in 2019) to Boston.

In another minor move, the Celtics placed Nate Robinson on waivers. They acquired Robinson earlier this week in exchange for Jameer Nelson, who arrived last month in the Rajon Rondo trade. It’s all very confusing.

In the end, as a result of trading Rondo and Green, the Celtics are left with Jae Crowder, $12.0 million in expiring contracts, three trade exceptions ($12.9 million for Rondo, $5.0 million for Brandan Wright and $2.4 million for Austin Rivers) and what will most likely be two first-round picks (Dallas’ in 2016 and Memphis’ in 2019) and four second-round picks (Dallas’ in 2016; Minnesota’s in 2016 and 2017; and the Clippers’ in 2017).

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

Back in 2007 the Celtics inspired the NBA when they put together what became known as the Big Three. Since then, the Heat accumulated their own successful trio, which LeBron James is now trying to replicate in Cleveland. Teams around the league are all scrambling to put together their own Big Three, but superstars are not easy to come by. Danny Ainge has found that out since trading away Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

Meanwhile, after collecting an impressive victory in Boston without two of their top players, the Hawks are far from scrambling in search of stars. Sitting at 31-8, they’ve lost just two games since Thanksgiving. The first-place team in the Eastern Conference? It’s not the Bulls, the Wizards and certainly not LeBron’s struggling Cavs. That would be the Atlanta Hawks.

After the C’s loss on Wednesday, Brad Stevens, Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley all referred to the Hawks as a “machine.” So what is it that makes this particular machine so good?

One key is balance. All five of the Hawks’ starters average at least 11.9 points, but it’s not just about scoring. They can all rebound the ball, starting with the front court duo of Al Horford and Paul Millsap. They can all distribute the ball, but the head of the monster is the crazy-quick Jeff Teague. Kyle Korver is “the most challenging player in the league that averages less than 13 points to prepare for,” according to Stevens. That can be attributed not only to Korver’s lights-out shooting from downtown, but the fact that if he’s doubled he knows how to pass out of it and if his man leaves him it’s an automatic 3-pointer. Then there’s Demarre Carroll, a do-it-all type player with the ability to drop 22 points like he did on the C’s when other starters sat out, despite being the least heralded of the five.

Bottom line is that it’s a tough group of players, but even tougher when you see how fantastic they all gel together. On top of that, Atlanta has seven players coming off the bench that all average over four points, so depth isn’t an issue. Depth is also something the superstar-less Celtics seem to have, but with such a young team they have been unable to find the same type of cohesiveness that the Hawks have.

“I think you have to look and redefine who the superstars are with our own eyes everyday, right?” Stevens said following the game when asked about how Atlanta wins without superstars. “And so I would argue that they’ve got a couple guys on their way. And I don’t know what qualifies a superstar, but I know this: Nobody in the league can keep Jeff Teague in front of them. Nobody. And [Dennis] Schroder — I’m not saying he’s a superstar yet, he’s a young kid –but nobody can keep him in front of them. And then they space it with shooters, so now it’s a basketball team, right? And Millsap’s been and All-Star, Horford didn’t play tonight, he’s been an All-Star, Korver didn’t play tonight, he’s a really good player. So they’ve got a great group and it fits well, and you might have a budding superstar in that group, right?

“The other thing that I’d say about them that stands out, jumps off the page, jumps on the page when you’re coaching against them, jumps off the page when you’re watching film: Big-time savy,” the coach continued to gush. “The game comes really easy to them. It’s slow on defense. They can see things coming. They play well together. They know the biggest threats. They react to the biggest threats. And offense, they stay spaced to make the right basketball play time and again. And I agree with you that the superstar thing and factor is a big part of this, but there’s something to be said about a group that just — it’s like a machine. They’re a machine. They’ve really got a good thing going already.”

Another thing that makes the Hawks so good is their coaching. With Mike Budenholzer at the helm, the team has taken on a new identity since his arrival in 2013, and this may be a machine that Stevens recognizes. Budenholzer coached under Gregg Popovich from 1996-2013, winning four championships in the process. The Spurs have been an organization that Stevens has practically been obsessed with since he’s been on an NBA sideline, now the Hawks might be joining that same elite class.

It seems like the Spurs/Hawks’ style is the type of play that Stevens is most interested in coaching, it’s ultimate team basketball, which might be played best in a superstar-less system. In other words, the Celtics greatest success may come from Danny Ainge searching for the perfect fits in Boston while his youngsters develop, rather than waiting for the next KG trade to fall into his lap. Ainge has been actively working the trade market of late, so he certainly isn’t waiting around, but he may want to take a look at the Hawks blueprint if he wants to taste the champagne again soon.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

Brad Stevens had the perfect model for his players to see Wednesday night. The Atlanta Hawks came in winners of nine straight, despite missing star big man Al Horford and sharpshooter Kyle Korver.

He thought maybe his team would see how Atlanta (31-8) is playing the game right now for their coach Mike Budenholzer and be inspired. He thought wrong.

Not three minutes into the game, Stevens had to call a timeout to remind his young team, still working to learn each other’s game, that he wants them to run basic offense.

“I thought our offense was pretty poor all night, and I think they’€™re obviously a difficult-enough offense to guard,” Stevens said. “But when you give them run-out dunks, it doesn’€™t help anything, and we just turned the ball over too much. Put too much pressure on ourselves to be good in the half-court defensively, and then to come back.

“We had cut it to nine and we were playing with some pretty good energy, but then at the end of the day they made us pay on a few different plays. And they do such a great job of ‘€“ they don’€™t over-dribble, you know? They attack, they space, they pass ‘€“ it’€™s beautiful basketball. They really move the ball well. And I thought we never really got into anything from a movement standpoint. We got pushed out a little bit out of our space and we fumbled the ball all around as a result of that.”

The Celtics responded in the first quarter and managed a 24-24 tie after 12 minutes. But the roof started to cave in when the shots didn’t fall in the second and they could never really recover from a 57-45 halftime hole. Still, it was the start of the game that stuck in Stevens’ craw.

“We got back-cut two or three times by then and in transition we got lucky,” Stevens said. “Should’€™ve been about 12-5. I was really disappointed with our first three minutes of the game.

“I’€™m usually not that disappointed in the first three minutes of the game. I thought it was poorly played on our part. I thought we were lucky to be at 6-5. But I think, again, that had a lot to do with the way they played. But we were doing things that you can’€™t do against anybody, but you can’€™t do against the Hawks for sure.”

With a starting lineup of Jae Crowder, Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller, Avery Bradley and Evan Turner, Stevens didn’t want to make the excuse of new faces learning each other against the best team in the East.

“No, I think it’€™s what we need,” Stevens said. “I think we need to play ‘€“ and I’€™m getting my wish ‘€“ we’€™re playing the very best of the best. We’€™ve got to be able to take, we’€™ve got to be able to understand that with all the things we didn’€™t do well it was a five possession game.

“And with all of the miscues we make ‘€“ and we have to learn the importance of attention to detail for us on every single possession; we have to learn the importance of taking care of the ball, and all those things. I mean, it’€™s easy; everybody knows it. You can recite all the things that lead to winning, but doing it is a different thing. And doing it with a presence all the time is what the good teams do. That’€™s what I ‘€“ I appreciate the way they’€™re going about things, the Hawks. I just, man, it’€™s a really good team. They just keep getting better.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia