- KEEP IT MOVING: The Celtics, winners of two straight, are coming off one of their most unselfish performances of the season and need to maintain the ball movement that highlighted Sunday's win over the Detroit Pistons. Rajon Rondo handed out 18 assists with no turnovers as Boston registered a season-high 38 assists and season-low seven turnovers (this one game after the Celtics gave the ball away a season-high 28 times and still somehow defeated the Brooklyn Nets).
- PACERS NOT THEMSELVES: STATS LLC details the Pacers' recent woes: "Although the Pacers (46-17) are tied for the NBA lead with 92.2 points allowed per game and have given up a league-low 41.9 field-goal percentage, they surrendered an average of 108.7 points on 49.4 percent shooting during an 0-3 road trip." The Pacers have lost four straight overall. It calls to mind Boston teams of recent seasons that used to kick into cruise control before the playoffs. Can Boston pounce against a team that won by 27 during Stevens' first homecoming back in December?
- LOOSE BALLS: This is the fourth and final meeting of the season. The Pacers are 3-0 and defeated the Celtics in Boston 102-97 earlier this month. ... Celtics rookie Kelly Olynyk is coming on strong in the second half of his first NBA season. ... Boston is hoping to have shooting guard Avery Bradley back later this week, but Jerryd Bayless has settled into his starting spot in Bradley's absence. ... This is the first game of a back-to-back for Boston, who hosts the New York Knicks on Wednesday night. ... The Celtics haven't won three straight since the start of February. ... Boston enters 5 ½ games out of a final playoff spot with 19 games to play.
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Celtics coach Brad Stevens is guarded with his praise of players, often prefacing compliments with suggestions that the player in focus has plenty of room for growth. And he surely feels that way about Olynyk. But Stevens' words lately have been telling about the rookie's progress.
After Friday's win over the Brooklyn Nets, Stevens said, "Kelly Olynyk is playing great." At practice the next day while discussing the progress of the team's younger players, he noted, "I think Kelly is the one to point to, for sure."
The Celtics moved up three spots to land Olynyk with the 13th pick in June's draft. He shined in the Orlando Summer League, setting rookie expectations unfairly high. Like most first-year players, it took time for Olynyk to get acclimated to the speed of the NBA game, and it didn't help that he endured a severe ankle sprain early in the season.
But Olynyk started coming on strong just before the All-Star break and had a solid outing in that weekend's Rising Stars Challenge. In the month's span since Feb. 10, Olynyk has averaged 12.8 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 22.8 minutes per game over nine appearances. He is shooting 50 percent from the floor in that span and 40.9 percent beyond the 3-point arc.
"I think it's a little bit of everything, just settling down, getting comfortable, getting that mindset, attacking," Olynyk said. "And just realizing that that's what I need to do to help the team and help that second unit."
Dig deeper into the numbers, and Olynyk's play really pops. According to Synergy Sports data, Olynyk is averaging 1.027 points per play over his past nine games. For comparison, Kevin Durant averages 1.117 points per play; Brandon Bass tops the Celtics' regulars at 0.961 points per play. Olynyk isn't seeing heavy minutes, but he has been extremely efficient when he's out there. He's less hesitant with his shot, a product of being a focal point on a second unit that encourages him and Sullinger to be go-to weapons.
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The Boston Celtics announced Monday that they will wear their sleeved St. Patrick's Day alternate uniforms for three games this month.
The green jerseys feature gold letters, numbers, and trim will be worn on March 14 vs. Phoenix; March 16 vs. New Orleans; and March 17 vs. Dallas.
Pressey smiled wide when the comparison was mentioned, but said the story behind the look isn't that interesting. Rondo and Pressey, locker neighbors inside TD Garden, spotted a teammate wearing a white wristband before a recent game and the idea was hatched to go with the throwback look. They've even tried to goad some other teammates into joining them (without success thus far).
It's hard to argue with the results. Since debuting the look, Rondo is averaging 14.3 points, 11.3 assists, and 5.3 rebounds, 2 steals over 36 minutes per game. Pressey's line isn't as glossy -- 1.8 points, 4 assists, 1.3 steals per game -- but his 4:1 assist-to-turnover ratio is a big reason why he's maintained quality minutes in Boston's backcourt.
Rondo's on-court look has always been a subject of fan interest, most notably his headband that was a staple of his early playing days but makes only cameos lately.
Maybe Rondo and Pressey can spark a league-wide wristband revival. Hey, it's better than the short shorts.
I'm not playing right now because of a sprained right ankle. It's the same thing I did earlier in the season in that I just rolled it. We've been nursing my ankle so that I don't come back and re-roll it and have to start from the ground floor again. We've just been taking our time. The team has been having me sit and wait for it to get 100 percent. Friday I was out taking some warm-ups and I did the same Sunday before the Pistons game. I felt like that was progress. I hadn't touched a basketball since the injury until this past Friday. It felt like it had been forever.
The way I've been spending my days lately is I wake up and go to rehab every morning then I watch practice and after that I get on a treadmill. After that, I leave and go home for a few hours then go back to rehab. That is pretty much what I do every single day. I think for basketball players the most important muscles to keep up are the legs. While the core is important, I really feel every part of your body is important to work on. You should take care of everything. That's why players lift throughout the season to maintain that strength. You can't just focus on one part. You have to focus on everything.
Away from the court, I'm not much of a TV guy. I'll go to the movies every now and then with my fiancée. Really when I'm home, I like to relax. Being a dad now, I found my routine has changed a lot but I have it down now. We use teamwork between me, my fiancée, and her mom. We help each other out as best we can.
On game day when I'm playing, I'm not a superstitious person or anything. I don't really have a certain pregame routine. I switch things up every now and then. I'm easy on game day. I'm not someone who has to have the same meal before every game either. I change it up. Some games I may eat at home and others I eat at the arena. It just depends on how I feel.
I'm not the only Celtics player who is hurt, unfortunately. Both Vitor Faverani and Gerald Wallace had season-ending injuries. I want to mention something about Gerald. You may look at him and not realize what an awesome guy he really is. Like people say how you can never judge a book by its cover, that applies to him. Gerald is one of the nicest people I've ever met. It's the same as with Kendrick Perkins. They look all mean and stuff but they're really nice guys and that's the kind of guy Gerald is. He's not only a great teammate but he's a great leader on and off the floor. I really respect him a lot.
"I've been watching some games with him playing and it looks like he's doing pretty well," Smith said.
Rondo did better than pretty well on Sunday as he handed out a season-high 18 assists and did not turn the ball over while pacing the Celtics to a 118-111 triumph.
Only 10 times over the past three decades has a player registered 18 assists and zero turnovers in a regular-season game. The list includes point guard royalty such as John Stockton, Isiah Thomas, Jason Kidd and Steve Nash.
The idea that there's an even greater level for Rondo to ascend to as he gets healthy should be enough to leave Celtics fans salivating. On this night, Rondo added 11 points and three steals over 33 minutes. But it was the way he directed the offense that resonated, particularly after the Celtics committed a season-high 28 turnovers during Friday's win over the Brooklyn Nets with Rondo giving the ball away seven times that night.
"I made a conscious effort to do a better job of taking care of the ball," Rondo said. "Me being the point and having the ball so much in your hands the entire game, it starts with you."
It started with Rondo, but often ended with one of his teammates. The Celtics generated a whopping 38 assists on 47 made baskets on Sunday. And Rondo absolutely owned the floor.
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Rondo said he plans to sit out Wednesday's visit from the New York Knicks on the second night of a back-to-back. Keeping with his typical approach, Rondo will sit out the tail end of a tandem set for the fifth time since returning on Jan. 17.
"If I was ready, I would play," said Rondo, who is likely further influenced by the fact that Boston plays three games in four days and is enduring a stretch that features eight games in 13 days in five different cities.
"It’s a combination of things that bother me in the lower part of my body -- my calves, my Achilles and then my knees," said Rondo. "It’s just a part of those three that are affecting me after games that, the next day, I need to rest."
Added Rondo: "I’m still pretty sore when I wake up. My Achilles bothers me the most when I get out of the bed. Throughout the day, it gets better, but I still don’t want to try to overdo it and [then] something else happens because of that."
Is Rondo surprised he's still sore at this stage of his return?
"It’s an NBA season. It’s tough," he said. "I’m up to 34-35 minutes per night now. I’m doing the right procedures. I’m taking the massage. I’m icing after the games. I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. It’s just, I have to listen to my body."
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said the team is allowing Rondo's body to dictate when he feels ready for back-to-backs.
"It’s really more how he feels the day after a game," said Stevens. "So like [Saturday,] I asked him, 'Are you sore? Are you tired? How do you feel?' And he’s still a little bit sore day after games. Obviously, when we have these 48 hours instead of 24 hours [between games], he can recover and it’s just another day to get his body right. That’s at least the thought. But it’ll be more his call than anybody else’s. He knows his body better than any of us."
Rondo is averaging 12.2 points, 8.8 assists and 4.7 rebounds over 30.8 minutes per game in 18 appearances this season. In four games in March, those totals jump to 14.3 points, 11.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds over 36 minutes per contest.
Read on for more notes, including a post-surgery visit from Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries' sweltering turtleneck.
"Yeah sure, why not?" Babb playfully said he replied. "I’ll stick around for a couple more days."
The Celtics will ink Babb to a second 10-day contract on Monday, keeping the rookie swingman on the roster for at least six more games. Boston is getting healthier, with starting shooting guard Avery Bradley eyeing a return on Friday, but Babb has impressed in short bursts and provides depth during a busy stretch of the late-season schedule.
Through four appearances, Babb is averaging 3.3 points and 1.8 rebounds over 13 minutes per game. The undrafted guard, who was a final cut out of training camp in October and spent much of the 2013-14 season with the Maine Red Claws of the D-League, has proven to be a competitive defender and an invested teammate.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens had said earlier in the night that he hoped Babb would stick around.
"I’d really like to have him around and ... all indications are that everybody feels that way within our organization," Stevens said before Sunday's win over the Detroit Pistons.
What would Babb like to accomplish over these next 10 days?
"Hopefully I make a couple more shots, but that will come," he said. "I’m just really focusing on just playing hard when I get into game, when I get my opportunities. Play hard, be prepared, and know the role. Just continue to do what I’ve been doing."
Babb is savoring the opportunity, knowing that simply getting a chance at this level is sometimes the hardest part.
"That’s 90 percent of the battle, just getting a shot, because there’s so much talent," said Babb. "In the D-League, guys coming out of college, veterans -- so all it takes is for some guys like me is a chance. I was fortunate enough to get one."
BOSTON -- Rapid reaction after the Boston Celtics defeated the Detroit Pistons 118-111 on Sunday evening at TD Garden:
The nitty gritty
Rajon Rondo handed out a season-high 18 assists, bringing his career total to 4,101 and pushing him past Bill Russell for fifth all-time in Celtics history. Rondo added 11 points and did not commit a turnover. Jeff Green hit four 3-pointers as part of a 14-point third-quarter outburst and finished with a team-high 27 points overall. Kris Humphries started fast and overcame foul trouble while chipping in a double-double (20 points, 11 rebounds). Kelly Olynyk added 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting off the bench, while Jared Sullinger kicked in 14 points (and the pair of young bigs combined for 14 rebounds). The entire Detroit starting frontcourt had double-doubles including Josh Smith (28 points, 11 rebounds), Andrew Drummond (18 points, 22 rebounds) and Greg Monroe (22 points, 14 rebounds).
The Celtics were up eight coming out of halftime, but stretched things out a bit behind Green's third-quarter exploits. He hit consecutive 3-pointers and Jerryd Bayless added another triple as Boston's lead ballooned to a game-high 17 points midway through the frame. The Pistons closed within four (with the ball) in the final minute, but Boston was able to hold on.
After committing a season-high 28 turnovers in Friday's win over the Brooklyn Nets, the Celtics watched Rondo, Phil Pressey and Jerryd Bayless combine for 28 assists with zero turnovers. The Celtics had 38 helpers overall on 47 field goals. The Celtics committed just seven turnovers for the game. ... Boston took a whopping 97 shots, but shot 48.5 percent from the floor overall (including 56 percent from inside the 3-point arc). ... Joel Anthony was a healthy DNP. ... Avery Bradley, who is eyeing a Friday return, sat on the bench in street clothes.
What it means
The Celtics (22-41) have now won two straight and closed out this five-game homestand at 3-2 overall. Boston will hold onto the NBA championship belt as it heads to Indianapolis to meet the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night. The Celtics are right back at TD Garden to host the New York Knicks (Wednesday) and Phoenix Suns (Friday) later this week.
• SMITH + RONDO TALK REUNION? Calling Rajon Rondo his best friend, Detroit forward Josh Smith admitted the two former high school roommates have talked about joining forces in the NBA. "The conversation comes up," said Smith. "We always tell each other how surreal a moment that would be for us to be able to reconnect again in that realm. With the different free agencies that we both have, it can be far-fetched, but it could be possible too, at the same time." Smith was asked if he thought it might happen last offseason before he signed a four-year, $54 million contract with Detroit. "I thought it could’ve been a possibility, but you know, I’m in Detroit," said Smith. "I’m happy I’m here. He’s still [in Boston]. He’s still creating his market as a Celtic."
• RONDO LIKELY OUT WEDNESDAY: The Celtics have a back-to-back starting Tuesday in Indiana. Playing three games in four nights, Stevens guessed that Rondo would sit out the second night of that tandem when the New York Knicks visit TD Garden. "It’s really more how he feels the day after a game," said Stevens. "So like [Saturday] I asked him, 'Are you sore, are you tried, how do you feel?' And he’s still a little bit sore the day after games."
• WALLACE HANGING AROUND: Gerald Wallace, who underwent season-ending knee and ankle surgery on Tuesday, visited TD Garden. He said he plans to stay in the area through the end of the season (maybe catch a Red Sox game or two along the way) before spending the summer in his native Alabama. His target date to be back at full speed? "Training camp," said Wallace. "That’s my goal right now, so I’m not rushing it. ... Hopefully by training camp I won’t have any worries."
The Celtics are sticking with their recent starting 5 of Rajon Rondo, Jerryd Bayless, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, and Kris Humphries for Sunday's visit from the Detroit Pistons.
- A BIG CHALLENGE: The Pistons are active on the glass, leading the NBA in offensive rebound percentage and sitting eighth in total rebound rate. They've gone even bigger lately with 6-foot-8 Kyle Singler at the 2 alongside the frontline of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, and Josh Smith. Said Celtics coach Brad Stevens: "They are huge. And they’ve given us problems because of that. And now they’re playing Singler at the 2, and Singler’s a really good player. He can post, he can cut. He’s a hard-driving guy. He’s just a big guy for a typical 2 guard to guard. ... And then Smith and Monroe and Drummond are as big of a frontline as there is. And we’ve struggled with it, to be honest, we’ve struggled with it."
- PISTONS IN PLAYOFF HUNT: Despite dropping nine of their last 11 games, the Pistons remain only three games out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and should have plenty of motivation -- particularly with the currently eighth-seeded Hawks having lost five straight. Celtics players have rallied lately around the idea of playing spoiler over the final 20 games and this is another chance to set back a team looking to play beyond mid-April.
- LOOSE BALLS: This is the third of four meetings this season. The Pistons won the first two meetings, including a Brandon Jennings-led nailbiter in December at TD Garden. Said Stevens of Jennings: He "had a great game and made shots, made huge shots -- tough shots -- on both Avery [Bradley] and our other guards last game." ... Detroit coach John Loyer is 3-9 since taking over for Mo Cheeks on Feb. 9. ... The Pistons have lost eight straight on the road. ... The NBA championship belt is on the line after Boston claimed it during Friday's win over the Nets.
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Impossibly, every team in the league has had at least a shot at the belt except the league-leading Indiana Pacers and the Houston Rockets. The Celtics even claimed it once back in mid-January with a win over the Toronto Raptors. Boston ended Brooklyn's one-game reign with Friday's win at TD Garden.
If Boston beats Detroit, the Pacers will get their first crack at the title on Tuesday in Indiana.
Hop HERE for more on the NBA Championship Belt, including the full season standings. It's highly entertaining.
(h/t: JackLynch11 on Reddit)
After missing 16 of the team’s last 19 games due to a lingering right ankle sprain, Bradley resumed basketball activities this week and is eyeing a return to game action on Friday night against the Phoenix Suns.
Given how the ankle injury has lingered -- Bradley returned after an initial five-game absence, only to sit out the past 10 straight when the ankle balked -- some have wondered if the team would consider shutting Bradley down for the season. With the team enduring a rebuilding year, that thought process wonders if it’s worth jeopardizing his long-term health with little to play for beyond pride.
But both the Celtics and Bradley believe there is plenty to play for, including a chance to uncloud his future.
When healthy, the 23-year-old Bradley has put together a quality season, averaging career bests at 14.3 points and 3.9 rebounds over 30.6 minutes per game. He's shown increased confidence shooting the ball and thrived in the midrange, while also putting a heavier emphasis on crashing the glass from the guard position. His defensive talents are well-documented (even if they haven't been on display quite as much this season).
Had Bradley stayed healthy this year, he likely would have put himself in position for a healthy pay raise this offseason. After failing to hammer out an extension of his rookie pact in late October, the Celtics are expected to extend a $3.6 million qualifying offer this summer that will make Bradley a restricted free agent. As a young, defensive-minded guard with a blossoming offensive game, Bradley could draw outside interest and run up his price tag.
But you wonder if the recent absence could leave teams a bit leery. Which is why these final 17 games could be important for Bradley. While he stressed Saturday that he thinks he’s “already proved [his value] throughout this year,” finishing the season strong certainly wouldn’t hurt his cause.
And the Celtics certainly wouldn’t mind getting a longer look at the backcourt of Bradley and (a healthier) Rajon Rondo. The pair, potentially the team’s backcourt of the future, has rarely been on the court together in recent seasons due to injuries.
For his part, Bradley just wants to get on the court.
“I’m just going to go out there and play hard,” said Bradley. “It's the game I love to play, and I feel like, even if we didn’t have a chance to make the playoffs, we should still go out there and prove to our fans and to ourselves that we're going to fight no matter what, even if we don’t have a chance.”
Bradley underwent an MRI earlier this week as part of a reevaluation and that cleared him to resume some basketball activities. He got up shots before the Celtics' off-day walkthrough at the team's training facility on Saturday and said the right ankle that has sidelined him for 16 of the past 19 games feels much better.
"I'm progressing and my ankle's a lot better than it was," Bradley said. "It feels better and it looks better."
Bradley guessed that he's about a week away from a return to game action, a timeline that was echoed by coach Brad Stevens.
"[Team trainer] Ed [Lacerte] just told me Friday is a possibility, but we’ll see," Stevens said. "I don’t want to say with any certainty on Friday or not. It doesn’t look like Tuesday or Wednesday he would play, but hopefully we get him back sooner rather than later."
Bradley started the team's first 43 games of the season before suffering the ankle injury in Miami in late January. He tried to return after an initial five-game absence but the pain persisted, putting him back on the shelf for much of February.
The Celtics have brought Bradley back slowly this time and is eager to get back on -- and stay on -- the court.
"It comes with how I play -- especially with an injury like this -- how hard I play," he said. "It's been unfortunate, but I definitely have to watch it because obviously I'm competitive, I want to help my team and I want to get out there. But that's probably why I've been sitting out so long. They've been holding me back. They don’t want me to make a mistake or go out there and hurt myself again."
The 23-year-old Bradley is averaging career-bests at 14.3 points and 3.9 rebounds over 30.6 minutes per game this season.
Louis Corbett is a huge Celtics fan from the other side of the world. The 12-year-old from New Zealand traveled to Boston to see his favorite NBA team play as part of a wish list of things he wants to see before a degenerative disease takes his eyesight. Below is a recap of his visit from Wednesday night.
Louis Corbett, a 12-year-old New Zealand native with a rare degenerative eye disease, fulfilled one of the top item on his "vision bucket list" Wednesday by taking in the Celtics-Warriors game.
Corbett, whose trip to Boston was funded in part by the Celtics after the team learned of his desire to see his favorite NBA team before he loses his vision, sat courtside near the Boston bench and got VIP treatment throughout the night. He mingled with Celtics coach Brad Stevens, captain Rajon Rondo and other Celtics players before the game; Jeff Green invited him onto the floor to get up shots during pregame warm-ups; and he was honored on the JumboTron at the first timeout.
On a night when Perkins School for the Blind opened the game with a rousing rendition of the national anthem, Corbett left an impression on Celtics players and staffers.
"I’m really disappointed in how we played, for a lot of reasons, but certainly we would have liked to have played better for [Corbett's] family," Stevens said after a 108-88 loss to the Golden State Warriors.
Added Rondo: "It was very exciting to meet him. He came in the locker room before the game. He met me. I didn’t know I was his favorite player. We had some words. Very happy kid. What he’s going through, he still has a smile on his face. He’s very humble. Because we all do what we love to do for a living and you never know, at any moment, it could be taken from you. You just try not to take anything for granted."
Both Green and Rondo sent Corbett home with his game-worn sneakers.
"He is smiling and he is enjoying life," said Green. "We can get down over the little things and then you have a kid who is about to have a surgery in a couple of weeks who is going to be blind and right now he is enjoying one day at a time. Sometimes it puts life in perspective."
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