Jeff Green was a little too strong with a floater off a strong drive in the final seconds and the Detroit Pistons escaped TD Garden with a 107-106 triumph.
"I thought we got [Jared Sullinger] setting the screen for Jeff [Green] ... then they were going to play off that, just single pindown. And with four seconds left, I think the bottom line is to try and get it to a guy that you think can make a play and, even though it wasn’t a great night for Jeff overall, getting it into the middle of the floor with him driving in that direction –- we’ve all seen him make those plays time and again so I don’t have a problem with the last shot we got, by any means."
The Celtics got the ball back down a point with 17 seconds to go. An initial attempt fizzled, leaving Brandon Bass dribbling the ball in isolation for 13 seconds before Stevens called timeout with Bass uncertain whether to put up a shot or look elsewhere with the ball.
With five seconds on the game clock, Green took an inbounds pass above the 3-point arc. Josh Smith played hi tight 30 feet from the hoop and Green drove hard to his right. He got to the blocks, but Smith stayed with him and Green's 7-foot floater kissed off the glass and never had a chance to drop.
"Not every shot falls," said Green. "Josh made a good attempt to try to block it. It made me redirect my shot and I missed it."
The Celtics don't have a surefire go-to guy in crunchtime. Sullinger came up with the big shot to fend off Minneosta on Monday and nearly did it again with a go-ahead 3-pointer with 61 seconds to play on Wednesday (but Jennings answered with a triple of his own). Sullinger missed a free throw with a chance to tie the game with 41 seconds to play.
But with a penchant for game-winners (think Cleveland and Indiana last season; Miami this year), the Celtics were confident putting the ball in Green's hands.
"Jeff, out of everybody here, has hit more game-winning shots since I’ve been here," said Courtney Lee. "So I like my chances with him."
Echoed Sullinger: "I thought it was a great shot, it was a good look for us. Brad put me on the strong side with Jeff, where he had his right-hand. And it forced [Andre] Drummond to make a decision. And Drummond kind of stuck with me and Jeff had a good look. And then Josh did one hell of a job to contest the basketball."
The Celtics committed 18 turnovers on Wednesday night, their most giveaways since a Nov. 22 loss to the Indiana Pacers and fifth highest total of the season. More distressing for coach Brad Stevens was that the turnovers led to a whopping 30 points and helped visiting Detroit rally from a 21-point first-half deficit.
The Celtics turned the ball over 11 times for 19 points in the middle frames alone and were outscored 57-39 in that span. Kris Humphries had a team-high four turnovers, but six other players had multiple giveaways on the night.
"It looked like it was just contagious," said Avery Bradley. "Everybody turned it over a little bit."
Asked if turnovers were the team's biggest problem after Boston put up 42 first-quarter points and built a 19-point lead over the first 12 minutes, coach Brad Stevens said, "Clearly. Thirty points off turnovers is not going to do you much good."
The Celtics didn't commit a single turnover over the final 10 minutes of play, which helped them make a late rally despite trailing by as many as seven points. But the damage was done.
Why did the turnover issue return?
"I think we were just forcing the issue, myself included, and trying to make the play that wasn’t there instead of just taking the shot," said Jeff Green. "You learn from it."
Celtics' opponents average 17.5 points per game off turnovers, the 11th highest total in the league. Boston also ranks 26th in the league with a team turnover percentage of 16.9 percent, but has actually driven that number down from a rough start to the season.
The return of All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo in 2014 should aid much of Boston's ball-handling woes.
A few more notes from the Pistons' win at TD Garden:
- TIP YOUR CAP: Brandon Jennings finished with 28 points and 14 assists, accounting for more than half of Detroit's total offense while generating 58 total points off his scoring and helpers. Jennings also hit the key 3-pointer with 46 seconds remaining. Bradley played excellent defense on the play, denying Jennings when he first drove, but he simply reset behind the arc, got a sliver of space, and hit the pivotal triple. Asked about Jennings' night, a prideful Bradley said, "He was just able to make some tough shots tonight." Echoed Courtney Lee: "We shrugged our shoulders at a lot of those shots."
- TO LEE OR NOT TO LEE: Stevens said he wrestled with the decision of whether to keep hot-handed Lee in the game in the fourth quarter or go back to Bradley for a defensive infusion. "The hardest decision of the day for me was whether or not to bring Avery back in for Courtney, because Courtney was kinda rolling," said Stevens. "I just felt like Avery could potentially change the game for us defensively because it was going in the other direction. ... Courtney is a really good defender, too, but usually guards off the ball, and the guy that was hurting us the most was the guy with it (Jennings). That wasn’t an easy call, but I thought Avery did a really good job on him. We got stops at the very end, by then it was too late." Lee finished with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting over 17:51. The trade rumors swirling about a potential swap that would send him to Houston clearly didn't bother him on this night.
- A LITTLE TOO COMFORTABLE: The Celtics scored a season-high 42 first-quarter points and led by as much as 21 early in the second quarter. As well as they played the first 14 minutes of the game, the last 34 were at the opposite end of the spectrum. Did the Celtics get too comfortable? "I totally agree with that," said Jared Sullinger. "We got too comfortable and we got casual with the ball. That’s when we’re supposed to tighten up the most. At the start of the third quarter, we always start off slow. We’ve got to stop doing that as a unit. That’s everybody. We’ve just got to turn it up to another level if we want to win these games that we should win."
BOSTON -- Rapid reaction after the Detroit Pistons defeated the Boston Celtics 107-106 on Wednesday night at TD Garden:
THE NITTY GRITTY
Brandon Jennings scored a game-high 28 points on 9-of-21 shooting and hit a pivotal 3-pointer with 46 seconds remaining as the Pistons rallied from a 21-point first-half deficit. Jennings also handed out 14 assists to pace the Pistons, which also got 20 points from Josh Smith. The Celtics put seven players in double figures, keyed by a team-high 19 points from Jared Sullinger. Jordan Crawford added 17 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds for Boston.
FAST START FOR C'S
The Celtics shot 69.6 percent (16 of 23) over the first 12 minutes while scoring a season-high 42 first-quarter points. Avery Bradley and Crawford each had 10 points and the frame ended with Sullinger tipping home a perfect sideline lob from Gerald Wallace with 0.2 seconds to play to punctuate a dominant frame that had Boston out front by 19. But the Celtics haven't played well with big leads.
PISTONS RALLY AHEAD
Boston led by as much as 21 in the second quarter, but Detroit got its deficit down to 11 before the intermission. An early third-quarter burst got the Pistons close and a four-point play by Jennings had the Pistons out front 74-73 with 5:01 to play in the frame. Detroit would lead by as much as seven, but Boston made things interesting at the end.
The Pistons were still up seven with little more than three minutes to go when Boston surged. With an attack on the offensive glass, the Celtics generated a couple timely second-chance baskets. Sullinger had a tip-in, then -- after Wallace drew a foul hustling for an offensive rebound -- Sullinger drilled a 3-pointer with 61 seconds remaining that had Boston back out front 105-104. Jennings answered with a 3-pointer of his own and Boston had a chance to tie, but Sullinger missed the tail end of two freebies. The Celtics got the ball back with a chance to win, but Jeff Green's strong drive on Smith ended with a off-the-mark layup.
BASS, LEE IN FOCUS
Even with their names floating in trade rumors that suggest that Houston Rockets center Omer Asik could be Boston bound, Brandon Bass and Courtney Lee focused on the task at hand. Bass started and turned in 11 points and seven rebounds over 27 minutes, while Lee had a fourth-quarter outburst while chipping in 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting off the bench.
The Celtics finished with a 41-36 edge on the glass and a 15-10 advantage in second-chance points. ... Boston shot 49.4 percent from the field overall (after their dismal first quarter, Detroit finished at 46.6 percent overall). ... The Pistons connected on 10 3-pointers, including five from Jennings. ... Keith Bogans and MarShon Brooks were healthy DNPs.
WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics (12-15) had their two-game winning streak snapped. Boston wraps up a five-game homestand with a visit from the Washington Wizards on Saturday afternoon. A visit to Indiana looms on the tail end of a back-to-back before Boston gets a five-day holiday break.
"I only know what y’all know," said Lee. "It’s part of the game. It happens. I’ve been involved in trade rumors my whole career so I don’t pay attention until it happens."
Lee, now in his sixth NBA season, has played for four teams, including a two-year stint in Houston. He's already been traded three times in his career.
"It’s the NBA. Some people live on the move, other people stay put," said Lee. "Whatever happens happens."
Asked if he's able to block out the trade gossip, he laughed and noted it's probably easier for him than others.
"It’s very easy; I became a pro at it," said Lee. "You get used to it after a while. You go do your job. It’s part of being a professional. You get paid to play basketball, so I just have to make sure I show up and have that same mentality, whether I’m here or somewhere else."
Lee was listed on the team's active roster for Wednesday's game and said, "It’s part of being professional. I showed up today, preparing for Detroit, and to go out there and get a win. That’s my mindset."
Towards the end of his chat with reporters, Lee was playfully asked if he enjoyed his first stint in Houston. Rajon Rondo, standing nearby, scoffed at the leading question.
"They ask me about everything," Lee said with a laugh. "That’s what I told them, my mind is on Detroit tonight, preparing for the game. I like how you tried to ask that question; It was a good question."
On Monday, Celtics coach Brad Stevens noted that he wouldn't pay any mind to trade rumors until Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge approached him about a potential swap.
Stevens said before Wednesday's game, "I haven’t talked to Danny. Danny took off [Tuesday] and [that was] the last time I talked to Danny. He didn’t have anything and I haven’t talked to him since."
Is Stevens glad he doesn't have to deal with personnel issues?
"It’s why you have a front office, it’s why you have coaches," he said. "My job is to coach the team and I’m trying to do that as well as I can. Those guys are giving us everything they have. That’s going to be our continued focus. Just like anything else, until I talk to Danny or until I get something substantial from ownership or management, I just have to maintain status quo and stay as is. I think as hard as it probably is for our guys to do that -- it’s probably really difficult -- they also understand that it’s just the world we live in."
Bass was still in the starting lineup on the scorer's sheet posted an hour before tipoff.
The first half of that wish list is on its way in the form of All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo, who is expected back early in 2014 after rehabbing from ACL surgery. The other half is available at a moderate cost that could accelerate the team's return to being an honest-to-goodness contender, all without hindering the team’s ability to rebuild on the fly moving forward.
Listen, you don’t have to sell this stats nerd on Asik. While most will look at his stat line and see a player who averages 5.4 points and 7 rebounds per game in three-plua NBA seasons, I see an elite defender capable of taking Boston’s top-10 defense to an even higher level.
Asik’s impact in protecting the hoop is impossible to ignore, both as an individual defender and the effect on his teams as a whole. Although he’s played sparingly this season (311 minutes of floor time), the Rockets’ defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) is a measly 96.9 with Asik on the floor. That number rockets to 102.4 when he’s on the bench.
That isn’t an outlier. Two years ago in Chicago, the defense-minded Bulls owned a defensive rating of 89.7 with Asik on the floor, which was 5.6 points lower than the team’s already minuscule rating of 95.3. In his first NBA season, Chicago saw similar results when Asik was on the floor (90.9 defensive rating) versus when he was off (99.5).
Vitor Faverani at 33rd overall.)
It’s not just a small sample size. Two seasons ago with Chicago, Asik played 65 games and allowed 0.653 points per play (277 points on 424 possessions defended). Of players with at least 200 possessions defended, he ranked first in the league. No. 2, ironically, was Brandon Bass, a player the Celtics might deem expendable in the quest to secure Asik’s services.
Bass is an excellent player. One we’ve often gushed about for the unheralded positive impact he’s provided this team in two-plus seasons. This season, Bass has even improved his rebounding. But Boston’s lack of pure size is painfully evident, particularly in recent losses to the likes of the Nets (Brook Lopez) and Clippers (Blake Griffin/DeAndre Jordan).
The Celtics entered this season with logjams at shooting guard and power forward. If Boston can find a package (maybe tossing in one of the nine first-round picks it has stocked for the next five seasons to entice Houston, or a facilitating third team) then it absolutely has to consider making the move for Asik.
When Doc Rivers was here, he used to talk about opportunity and how, in the NBA, it is so incredibly fleeting. If you have a chance to be competitive, you have to embrace it. By adding Rondo and Asik to this lineup, Boston would have the parts to ensure this team was more than a surefire first-round exit in the postseason. In fact, in a dilapidated East, the Celtics could be a legitimate playoff team (not just one sneaking in by winning the Atlantic Division).
Better yet, they’d have much of the same team penciled in to return next season, able to build off whatever they accomplish this season. This would give the team a glimpse at one possible future iteration, while not locking it in (both Rondo and Asik are scheduled to be free agents after the 2014-15 season).
- STEVENS' SCOUTING REPORT: The Pistons enter after a 101-96 win over the East-leading Indiana Pacers. Asked if that raised his eyebrows, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, "I’ve always thought they were one of the more talented teams, especially in the East. They’ve got a [swingman] whose playing like an All-Star in Josh Smith, who is not your normal [swingman]. You’ve got a guy like [Greg] Monroe who is a bonafide scorer, who can get the ball on either block and score it, or drive it from the elbow and score it, can make midrange shots. [The Pistons have], probably other than Dwight Howard, maybe the next most athletic center in the league in Andre Drummond. And then you got perimeter guys in [Rodney] Stuckey, [Brandon] Jennings, and [Chauncey] Billups -- on down the line -- [Will] Bynum, [Kentavious] Caldwell-Pope is playing well. They can go off. You’ve got a lot of guys that can do a lot of things. And so they’re a very formidable group."
- HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?: The Celtics started the season a mere 2-5 at TD Garden, but have won five of their last six at home. Stevens has stressed that he's not a big home/road guy, believing it all comes down to how your team plays. But admits the home support has been great. "You’re talking about consistency in results, where I’m more focused on how we’re playing," Stevens said when the recent success was noted. "I don’t know that we’ve played as well the last two games as we did in some of our losses. I think the bottom line is that we’ve been fortunate to win. We’ve got a great home court, because our crowds are great. And hopefully we can continue to get the results we want, but play better and that’s what we’ll strive to do any time we’re playing, but certainly at home."
- SMITH IN FOCUS: Josh Smith is coming off back-to-back 30-point efforts, particularly impressive considering he did it against the Pacers and their league-best field goal defense last time out. Boston hasn't allowed a 30-point scorer yet this season. The Pistons' offensive rating jumps six points per 100 possessions with Smith on the floor. With Smith making a more consistent effort to work in the post, the Celtics must find a way to prevent the Pistons from generating points in the paint (Detroit owned a 53-38 there during the first meeting last month).
- WHAT ELSE?: It goes without saying, but the Celtics MUST clean the defensive glass. The Pistons rank No. 1 in the NBA in offensive rebound percentage (and are fourth in total rebound percentage). ... All five of Boston's starters are averaging 10+ points per game this season, topped by Jeff Green at 16.5 points per game. ... Both teams are 6-4 in their last 10 games.
(Read full game preview)
Numerous teams consulted by ESPN.com in recent days have said they are convinced the Rockets will indeed go ahead with a trade headlined by Asik before their self-imposed deadline of Dec. 19, with sources saying Tuesday that the Boston Celtics are increasingly active in the Asik talks.As a result, the Celtics now are widely regarded as the strongest rivals to the Philadelphia 76ers in terms of likely destinations for Asik, with many rival executives expecting the final form of a trade built around the 7-footer from Turkey to feature at least three teams. ...AP Photo/Jae C. HongOmer Asik, right, has been unhappy in Houston since Dwight Howard arrived in July.
One possible scenario that has emerged, sources say, is a three-way trade in which Boston lands Asik, Cleveland absorbs the contract of Celtics forward Jeff Green and Houston scores no fewer than one of the future first-round picks it covets for surrendering Asik. Other players would have to be involved in such a trade to make the salary-cap math work, but it's the sort of trade that would fall in line with Cleveland's well-known focus on upgrading its options at small forward.
The Cavaliers pursued Green in free agency two summers ago before Green re-signed with Boston and, as ESPN.com reported Sunday , have shown far more interest recently in finding a new small forward than going ahead with the rumored Varejao-for-Asik swap. ...
ESPN.com reported Sunday that Celtics forward Brandon Bass is another possible trade target for the Rockets, despite the fact that his contract runs for one more year than Hawes' deal.
Sources say the Rockets are conflicted about taking back Philadelphia's Thaddeus Young or the Celtics' Green because each player has two more seasons left on his contract after this one. If either Young (owed $19.4 million in 2014-15 and 2015-16) or Green (owed $18.4 million over the same span) is involved in the eventual Asik trade, Houston almost certainly will need a third team to absorb the contract of either player, since the Rockets need to maintain as much future flexibility as possible to re-sign forward Chandler Parsons, who quickly has blossomed into a key cog in Houston and will command a huge raise when he eventually makes it to free agency.
(Read full story)
As Dec. 19 draws near, more & more folks forecasting three-team Asik deal & Boston right there w/Philly now in terms of likely destinations— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) December 18, 2013
On Monday, Celtics first-year coach Brad Stevens noted, "I don’t pay attention to [trade rumors]. The only time I would pay attention to it is if [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] came in and told me that something was being considered, and we haven’t had any of those discussions."
The Celtics have a need for a rim-protecting center. But asked if he had a preference on any moves, Stevens added, "It’s not my job. I’ll coach the guys that are here, and I’m excited about coaching these guys and I’ve enjoyed coaching these guys."
"We got beat 46-26 on the glass by Toronto and from that point on, we had to be a perimeter rebounding team," Stevens said. "And we haven't been great all year, by any means. But any time we need to refocus ourselves, that's usually where we head."
Boston spent much of the first month of the season in the basement of the league in terms of defensive rebound percentage. Even with a late-November surge, the team ranked 25th at 73.4 percent over the first 19 games.
December has been a much better month. Boston currently sits eighth in the league in defensive rebound percentage at 75.9 percent, and that's after giving up a whopping 19 offensive rebounds to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night.
What's changed? Boston's undersized frontcourt has put an increased focus on technique, boxing out their taller counterparts, and even when the bigs aren't able to get to the boards, it has allowed the Celtics' perimeter players to swoop in for rebounds.
Consider this: Avery Bradley's defensive rebound percentage for the seven games this month is 14.1 percent. That's a ½ percentage point higher than Jared Sullinger (13.6). Bradley's rebound rate is nearly double his career average (7.7 percent) and he's hauling in 4.1 defensive rebounds per game this month (third best on the team behind Kris Humphries and Brandon Bass).
But it's not just Bradley. Jeff Green, who has rarely been a consistent rebounder, is grabbing 4.0 defensive rebounds per game this month. Gerald Wallace (3.3) and Jordan Crawford (2.9) are doing their part, all while the likes of Sullinger (3.7), Kelly Olynyk (2.5) and Vitor Faverani (1.6) take care of the dirty work.
"I think it's just a team effort," Sullinger said. "If you look at [Friday's win over the Knicks], prime example in the first quarter, I had a rebound but Avery went to go get it. We really didn't have that at the beginning of the year. Our guards kind of depended on the bigs to rebound. Now our guards are getting in the mix.
(Read full story)
In fact, Stevens thinks his team's foul numbers might dip with an increased physicality moving forward.
"There’s a lot [that could help the Celtics drive down fouls], and that could also limit their aggressiveness, so there’s some positives and some negatives to being too concerned about fouling," Stevens said. "The other thing is, when you’re undersized and you play tentatively, you tend to foul more. So I think when you’re playing more physical and more aggressive, within the rules and limits of the game, you tend to foul less because you’re more focused on making contact early than reacting."
The Celtics commit 21.5 fouls per 48 minutes, which is the 10th highest total in the league, and opponents shoot 24.7 free throws per 48 minutes (the eighth highest total in the league). Maybe those numbers leap off the page more because Boston opponents average only 18.7 fouls per 48 minutes (fifth lowest total in the league) and Boston has a mere 20.5 attempts per 48 minutes (the sixth lowest total). The Celtics rank 23rd in opponent free throw rate (a measure of how often an opponent shoots free throws compared to field goal attempts), and have the league's ninth lowest total themselves.
You can practically hear Tommy Heinsohn's blood pressure rising as you read this.
Maybe the most important number to hone in on is amount of shooting fouls being committed. Shooting fouls are putting opponents at the line with a chance for easy points. Boston ranks 21st in the league committing shooting fouls on 9.1 percent of opponent's possessions, according to Synergy Sports defensive data. Opponents shoot free throws on 12.3 percent of total possessions (the eighth highest mark in the league).
"There’s a lot of things in a perfect world that you’d like to have a lot better," Stevens said. "But I don’t lose sleep at night necessarily over the number of fouls right now. I think a lot of it has to do with being undersized, and playing 4s at the 5. Even some of our wings are small compared to some of the guys we are playing against."
Maybe not surprisingly, rookie Kelly Olynyk is the team's primary offender (see chart above). Rookie bigs often struggle to avoid whistles. Just ask Jared Sullinger, who smiles wide and won't touch the question when asked if he was a victim of rookie whistles.
But he does admit he's learned some secrets to avoiding fouls.
"You've just got to show your hands more," Sullinger said. "Play with your hands up. I have a year under my belt, and so they pretty much know how I play and it’s just taking time to get used to know how you play. They know I play physical now, so they kind of let some of the ticky-tack ones go. On top of that, I’m smarter now. Before last year, I used to reach, I used to put myself in bad position. Now I’m there on time, and just doing the right things to help our team to win."
Sullinger's shooting foul rate of just 6.1 percent is staggering considering the size he often gives up against opposing frontlines. He's found a way to make things tough on opponents without putting them at the stripe. He's confident guys like Olynyk will figure it out as well.
"It just takes some time," Sullinger said. "It takes time and experience, honestly, to understand that you have to be there a second earlier than when [a veteran like] Brandon [Bass] has to be there. It's just written, written in the rules. You've got to play hard and understand that you are going to be a victim of some of those fouls depending on who you are guarding. You just have to accept it."
The Celtics engaged in a light practice session on Tuesday and were expecting a guest speaker after the session. Reporters met with the team before the session and all 14 players were on the court as the team went through skeleton drills to start the session. Rajon Rondo worked with the second unit as they went through offensive plays.
Foul trouble for Brandon Bass pressed Humphries into extended service, and he responded by registering eight points and seven rebounds over 21 minutes while helping the Celtics to a 101-97 win at TD Garden.
Oh sure, Jared Sullinger hit the big shot (a straightaway 3-pointer with 2:22 remaining to break the game's final tie) while scoring a team-high 24 points, and Olynyk chipped in nine points over 13 minutes. But Humphries' workmanlike effort shouldn't go unnoticed. He finished a team-best plus-14 in plus/minus, Boston thriving in the second half when Humphries was on the floor.
"That's the hardest thing in the NBA: being ready to play, staying ready, mentally and physically, all those things," Humphries said. "Our staff does a great job of preparing us and working with us."
Humphries is in a bit of a unique situation as the highest-paid player on the roster ($12 million this season). His acquisition this offseason as part of the Brooklyn Blockbuster was met with eye rolls by those who judged him more by his exploits off the court than on.
What's often ignored regarding Humphries is that he was a double-double player for much of his time with the Nets. His production dipped when his playing time evaporated last season, but those who watched him promised he'd always be ready for his next opportunity.
In five appearances for the month of December, Humphries is averaging 8.2 points and 6.2 rebounds over 21.2 minutes per game. He's shooting 60 percent from the field, and Boston is plus-56 in his 106 minutes of floor time in December.
This isn't just a five-game trend. Good things are happening when Humphries is on the court. Boston owns an offensive rating of 108.1 when Humphries is on the floor this season, and it drops to 97.4 when he's off. Boston is plus-43 overall in his 288 total minutes of action but minus-63 in the 960 minutes he's on the bench.
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"Couldn’t tell you if [his players] read [the trade gossip]; I don’t pay attention to that stuff," Stevens said. "The only time I would pay attention to it is if [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] came in and told me that something was being considered, and we haven’t had any of those discussions. Ultimately, this is a job, it’s a unique business that we are all in, but I have not seen it affect personalities one way or another. It’s been the same locker room for the last two months."
Stevens inherited a flawed roster heavy on shooting guards and power forwards, but lacking depth at point guard (at least while Rajon Rondo has rehabbed) and center (which helps explain the Asik speculation). If he'd like to see some tweaks to the unbalanced roster, Stevens isn't tipping his hand.
"It’s not my job," he said. "I’ll coach the guys that are here, and I’m excited about coaching these guys and I’ve enjoyed coaching these guys."
A handful of postgame notes after the Celtics topped the Timberwolves 101-97 at TD Garden:
- SULLINGER'S 3-POINTER: For much of December, Jared Sullinger has been a bit more selective with his 3-point shot. He noted the other day how he often passes up an initial look hoping to create a better one when the ball works its way back to him. But Sullinger didn't hesitate when he drilled a 25-foot straightaway triple with 2:22 left that helped Boston emerge with the win. "I was wide open," Sullinger said. "I passed up a lot of shots in the third quarter, where I was wide open and tried to get better shots for my teammates. [Celtics assistant coach Walter McCarty] pulled me to the bench and said, ‘Just shoot the ball. That’s what players do. We believe in you. Every shot that you take, we have confidence in you. Now you have to have confidence in yourself to shoot it.’ And I heard that. Obviously, my confidence went through the roof, especially coming from a coach. When you hear, ‘Shoot the ball,’ you automatically shoot it the next play down. It was tremendous to have a support system like that."
- STRENGTH IN NUMBERS (OF YEARS): Minnesota coach Rick Adelman was asked why so many college coaches have failed at the NBA level and offered, "I have no idea why it is. I think a lot of times, it depends on the teams you get. Some college coaches take teams that aren’t very good. ... It’s hard to win in this league. Let’s face facts: In college, the coach is the man. He controls everything. You’ve got to be a little bit different personality here to coach in the NBA. You have to get the players’ respect and make them believe that they can win and they can get better. But it’s a long season too. It’s the travel and the 82 games. It’s really wearing. But one thing he’s got going for him is the length of his contract. I’m serious. I think Danny was really smart. If that was the guy he was going to pick, and he’s obviously a very good coach and really smart, you want him to get through this period, and I think they’ve done a good job of getting quality people. If they get Rondo back [in game action], they’re going to be a team to compete."
- HUMMEL TELESCOPE: Stevens is quite familiar with Timberwolves guard/forward Robbie Hummel, a native of Valparaiso, Ind. Hummel started Monday's game and finished with 2 points on 1-of-4 shooting with four rebounds over 19 minutes. "I have so much respect for him," said Stevens. "And he was friends with a lot of our players [at Butler], they had played together in the summer. And I know that he’s still friends with a couple of them. [Celtics assistant] Coach [Micah] Shrewsberry coached him for a year at Purdue on my staff. Obviously, we’re really familiar with him, and coming back from what he came back from, with the two ACLs, is a remarkable story."
- RUBIO ON RONDO RECOVERY: Wolves guard Ricky Rubio has been through the rigors of ACL rehab. His advice to Rajon Rondo? "It’s hard, it depends on how he feels and how much he trusts his knee," said Rubio. "It is something I have been through and I can tell what I have been through that it wasn’t easy. Even when I was playing it took a long time for me to be myself again."
BOSTON -- Rapid reaction after the Boston Celtics defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 101-97 on Monday night at TD Garden:
THE NITTY GRITTY
Jared Sullinger scored a team-high 24 points on 7-of-14 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds and 5 assists over 35 minutes, while Avery Bradley added 19 points on 9-of-17 shooting in 32 minutes as the Celtics edged the Timberwolves at the finish line. Kevin Love scored a game-high 27 points, but on 9-of-26 shooting with 14 rebounds. Three of Minnesota's five players in double figures came off the bench with Dante Cunningham (12), (Northeastern's own!) Jose Juan Barea (10) and Alexey Shved (10).
In a game that featured 10 lead changes and seven ties (and with neither side ever leading by double digits), Minnesota and Boston found themselves tied at 92 with less than three minutes to play. Sullinger drilled a straightaway 3-pointer with 2:22 to play and Boston's defense nearly made it stand up. Nikola Pekovic made a layup with 1:06 to play as the Timberwolves got within a point, but Sullinger and Jordan Crawford provided the free throws that helped Boston hang on.
CLEANING THE GLASS
Minnesota won the battle on the glass but only by a 51-50 margin. The Timberwolves did generate 19 offensive rebounds leading to 23 second-chance points, but Boston parlayed 14 offensive rebounds into 27 second-chance points.
The Celtics went 11 deep early in the game with foul trouble forcing Brad Stevens to lean on all five of his bigs. MarShon Brooks and Keith Bogans were healthy DNPs. ... Brandon Bass spent nearly the entire game in foul trouble, picking up his fifth personal just 2 ½ into the third quarter. ... Kris Humphries played 21 minutes in his place and was a team-best plus-14 while chipping in eight points and seven rebounds. ... Boston shot 44.2 percent from the field; the Timberwolves were at 37.8 percent. ... The Timberwolves committed just seven turnovers (leading to six points); Boston had 13 turnovers for 15 points.
WHAT IT MEANS
Boston (12-14) has won two straight and eight of its last 12. The Celtics have two more games on this five-game homestand with visits from the Detroit Pistons (Wednesday) and Washington Wizards (Saturday) ahead. Boston travels to Indiana on Sunday, but then will enjoy a five-day holiday break after playing 29 games over the first 53 days of the season.
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