Monday, January 13, 2014
Pregame: Sullinger back in starting 5
By Chris Forsberg
BOSTON -- Jared Sullinger will shuffle back into the starting lineup for the Boston Celtics on Monday night, paired up front with Kris Humphries as first-year coach Brad Stevens seeks the right combinations to help the team snap an eight-game losing streak.
Brandon Bass, who has started 36 of 38 games this season, heads for the bench. Humphries was one of Boston's best performers out west, while Sullinger emerged from a prolonged slump at the end of the five-game trip.
"At the end of the day, we’re doing it because we need to continue to figure out what’s best for us at this time," Stevens said of his tweaking the lineup.
In his last two games, Sullinger averaged 17.5 points and 10.5 rebounds over 29.5 minutes, emerging from a shooting cold streak hindered in part by a lingering left-hand injury.
Sullinger noted before Monday's game that no amount of rest is likely to help the hand and he plans to continuing grinding through it.
As for getting a boost while returning home from a long road trip, Sullinger said a better boost would be a win.
"We’re ready to play, we’re ready to hoop. We’re ready to get a win, honestly," said Sullinger. "We’re so antsy to get a win, and sometimes we’re right there. The last three games, we were right there. Just a couple plays that we need to make in both halves, about two more plays we need to make in both halves and I think we can get this win."
A few more pregame notes:
- GOOD, BUT NOT GOOD ENOUGH: The Celtics were lifeless at the start of a five-game road trip, but finished strong (albeit, not strong enough to snap their losing streak). Asked about his team's effort, Stevens said, "Not quite good enough, but better. We’ve played well against good teams three times in a row. I’ve been told that’s kind of unique, that usually you play your best three over the first three, then don’t play as well the last two. But I’m glad I don’t know all those prevailing theories that are out there. I’d rather just try to play well when we have the opportunity. We played better, but it’s frustrating not to get over the top on some of those games, especially when you’re playing really good teams."
- ROCKETS DIFFERENT WITH PARSONS: With Chandler Parsons expected to return after a three-game absence, Stevens was asked how the Rockets differ with him in the lineup. "[He's a] 17-point-per-game scorer. And I think [Ronnie] Brewer is a very good player, he does what he does well. But he’s not a 17-point-per-game scorer. And Parsons has gotten, in my opinion, so significantly better since college, he deserves a ton of credit and I’m thoroughly impressed with what he brings to the table. He can shoot it, but what gets lost in the shuffle is his drives and cuts. His drives and cuts are really high level."
- FIGHTING FATIGUE: The Celtics played four games in five nights to close out their road trip, then traveled back Sunday and get another stiff challenge from a Western Conference foe on Monday. Is Stevens worried about fatigue? "It is what it is," he said. "You've got to play. You got a chance to play, you only get so many chances in your life to play basketball. They may all run together over the course of a season, but it’s as good as it gets if you get a chance to compete."