Boston Celtics: Notebook
Humphries started Friday's 111-102 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, but played only 15 ½ minutes and did not start the second half. Humphries did not travel with the team and joins the backcourt tandem of Rajon Rondo (rest) and Avery Bradley (right Achilles strain) on the inactive list for Saturday's tail end of a back-to-back against the Pistons.
The Celtics will have only nine available bodies for Saturday's game, two of which were healthy DNPs during Friday's loss in Chris Babb and Joel Anthony. Boston coach Brad Stevens admitted he was uncertain exactly how the team's lineup would look Saturday given the team's recent struggles.
"We started a little bit different at the start of the second half [on Friday]," said Stevens. "We changed [Humphries for Kelly Olynyk]. I didn’t think the start of the second half was great either. We’ll shake it up [Saturday] because Rondo is not playing. I think we just have to get guys playing to what they are capable of together. And it’s a lot more important that we’re all doing that. And I don’t know the exact answer to be quite candid. I don’t know exactly who to put in there to make that happen. I wish I did. But I don’t."
Bradley is eyeing a return on Wednesday, and Rondo is only out as a precaution on the second night of back-to-back as he works his way back from ACL surgery.
HAPPY HOMECOMING FOR MCW:
Michael Carter-Williams, a Hamilton native, scored a game-high 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting with six rebounds and six assists over 34 minutes during Friday's win.
Rondo offered about the highest compliment you can pluck from Boston's captain after a loss when he noted that, Carter-Williams, "played well."
Carter-Williams was asked about playing against Rondo.
"He's a great player. He passes the ball, does all the little things out there," said Carter-Williams. "We play somewhat similarly, he tries to get a lot of rebounds and make hustle plays. It’s great to see a guy like him and just to learn from him."
Thaddeus Young offered praise for his rookie teammate, noting how he often exploited matchups when the Celtics had smaller guards in the game.
"Like I said all season long, he’s been great for us," said Young. "He’s exceeded all expectations, going above and beyond. He’s been great for us. He’s going to continue to be great. He’s learning as he’s going and he’s incorporating each and every thing we try to teach him into his game. He’s learning where to pick apart defenses and where to take his shots from. I think tonight the biggest thing was he took advantage of all the smaller guards that were on him."
76ERS ARE ON A ROLL
Noted that his team had won two of its last four after tying an NBA record by losing 26 straight, Philadelphia first-year coach Brett Brown joked, "We’re on a roll!"
Truth be told, he's proud of his players considering the circumstances.
"My motivation, where I’m most proud of these guys, they stay together and they play," said Brown. "They bring their A effort more times then they don’t, they stay together, they cheer for each other. We have a nine-man rotation tonight, they’re in, they’re out, they play for one another and to look on a court at this stage of a year given the record that we’ve had and there’s six games left; I’m just so proud of their ability to play as a team and continue to do the right thing and have a true desire to get better."
Consider that, in the three-month span from Dec. 21 to March 21, Sullinger shot a cringe-worthy 19.4 percent (20-of-103) beyond the arc. That included 18.8 percent (6-of-32) for the month of March entering Wednesday's tilt against the Toronto Raptors, and grumbles about Sullinger's shot selection had turned to screams recently.
Sullinger found a tiny silver lining in his long-range shooting. And that's why he cut off a question being posed that noted that there had "been a lot of criticism about you shooting the ball." Clarified Sullinger, "Shooting the 3." Yes, he's well aware of those who desire him to stay inside the arc (and, more specifically, the paint).
"I really don’t care what the naysayers say," said Sullinger. "Some of y’all are here, right now. I can care less. I’m just trying to expand my game and if I’m open I’m going to shoot it."
While the Celtics have a need for Sullinger and his box-truck frame around the basket, particularly in a season where there's no pure center to pair alongside him, there's also a belief within the organization that he has the shooting potential to stretch his range beyond the arc and thrive, with shades of Kevin Love.
There are worse times to work on adding to your NBA toolbox than in a transition season, but it's on Sullinger to prove that he can make that 3-point shot a consistent weapon.
"I still think, and maybe this is why I’m not as much an analytics guy as everyone portrays me to be, I still believe in him shooting," said Stevens. "I’ve seen him shoot, I believe in his form, I believe in how much he shoots. That doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t [shoot] when he’s not making them, [that] he shouldn’t find other options and alternatives. [Sullinger shooting] 4-for-6 [beyond the arc Wednesday] gave us a chance to win."
For the season, Sullinger is still shooting just 25.6 percent beyond the 3-point arc. By comparison, he is shooting 54.8 percent around the basket this season, but his numbers outside of 5 feet top out about 45.3 percent in the midrange. What the Celtics see is the potential for a comparable efficiency field goal percentage (adjusted to weigh the value of a 3-point shot) from beyond the arc when Sullinger takes jump shots.
But to keep shooting from distance, he must show he can make them more consistently over the long haul.
Read on for more postgame notes on Jeff Green's neck woes and more praise for Walter McCarty.
The Celtics didn't make much of it during Friday's lopsided 114-98 loss the surging Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center. Stevens would have loved to celebrate Avery Bradley's big offensive night as the fourth-year guard matched a career high with 28 points, but Boston's defense was so poor it diminished Bradley's output.
Stevens had said before the game that there were still plenty of areas he was intrigued by over the final weeks of the season, including how the backcourt tandem of Bradley and Rajon Rondo works together.
"I think the Rondo/Bradley [combination] is really important and I feel like we’re doing things more efficiently, even though it’s not always showing up in our numbers, especially our shooting," said Stevens. "I’d like to see those guys get a rhythm together and see if they can enhance some of our numbers."
After spending 31 quality minutes together in Wednesday's win over the Miami Heat, Bradley and Rondo were paired for 28 minutes in Friday's loss. The Celtics were minus-5 in that span and did indeed struggle to shoot the ball and generate consistent points when that duo was on the court.
But this was the sort of night where little went right. Rookie Kelly Olynyk, who had been one of the bright spots in recent weeks with his development, logged only 16 minutes before fouling out with four points and four rebounds.
"I was thinking about Kelly a lot because Kelly has really played well in the past few weeks, and he’s really taken advantage of the time that he’s out there," said Stevens. "I think that, the minutes that each guy gets, it’s important that they play well. That’s where hopefully we’re not just talking about the young guys; we’re talking about guys like [Brandon] Bass and guys like Jeff Green and guys that have been around but are still guys that can develop and get better."
That's why James took a moment during the first Celtics-Heat meeting of the season to greet Stevens on the sideline.
"I didn't plan to do it; it just happened," James explained before the Celtics posted a 101-96 triumph over his Heat at TD Garden on Wednesday night. "A well-respected college coach, what he was able to do in taking that Butler team to two straight Final Four appearances, and he seems like a pretty cool guy. I don't know him personally, but he seems cool. Welcome to the NBA. It's pretty cool."
Stevens called James "kind" for the early-season acknowledgment. It turns out Stevens recruited one of James' best friends, Romeo Travis, who elected to sign with hometown Akron and went on to be Mid-American Conference Player of the Year.
"I would have loved to have recruited [James]," quipped Stevens. "Wasn’t in the cards."
James' appreciation of mid-major basketball only grew this season. He noted that his cousin, Darius Carter, plays for undefeated Wichita State.
James sat out Wednesday's game due to back spasms. Stevens said he hopes it's a short-term injury, but didn't exactly fret about all that wasted preparation when James was a late scratch.
"Well, listen, if it’s a choice of playing against LeBron or not, then I’ll plan for him until whenever," quipped Stevens.
NO DECISION ON BABB
Chris Babb's second 10-day contract is scheduled to expire Thursday night, but Stevens said no decision has been made about whether the rookie wing will be retained for the rest of the season.
Babb logged his fourth consecutive DNP on Wednesday night against the Heat. After the game, he said he had not been informed about his future. The Celtics do not practice Thursday and have an afternoon flight to New York in advance of Friday's game against the Brooklyn Nets.
"Haven't talked about it at all; don’t know what will happen at the end of that," said Stevens. "I know that we are thin on wings with size. That being said, he’s a wing with size. What we do moving forward, I don’t know. I love having him around. I think he’s great. He’s an unbelievable teammate. And I think when he’s played, he’s given us good minutes."
In six appearances since being signed from the Maine Red Claws of the D-League earlier this month, Babb has averaged 2.2 points, 1.3 rebounds and 11.5 minutes per game.
Hop HERE for more on the decision Boston faces on Babb.
NOT A CENTER OF ATTENTION
In 30 games since being shipped from Miami to Boston, Joel Anthony has appeared in only 13 games for a total of 57 minutes. His most recent appearance saw him log no actual game time as he was inserted for end-of-half defensive purposes before the opponent threw away an inbounds pass (and Anthony was promptly subbed back out as Boston went back on offense). Still, Stevens said he's committed to getting a look at Anthony if the opportunity arises.
"Joel is probably our one true 5, and he’s not playing as much [as Boston's surplus of power forwards], but I hope that we get an opportunity where he plays here and there, because I think he’s a guy that I’d like to see how he can protect the rim for us and defend the post," said Stevens.
Bradley, who had missed 19 of the team's last 22 games, including the previous 13 straight, chipped in nine points on 4-of-12 shooting over 16 minutes, 38 seconds of floor time while coming off the bench. He admitted there's still rust to knock off after being away from basketball activities for more than a month.
Asked if he desired to play more minutes, he said, "Of course. As a competitor, you want to go out there and help your team. At the same time, I have to be smart and [coach Brad Stevens], he knows better than me, and he knows I have to get back in the rhythm. I was as little rusty. He has to limit my minutes. He told me that before the game, but I didn’t know how many minutes I was going to play and I really didn’t care."
Bradley missed all seven shots he took away from the basket and all four of his makes came near the rim. He said he tried to pick up his defensive intensity because of the obvious rust on his jumper.
Maybe more importantly, the team got another chance to watch the Rajon Rondo/Bradley backcourt pairing that it hasn't seen much of in recent seasons due to injuries. The duo had logged a mere 97 minutes of court time together in six previous games this season.
Rondo and Bradley ran together for 10 minutes on Friday night and were plus-4 in the small sample.
"Hopefully we’ll get to see that quite a bit in the last month here," said Stevens. "Knock on wood, because they haven’t been able to play much together over the first four years they’ve been together. I think it’s really a duo that you would think would complement each other very well based on the strengths on both ends of the court. Hopefully we’ll see that again with a healthy month left in the season."
Echoed Rondo: "Our time will come. I’ve missed [games], he’s missed [games]. Hopefully we can get it together and we’ll both be out there playing and healthy."
How did Bradley look to Rondo on Friday night?
"He looked well," said Rondo. "He didn’t play or practice at all in a month. So for him to get out there -- I know he missed a couple shots, but for the most part, my main concern was his lateral movements, as far as the ankle, and his defense looked great tonight."
The Celtics? After three straight seasons in the offensive rebounding basement, they've vaulted to 12th in the NBA this year while hauling in 27.3 percent of all available missed shots. What's more, Boston ranks in the top 10 in second-chance points at 14 per game this season.
Here's where Boston ranked in each of the past four seasons (with offensive rebound percentage), which only makes this year's number more eye-popping:
2012-13: 30th (20.1)
2011-12: 30th (19.7)
2010-11: 30th (21.1)
2009-10: 28th (22.8)
One night after grabbing 20 offensive rebounds in a loss to the Indiana Pacers, the Celtics hauled in 16 more offensive caroms in Wednesday's loss to the New York Knicks.
So why the uptick this year? Much can be credited to second-year big man Jared Sullinger, who ranks in the top 10 in the league in total offensive rebounds and leads the team with an offensive rebound rate of 13.2 percent. And rookie Kelly Olynyk has emerged as an active rebounder on the offensive glass in recent weeks (his offensive rebound rate is a robust 12 percent).
Before Wednesday's game, Celtics first-year coach Brad Stevens explained his thoughts on offensive rebounding.
"I think my biggest thing, personally, is that you have to balance [offensive rebounding] well with transition defense," said Stevens. "Transition defense, you can’t give up on that. That has to be a huge part of what you do. Right now, our transition defense has gotten significantly better in the last two months, and overall been pretty good, really since [Rajon] Rondo’s been back we’ve been pretty good. Then, offensively, there’s going to be games when you’re not making shots and if you can get a putback or two to kinda stem the tide, it’s important. And we do have guys, especially in [Kris] Humphries and Sullinger, that are really good offensive rebounders and you certainly don’t want to take that away from those guys. Anything we can do to get a basket, I think we need to try to do it."
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.
The Celtics entered Friday's tilt 0-6 in games in which they committed 19 turnovers or more. They gave it away 15 times in the second half alone against the Nets, which aided the visitors in rallying within a bucket in the third quarter. But Boston simply couldn't give this game away.
"They were nice enough to put 25 [individual turnovers] on my box sheet here; I think it was a special box score for the coach," quipped Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
But how were the Celtics able to overcome that many giveaways? Inside the team's locker room, Jared Sullinger offered, "I don’t know how you’re going to win turning the ball over so many times, honestly. Maybe we were just lucky that [the Nets] had a bad shooting night."
Added rookie Kelly Olynyk, "I don’t know. I guess when they go 0-for-17 in the first half from [3-point range], it helps out."
That is truly the only explanation. The Nets misfired on 26 triples for the night and shot a mere 36.3 percent from the field (29-for-80) overall. Even though Boston seemed to be kicking the ball into the crowd (or throwing it off a referee) for much of the game, it still couldn't stop the Celtics from building as much as an 18-point, third-quarter lead.
Read on for more notes, including an update on Avery Bradley's health, praise for Chris Babb and Phil Pressey, and why you can't go under screens on Rajon Rondo.
"We just weren’t on the same page on either end of the floor," said Rondo.
One day after promising to fight hard through the final 22 games of the 2013-14 season, the well-rested Celtics got steamrolled by a Warriors team playing the final game of a six-game road trip and the second night of a back-to-back.
The Celtics looked lethargic at times, particularly as the Warriors utilized a string of first-half turnovers to fuel transition baskets that blew the gate off the game. Late in the first quarter, 35-year-old Jermaine O'Neal, last seen hobbling around TD Garden with two bad knees and one good wrist, stormed the lane and threw down a two-handed dunk. Twenty-two of Golden State's 27 points to that point had come in the paint.
After taking league-leading Indiana to the wire on Saturday, the Celtics rallied around the notion that they won't go quietly this season, that they plan to compete in each of the final 22 games. Well, they're 0-for-1.
So how do they pick themselves up off the mat?
"I can only speak for myself: You’ve got to dig deep and find it within yourself to compete," said Rondo. "In anything I do, I want to win. I think that’s a lot of guys' mentality, but I can only speak for myself."
That's something that Stevens and Rondo are most definitely on the same page about.
"I kinda kick myself, to be honest, because I’ve said three times this year that, 'We had a really good practice yesterday' and we did," said Stevens. "But for whatever reason we follow it up with a clunker. That’s what we did today. I see nothing but recognition that we didn’t play well, with pride that we will play better and the expectation that we are going to come to work and do better. And that’s the expectation, period. I’ve heard people say our record is what it is and that you’re playing for pride. That’s a lot. To me, that’s a lot. It’s important that we show ourselves a lot different than we did today."
Wednesday's loss left a sour taste in the team's mouth.
"It's our pride," said Green. "We don't want to keep embarrassing ourselves and that is the mentality we are going to have. I don't think this group wants to continue to have games like this. We just have to keep fighting."
But this wasn't exactly what either coach had in mind.
Brooks finished 7-of-11 shooting overall with three steals (all in the fourth quarter) and two rebounds over 23 minutes, 14 seconds of floor time. That's nearly a third of the total playing time he saw in Boston (73 minutes in 10 appearances) after spending the first two months of the 2013-14 season in green.
Call it a revenge game if you want, but Brooks said he holds no animosity toward the Celtics.
"You know what, a lot of people think I should be mad at the Boston Celtics, but I guarantee you that there’s no one happier for me than Brad Stevens and Jay Larranaga," said Brooks. "No one is happier for me. They've seen all the work I put in. They've seen all the work I put in -- guarding Jay Larranaga, full-court, off days. I put in a lot of work, so it just paid off."
Stevens tipped his cap to his former player.
"[Brooks] can score and he can get going," said Stevens, who sought out Brooks on the floor after the game to congratulate him. "You let him get in a rhythm with shots at the rim, it could be a long night. Because when he gets going, that’s when he’s really, really good. I coached against [Kent] Bazemore, too, when he was in college, and those guys are good players.
"As much as change sometimes is difficult, it’s also an opportunity, and they both took great advantage of that opportunity today."
The Celtics traded Brooks and Jordan Crawford to Golden State in January as part of a three-team swap that brought back Joel Anthony and draft picks. Brooks played only 15 minutes in seven games for Golden State and the Lakers became his fourth team in less than nine months. Brooks came to Los Angeles with Bazemore in a deadline deal that shipped Steve Blake to the Warriors.
"Initially, I was like, 'Wow, again?' I mean, I was just learning the Golden State offense," Brooks said before Friday's game. "Then, when I had some downtime, I had an opportunity to think about the situation. With them having not too many guys dressing, I have an opportunity to play and [coach Mike] D’Antoni’s system is obviously another thing."
What did the 25-year-old Brooks learn during his time in Boston?
"It was a humbling experience, obviously, me not getting an opportunity on a team that was struggling at the time I was there," said Brooks. "That was kind of humbling. I just continue to work."
Stevens noted how Brooks, who needed work on the defensive end of the court, was stuck behind both Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee on the depth chart early in the season. Both Bradley (currently sidelined by an ankle injury in Boston) and Lee (now in Memphis) are starters in the league.
"MarShon’s a very very very explosive young player," said Stevens. "He’s a young guy. He’s had moments -- he’s been a double-figure scorer in this league. And he would have played for us, but we had a logjam at his spot, of good, solid players. If he’s still here, when we go through all our injuries and the transition in January, he would have played a lot. And probably would have scored a lot. I think the [D'Antoni] system is a great fit. I like MarShon, I think MarShon was an easy guy to coach. I’m hopeful for him that he finds this to be a great fit for him."
Read on for more notes, including how Jeff Green cooled after a fast start; Rondo sitting out Saturday; and Stevens' Red Sox disguise.
Rondo put up a season-high 22 shots, only the eighth time in his career he has reached that mark, and five of those were playoff games. Despite misfiring on 15 of those attempts, he finished with 18 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds over 35:33 and was a team-best plus-16 in plus/minus.
After teams dared him recently to shoot from the perimeter, Rondo attacked Wednesday when the Suns allowed him room to drive. Rondo put up a whopping 15 shots near the rim, accounting for more than a quarter of his season output near the basket. He missed 12 of those shots, but also got to the free throw line for a season-high five attempts.
"Playing an up-tempo team like this, I had a lot of easy looks at the rim that I missed tonight," Rondo said. "Whether it was a foul or not, I still missed those shots. I got a lot of easy looks that I’ll take every night."
Does he have a target number of shots he's looking for now?
"I don’t keep count of my shots when I play," Rondo said. "It’s not a target. It’s just the flow of the game. There was a lot of jump shots, a lot of layups, a lot of floaters that I missed that I’ll take every night."
Rondo made 4-of-5 shots in the midrange, including three straight jumpers from beyond 17 feet as Boston made a fourth-quarter charge. While Rondo continues to show an ability to knock down perimeter shots, his desire to attack the basket when given space is an encouraging sign, particularly as he looks for more contact while working his way back from the ACL injury.
Ain't easy being green
Gerald Green seems to have finally found an NBA home.
Green, drafted 18th overall by the Celtics in 2005, spent two years in Boston and despite averaging 10.4 points per game during the 2006-07 season, he's best remembered for two things: (1) Winning the Slam Dunk contest and (2) handing off his No. 5 jersey to Kevin Garnett when he was part of the trade package that brought the Big Ticket to Boston in the summer of 2007.
Reflecting before Wednesday's game, Green laughed and noted it was a no-brainer for Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to make that trade. Green appeared in only 29 games for the Timberwolves before being traded to Houston, where he was waived soon after. A stint with Dallas followed in 2008-09, but Green spent two seasons (2009-2011) playing in Russia.
He resuscitated his NBA career with the Nets after being a late-season addition in 2012, then signed with the Indiana Pacers. But his career is finally taking flight again in Phoenix, where he was traded this past summer. Entering Wednesday's game, Green was averaging 14.6 points over 28.2 minutes per game in 52 appearances including 34 starts.
Green finished with 17 points on 6-of-14 shooting with five rebounds in Wednesday's win.
Does he have fond memories of Boston?
"I think about it all the time," Green said. "We weren’t really that good. Just the fans there. I always talk about the fans there. I’ve never really played in a city like Boston as far as the fans. We lost 18 in a row, still sold-out crowds. As an NBA player, you appreciate that type of support, night in and night out."
And many in Boston still have a soft spot for the preps-to-pro kid who never quite got a chance to find his way in green. Visiting last season with the Pacers, Green was surprised how many locals recognized him around the city.
"Every time I go somewhere around the city, people recognize me. I don’t know how they do, but they do," Green said. "It’s always a great feeling for me to go back to the city of Boston. I always feel like that was one of my second homes. I'll always cherish and remember those moments when I was there."
Read on for a few additional postgame notes.
The team's medical staff gave Sullinger intravenous therapy Wednesday morning and encouraged him to get additional bed rest before the game, but he labored on the court and finished with four points on 2-of-9 shooting to go along with seven rebounds.
"I was a little sick. Still feel it a little bit, but I’m all right," Sullinger said. "I missed a lot of shots, but I don’t really think [the illness] affected me. I think it was just that I was a little bit off in my routine, came in a little bit later because [team trainer] Eddie [Lacerte] wanted me to stay in bed. Just off my routine a little bit. As a result, I missed a lot of shots that I normally make."
Added Celtics coach Brad Stevens: "[Sullinger] had IVs this morning, didn’t go through walkthrough [because he was] sick. So he tried to give it a go [and] I thought he played with pretty decent effort, but I didn’t think he looked the same. I think we all probably agreed with that."
Sullinger helped Boston limit Tim Duncan to a mere two first-half points, but as Sullinger's energy faded in the second half, Duncan took over and scored 23 of his game-high 25 points after the intermission.
The Celtics now have a week break from game action, but Sullinger and rookie Kelly Olynyk are off to New Orleans to play in the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star weekend. Asked about the honor, Sullinger noted, "It means everything, to me at least. I don’t know what Kelly said, but, to me, it means everything. All the hard work and, on top of that, being picked where I was picked [at No. 21 overall in the 2012 draft]. It was kind of a slap in the face toward me, even though I had the back injury."
Sullinger admitted he'll likely use his draft position as motivation for the rest of his career. He's been Boston's best player in recent games, even being honored as the Eastern Conference player of the week on Monday. Despite Wednesday's quiet outing, Sullinger still is averaging 16.5 points and 11.2 rebounds over 32.3 minutes per game in his last six outings.
Now he's hoping to put those skills on display Friday during the annual rookie/sophomore mixer. After that, he's headed back to Columbus, Ohio for a tiny bit of relaxation before the team reconvenes Monday in Phoenix.
"I've got to get out of [New Orleans]. I've got to go see my momma," Sullinger said. "I've got to go see my momma and my dad and my brothers. I need to go see my family."
STEVENS: AN IMPORTANT TRIP HOME
Celtics coach Brad Stevens utilized Boston’s off-day Tuesday to sneak back to his native Zionsville, Ind., to meet with former player Andrew Smith, who was recently diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
For Stevens, the decision to make the trek home was a no-brainer and worked out well with Boston coming off a back-to-back in Milwaukee.
“Any time you have somebody that you really care about that’s struggling with something, I think it’s paramount to any of us that we would go and find a way to get out there and see that person,” Stevens said. “It worked out with his treatments, the timing of those, and with us being in Milwaukee and being off on Tuesday. It made a lot of sense to do it; I just tried to get over there as soon as I could.”
The 23-year-old Smith, who was an underclassman on Butler’s two national championship runner-ups, was also a senior (and vocal leader) during Stevens’ final season with the Bulldogs. Smith went undrafted in June, but played professionally in Lithuania before his recent diagnosis.
“You hate to see anybody go through that, let alone a 23-year-old,” Stevens said. “But he is a tough cookie, man. You talk about different strengths of people and all the things that we talk about with regard to talent, his toughness level is as high as it comes. I have no doubt that he’ll kick this thing to the curb.”
NO TROUBLES IN SIGHT
Brandon Bass suffered a corneal abrasion after being poked in the eye by Milwaukee’s Zaza Pachulia during the third quarter of Monday’s win over the Bucks. Bass sat out the final 15 minutes of play that night, but returned to the starting lineup during Wednesday’s visit from the Spurs.
Bass finished with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting with five rebounds over 21 minutes on Wednesday, showing no lingering effects from the eye poke.
Stevens, however, could feel Bass’ corneal pain.
Back in February 2011, Stevens had to skip the second half of a Butler game due to a corneal edema. This after trying to coach in sunglasses earlier in the game.
Stevens released a statement after Butler beat Loyola, “Right now, I can't see and my eye feels like it has a thousand scratches.”
Recalling that game on Wednesday and reflecting on Bass, Stevens said, “Anybody that has anything like that, I’ve got a lot of respect for, because that is not a fun feeling.”
The Celtics rallied from a 14-point first-half deficit and were clinging to a one-point lead in the final seconds when Evan Turner blew past Jerryd Bayless and threw in a tough, contorting layup over Jared Sullinger as Philadelphia escaped with a 95-94 triumph at TD Garden.
"We’ve got to keep fighting," Gerald Wallace said. "A game like this kind of lets you know where you stand. It seemed like anything that could go wrong at the end did go wrong. We missed free throws. Kris [Humphries] missed a wide-open jump shot, which is right in his range and right in rhythm. Evan makes a floater going down the middle at the buzzer. Things went their way and we didn’t get the ball to bounce our way at the end."
The Celtics now own the third worst record in the league after flip-flopping spots with Philadelphia. Boston has three days off to collect itself before hosting the Orlando Magic (second-worst record in the league) on Sunday in a Super Bowl appetizer. Coach Brad Stevens said the practices later this week are extremely important to determining how the team will respond to a tough loss and the ongoing losing streak.
"There’s nowhere to go but up from here," Wallace said. "We’ve just got to continue. It just seems like when things start going bad, they really go bad for you. It seems like everything that can go wrong, goes wrong for you and it did tonight. I think our energy and effort was a little better than it was in the New York game, but it still seemed like we were a step behind them."
How do the Celtics cope with the mounting losses?
"If you have animals, you go home and hang out with them," Humphries said. "And spend time with family and you focus on your hobby when you're not practicing. When you are practicing, you practice hard and get ready for the next game."
Read on for more notes, including how help is on the way for the Celtics and the 76ers' New England contingent:
"Consciously? No. But something happened," admitted Celtics forward Kris Humphries. "You guys all saw the game. It wasn’t great."
Then Humphries deadpanned, "Thanks for staying for the whole game."
Yes, some in the sellout crowd of 18,624 (many of whom arrived clad in blue and orange and hoping to see Durant) filed out long before the final buzzer. The Thunder busted open a close game in the second half, leading by as much as 23 while cruising to a 101-83 triumph at TD Garden.
It should come as no surprise that Gerald Wallace wasn't particularly thrilled with Friday's effort. The outspoken veteran didn't allow his team any excuses after one of the most lopsided home losses in recent memory.
"We laid down," Wallace said. "We let them do whatever they wanted to do. They ran their offense, executed. They got whatever shot they wanted to get. They scored however they wanted to score, and we didn’t do anything about it. We didn’t man up tonight, and it showed out on the court."
Did the absence of both Durant and Russell Westbrook, combined with a hot-shooting first quarter for the hosts (Boston shot 73.3 percent overall in the first frame), lull the Celtics into a false sense of competitiveness with one of the best teams in the West?
"If you're a player in this league, there's no way you can not take those guys serious, no matter who's playing," scolded Wallace. "I think the main thing was we just laid down. I think we felt like, because [Durant] wasn't playing, that they were just going to hand us the win, and that wasn't the case. They came out in the second half, competed, took it to us, and it was kind of like [we] just laid down."
Added Wallace: "I'm very disappointed. We play a game like we did Wednesday short-handed, and then we come in tonight on our home court on top of all that, and we just lay down. This should have been a bigger challenge for us than the Washington game was. It seemed like we showed up and competed in that game, where we didn’t in this game."
Captain Rajon Rondo didn't like the team's defensive effort.
"We gave up 100-plus points without Durant," Rondo said. "We didn’t play any defense; we didn’t get a stop at all. Early in the first quarter, we just traded baskets and, once we stopped scoring, they continued to score."
Celtics coach Brad Stevens wasn't leaning on silver linings.
"[I'm] very disappointed," Stevens said. "I don’t want to knock the effort, per se, because I think you had some guys that were really locked in and really played hard effort wise. But collectively, we were not engaged defensively together."
Added Stevens: "Today counts as a bad night; that was not a good performance."
Read on for a handful of quick hits after the Thunder rolled without the Slim Reaper:
"I’ve been lost a couple times already [in Boston], in the day I’ve been here," Bayless cracked.
Bayless finished 7-of-13 shooting with four assists, two steals, a rebound and a block over 23:31, almost all of that production coming while playing the final 12 minutes when Boston made a charge despite starting the frame down 19.
Bayless lit the fuse on his fourth quarter with a block/jumper combo that gave Boston a much-needed spark. He mixed perimeter jumpers with floaters in the lane and his 19-foot pull-up jumper with 2:48 to go had Boston within seven, which was as close as the Celtics got.
Bayless admits he's still trying to feel out his teammates and define his own role. But with the team in need of some offense late, he was "trying to pick my spots and a couple shots went in."
Bayless doesn't have an apartment here yet and laughed while noting that -- after five games in a Celtics uniform in five different cities -- he'll finally get his first honest-to-goodness practice with the team on Tuesday.
As for navigating the streets, he's hoping to stick around long enough to eventually ditch the GPS.
Bayless is on his fifth team in six NBA seasons and an expiring contract could have him changing addresses again this summer. But the Celtics like the versatility the 25-year-old former lottery pick brings and will have a chance to keep him around if they deem him a piece of their future.
"I hope I’m able to be here a long time," Bayless said. "I’ve said it since I got traded: I’m looking to find a home and Boston is a wonderful place, a wonderful organization, the history and the tradition behind this place. I would love to be a part of something like that. They’re trying to put something together here and I want to be a part of that. Hopefully, I’m able to do that."
Coach Brad Stevens likes the early return for a player who was thrust right into the fire after being acquired while the Celtics were on a five-game road trip.
"I think he’s doing a good job," Stevens said. "Obviously, it’s hard when you get picked up midstream. He gets off the plane late [Sunday] afternoon and he’s got to find an apartment. He’s got a lot going on, but I think he’s done a pretty good job of transition so far."
Added Stevens: "I think he’s fitting in well. I think that he’s been embraced by our group. We haven’t had any collective success since he’s joined, but the attitudes for the most part have been good and he’s been accepted very well."
So what can Bayless bring that Lee couldn't?
"First of all, I think Courtney is a very good player. I think there's a lot of factors in why decisions are made. Both teams, I think, got very good players. I think Memphis, you’ll see that with Courtney, and Courtney played a great game last night, and played a lot of minutes, and continues to be very efficient and very productive. For us, what Jerryd does different from Courtney is that he can play the 1 some, whereas Courtney was definitely a wing and thrived in catch-and-shoot situations. Could create for himself, but Jerryd can certainly do that and play that 1 position a little bit more if we need him to."
[Related: Celtics hope Bayless is more]
Read on for more notes following Boston's ninth consecutive loss, including Stevens' take on Hack-a-Howard and Kevin McHale on things new (Stevens) and old (the former Boston Garden):
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