Boston Celtics: Portland Trail Blazers

Rapid Reaction: Blazers 112, Celtics 104

January, 12, 2014
Jan 12

Rapid reaction after the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Boston Celtics 112-104 on Saturday evening at the Moda Center:

The Boston Celtics concluded a winless five-game road trip with a familiar script: a gritty effort to hang with one of the Western Conference's powers, but not enough to snap what's now an eight-game losing streak. Avery Bradley -- playing about as close to his hometown of Tacoma, Wash., as he can get -- scored a team-high 25 points on 11-of-19 shooting with five rebounds, three assists and no turnovers while pacing six Boston players in double figures. Jared Sullinger added a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) off the bench, while Kris Humphries filled up his stat line (10 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals, 2 assists). LaMarcus Aldridge (21 points, 13 rebounds) and Robin Lopez (15 points, 13 rebounds) feasted on Boston's undersized frontcourt while pacing seven Blazers in double figures for scoring.

A one-point game one minute into the fourth quarter, the Celtics watched the Blazers embark on a 14-2 run. Boston missed six of seven shots over the next four minutes, while Portland utilized five offensive rebounds (three by Robin Lopez) to help open their biggest lead of the night. Following the pattern of the end of this trip, Boston still made another late fourth-quarter run, surging within six with multiple chances to get closer in the final minutes.

The Trail Blazers put up a whopping 20 offensive rebounds (nine alone by Lopez) while generating 31 second-chance points. Amazingly, Boston had the same number of offensive rebounds, but turned them into a mere 14 points. That wasn't nearly enough to stick around with an offensive-minded squad like the Blazers.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens stretched his rotation to 10 players, adding rookie point guard Phil Pressey back to the mix one night after tightening to nine players. Pressey has two assists over 11:28. ... Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks and Vitor Faverani were all healthy DNPs. ... Boston took excellent care of the basketball, turning it over just nine times for 12 points. The Blazers gave it up 12 times for 17 points. ... The Blazers were their typical stellar selves beyond the 3-point arc, connecting on 10 of 21 attempts (47.6 percent). ... The Celtics shot 70 percent in the first quarter and only had a five-point lead. You knew it wasn't going to be easy after that.

Mercifully, this brutal five-game trip out west is over. The Celtics allowed their foes to score 110.6 points per game on this trip on 47.8 percent shooting. Opponents shot 39.3 percent beyond the 3-point arc against the Celtics. For a team with an inconsistent offense like Boston, it was nearly impossible to keep pace. Credit to Stevens for getting his team to stick around the final three games, especially after getting walloped in the first two outings. Boston gets a day off while trekking home Sunday, but the challenges keep coming. The Houston Rockets visit Monday to open a three-game homestand. The Celtics will happily take the cloak of New England football victory while trying to find their way again.

W2W4: C's vs. Trail Blazers (Game 38 of 82)

January, 11, 2014
Jan 11
The Boston Celtics (13-24, 5-14 road) visit the Portland Trail Blazers (27-9, 14-4 home) on Saturday night at the Rose Garden (10 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:

  • END OF THE ROAD: The Celtics will bid good riddance to this daunting five-game road trip while trying to break up the road shutout against the Western Conference this season (0-8). This current trip has featured four of the top five teams in the West (Portland, despite a recent hiccup, the best among them in terms of record) and a surging Denver squad. Boston's reward when it arrives back home? A visit from another Western Conference contender in the Houston Rockets.

  • PORTLAND AT A GLANCE: The Trail Blazers own the most efficient offense in the league, averaging a whopping 110.2 points per 100 possessions. Portland has the NBA's best assist-to-turnover ratio, limits its turnovers (fourth best turnover percentage), and rebounds well (fifth in total rebound rate). The Blazers' defense is susceptible (22nd in defensive rating) but their offense is putting a lot of pressure on teams to keep up.

  • DEFENDING THE 3-POINT LINE: Portland leads the NBA in percentage of points generated beyond the 3-point arc (28.3 percent) and is second in percentage of points generated via the mid-range (22.6 percent). That's incredibly daunting when the league's best offense is one that attacks beyond 16 feet. The Blazers shoot a league-best 39.5 percent beyond the 3-point arc and average an NBA-high 109.1 points per game.

  • WHAT ELSE?: The Celtics dropped a 109-96 decision against Portland in Boston in mid-November and this wraps up the season series. ... Brad Stevens went with a nine-man rotation during Friday's loss to Golden State, but might have to loosen that up on the back-to-back. ... Boston quietly now owns the fifth-worst record in the league while losing 10 of its last 11 overall (and is within a ½ game of Philadelphia at the bottom of the Atlantic Division).

(Read full game preview)

Freeze Frame: Out of focus

November, 16, 2013
Headlines after the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Boston Celtics on Friday night at TD Garden:

Leftovers: Lee aids reserve squad

November, 16, 2013
BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics can thank their bench for keeping the team close in Friday's loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. While Boston's first unit labored (the starters were a combined 14-of-42 shooting -- including 0-for-7 beyond the 3-point arc -- for a total of 39 points), the primary five-man reserve group headlined by Jared Sullinger combined to put up 57 points on 23-of-39 shooting (finishing 7-of-11 shooting beyond the arc).

Courtney Lee chipped in nine points for that second unit along with two assists, two blocks and a rebound over 17:20. Lee isn't playing big minutes this season, but he's making the most of his floor time. He remains one of Boston's most efficient offensive players, averaging 1.104 points per play, according to Synergy Sports data, and that ranks him in the 92nd percentile among all league players.

"I feel I’m just getting to the right spots and my teammates are finding me," said Lee. "The shots I’m getting, the ball is falling for the majority of them. For the most part, I think [I'm more consistent]. That’s one thing, the more individually that everybody on the team is consistent with what they do, the more our team will be."

A handful of leftovers after Friday's loss to the Blazers:
  • ICE ICE BABY: After scoring a career-high 26 points while logging a season-high 36 minutes, Sullinger was asked if he was concerned his bruised right knee might swell on the team's flight to Minnesota. Quipped Sullinger, "That's why God created ice. Ice ice baby, according to that [Vanilla Ice] song. That's what I'm going to do right now." Sullinger was 11-for-18 shooting on the night and led the team in rebounding. Ice would be the only thing that could cool him off.

  • OLD C'S REUNION IN LA: The Staples Center -- of all places -- will play host to a bit of a Celtics reunion Saturday night as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett of the Brooklyn Nets visit Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers. Boston players have steadfastly maintained that they've moved on from the Big Three era and, apprised of the looming matchup on Friday, Jeff Green dismissed it all when asked who he thought would prevail. Said Green: "I could care less."

  • WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK: Celtics rookie Kelly Olynyk committed four personal fouls in 16 minutes of floor time during Friday's game. It just wasn't his night as he turned the ball over two minutes in, then picked up two fouls 25 seconds apart soon after. He returned in the second quarter and got whistled for his third foul two minutes after checking in, forcing him back to the bench. It took 29 seconds into the third quarter for Olynyk to earn his fourth foul, but coach Brad Stevens stuck with him. Joked Sullinger, "Unfortunately, Kelly got the Sully treatment tonight." Sullinger was no stranger to whistles during his rookie campaign.

  • ENJOY THE RIDE: It's been a streaky season for the Celtics, who lost four straight out of the gates, won four straight, and now have lost two in a row. Asked if it's been hard to endure the roller coaster, Stevens said, "It’s more topsy-turvy for everybody else than it is for me. I hate losing, I don’t stomach it well, I don’t deal with it well. But I’ll be back at work tonight." Asked how he braces his players for the team struggles, Stevens noted, "They’ve got to handle that. And we’ll talk about it. But it’s a long season. It’s a long season for everybody. Everybody is going to have ups and downs, and round and around. You’re going to just manage it and be as good as you can [Saturday]. It’s just like we talked before, there’s no time to sulk. This stretch we’re about to go on is as tough as it gets."

C's can't overcome lapses in focus

November, 16, 2013
BOSTON -- One of the messages that Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens has preached often to his team is the idea that it cannot take a single play off. These young Celtics are simply not talented enough to get by with anything less than maximum effort on every possession.

Asking for that over the course of 48 minutes per game, over 82 games per season, is mighty demanding. But these Celtics have no other choice.

[+] EnlargeBrad Stevens
AP Photo/Charles KrupaThe Blazers "are going to make you pay if you relax at all," Brad Stevens said, "and they did."
That's why a sequence midway through the third quarter of Friday's 109-96 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers seemed to draw Stevens' ire. The Celtics were down five when Avery Bradley shuffled over to help on LaMarcus Aldridge, who had caught the ball alone on the left elbow. Aldridge swung the ball to Bradley's man, Damian Lillard, on the right wing, forcing Jeff Green to rush out to defend the 3-point line.

Lillard instead drove, but for whatever reason, Bradley just sort of froze near the foul line and watched him attack the basket, forcing Boston's defense to suck in. Lillard alertly kicked it to the corner to a wide-open Wesley Matthews, who missed the 3-pointer.

Disaster averted? Not quite. The Celtics failed to put bodies on Blazers during the shot attempt -- including Bradley, who was still wandering near the right elbow. The ball got deflected to Lillard on the left wing and he quickly canned a 3-pointer for an eight-point lead.

Stevens looked at Bradley, confused by his lack of recovery (in fairness to Bradley, he looked as if he might have had a shoe issue). But the inability to finish the possession led to the Trail Blazers' seventh 3-pointer of the night and put Boston in a hole it simply couldn't rally out of. Bradley spent the next 12-plus minutes on the bench before re-entering in the fourth quarter.

Stevens didn't single any individual players out after the game -- that's not his style, nor was Bradley the only transgressor on this night at TD Garden -- but the first-year coach reaffirmed that this team simply cannot relent at either end of the floor.

"We can't take plays off," said Stevens. "That can't be part of our M.O. It's not going to work out in the end for us, on either end of the floor. I'm not saying that we did without rewatching [the game film]. I've got to go watch it again, but those guys are going to make you pay if you relax at all. And they did. They really did."

Three-point defense was a major point of emphasis for the Celtics entering Friday's game, and while they held Portland to a respectable percentage (34.6) beyond the arc, it was often the timing and nature of how those 3-pointers were generated that stung.

[+] EnlargeDamian Lillard
Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY SportsDamian Lillard and Nicolas Batum made some big 3-pointers to bury the Celtics.
For instance, the Blazers were up three with two minutes to go in the second quarter when Matthews caught the ball blanketed by Bradley in a late-clock situation. Matthews created some space with a dribble, then quickly stepped back behind the line for a tough 3-pointer and a 54-48 lead. You have to live with those.

But with the lead back down to three and under a minute to play in the first half, Lillard got dribble penetration after blowing past Jordan Crawford and, with four white shirts near the paint, he dished to an open Nicolas Batum on the right wing. Green couldn't scramble out quickly enough and Batum hit the team's third 3-pointer in 83 seconds.

"We really had some good moments defensively, and then we let our guard down at the end of the first half," said Stevens. "They got those three 3s -- one of which was a very good shot by Matthews, very well defended by Avery. And then the other two, we just relaxed on Batum and now you've got Batum going. And that's not a good thing. I don't know what he ended up with, but it sure felt like more than 18 because he hit some big ones that really separated the game and then, when we were scoring at the start of the second half and they were scoring every time too, we were just trading baskets. And in a comeback, you can't do that."

Echoed veteran Gerald Wallace: "[The Blazers] made some shots that were tough shots, contested shots. We lost a couple guys, guys that we know are great shooters, we lost them, let them get open looks, and let them get their rhythm going. And as good as they shoot the ball, you can't allow that against a team like this."

Crawford noted that Boston players got caught hanging their heads a bit after the Blazers made some big shots. Boston can't put itself in position to have its spirit broken by giving up uncontested perimeter looks.

Maybe Stevens hexed his squad before the game when he noted, "We've been good all year at defending the 3-point line and, knock on wood, because if we're not tonight, it won't be close."

The Celtics defended the line pretty well, but not well enough. Those lapses in focus, the few plays Boston took off, were too much to overcome against a quality opponent.

It's another lesson in just how locked in this team needs to be to compete on a daily basis.

Sullinger tries to put C's on his back

November, 15, 2013
BOSTON -- Jared Sullinger did his best to strap the rest of his Boston Celtics teammates to his surgically repaired back Friday night, but even one of his best performances as a professional wasn't enough to cool down the visiting Portland Trail Blazers.

Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesJared Sullinger keyed the Boston offense on Friday night against the visiting Trail Blazers.
Sullinger scored a career-high 26 points on 11-of-18 shooting, with a team-high 8 rebounds over 36 minutes (the longest non-overtime appearance of his short career) in the 109-96 defeat at TD Garden. The second-year forward showcased his offensive arsenal, making 5 of 9 shots at the rim, then stepping outside for a pair of 3-pointers.

On a night in which the Celtics had few answers for slowing down one of the league's most talented offenses, Sullinger put forth the kind of effort that makes you wonder what his ceiling is. Sure, he missed a couple of makeable shots and he turned the ball over four times, but, playing through lingering soreness in a bruised right knee, Sullinger proved again that he's been Boston's most consistent player this season.

So we'll say it again: Sullinger might be the most entrenched building block on this team as it determines whom it will build around during this transition phase. The combination of a rookie contract and a rising ceiling makes Sullinger the ideal sort of player to construct around.

Sullinger, whose rookie season ended when he underwent back surgery in February, admitted it felt good to have the sort of game he did on Friday (particularly coming back after missing a game due to knee soreness). He topped his career high by 10 points and carried this Celtics squad for prolonged stretches.

But as Sullinger sighed, "It feels great; at the same time, we lost."

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Rapid Reaction: Blazers 109, Celtics 96

November, 15, 2013

BOSTON -- Rapid reaction after the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Boston Celtics 109-96 on Friday night at TD Garden:

The Portland offense was as good as advertised, as LaMarcus Aldridge led five Blazers in double figures with 27 points on 11-of-18 shooting to go along with a game-high 12 rebounds. Nicolas Batum and Mo Williams added 18 points apiece, while Damian Lillard had 17 points and four assists. The Blazers shot 48.8 percent from the field and made nine 3-pointers (even if Boston kept them to a manageable 34.6 percent beyond the arc). For Boston, Jared Sullinger returned after missing Wednesday's game with a bone bruise on his right knee and scored a career-high 26 points (his previous high was 16) while grabbing eight rebounds over 36 minutes. Jeff Green added 14 points but was a minus-15 overall as Boston's first unit had a rather atrocious outing.

In a one-possession game with under five minutes to go in the third quarter, the Trail Blazers closed out the quarter on a 17-8 run. Aldridge and Batum combined to score 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting in the frame, keying Portland's offense as it pushed its lead to double digits and led 90-78 heading to the fourth quarter. Both teams were 12-of-23 shooting in the third, but Portland hit a trio of 3s and got to the free throw line often while putting up 33 points. Sullinger tried to single-handedly will the Celtics back into the game in the final frame but couldn't do it on his own.

Phil Pressey showed us both ends of his spectrum, giving Boston's second unit a jolt to start the second quarter before fading. Boston went from down two when Pressey checked in to up eight in a little more than three minutes (with Pressey handing out a couple of assists and hitting a 3-pointer in that span). But the Blazers rallied back and Pressey had two cringe-worthy turnovers, helping Portland pull ahead before he was removed from the game. He finished with six points on 2-of-4 shooting with three assists, two rebounds and those two turnovers over 11:53.

MarShon Brooks ended a six-game DNP streak by making only his second appearance of the season. He played the final three minutes with Portland ahead by double digits and did not score (missing the only shot he took). ... His former Nets teammates Keith Bogans and Kris Humphries were healthy DNPs.

The Celtics have now lost two in a row to fall to 4-6 with the degree of difficulty in their schedule only set to ramp up on the road. The Celtics play the second night of a back-to-back on Saturday evening in Minnesota. That's the start of a three-game road trip that closes with a Texas back-to-back in Houston and San Antonio next week.

W2W4: C's vs. Trail Blazers (Game 10 of 82)

November, 15, 2013
The Boston Celtics (4-5, 2-2 home) host the Portland Trail Blazers (6-2, 2-1 away) on Friday night at TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:

  • COACH'S TAKE: LOTS OF FIREPOWER: The Portland Trail Blazers own the third highest offensive rating (107) in the league and are averaging 102.4 points per game. Said Celtics coach Brad Stevens: "They are very impressive on film. Obviously, very very very skilled, can really shoot the basketball, really up and down their lineup. They shoot it extremely well off the bench. The guys in the starting lineup are explosive shooting and cutting. [LaMarcus] Aldridge is a matchup nightmare at the 4, for almost every team in the league. And [Robin] Lopez is really playing great for them right now at the 5. They are a good basketball team. I haven’t watched a ton of the teams in the West, but I think they are in the upper tier of the teams we’ve played from that side of the ball."

  • SKILLED BACKCOURT: Stevens might have singled out the frontline, but much of Portland's success this season can be traced to a skilled backcourt of Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews. Lillard's averaging 19.9 points, 5.8 assists, and 5.1 rebounds per game, while Matthews is one of the most efficient offensive players in the league. According to Synergy Sports data, Matthews is averaging a whopping 1.297 points per play. Aided by shooting 51.7 percent beyond the 3-point arc this season, Matthews sits in the 98th percentile among all offensive players.

  • FOR CELTICS, IT'S ABOUT EFFORT: The Celtics didn't come with the right intensity on Wednesday night against Charlotte and paid the price. The Bobcats started fast and built a big enough lead to keep Boston at arm's length the rest of the game while snapping the Celtics' four-game winning streak. Boston has been prone to lulls this season, but will need a 48-minute effort against a team as talented as Portland.

  • WHAT ELSE?: Jared Sullinger (knee) is expected back in the lineup for Boston. He's been maybe Boston's most consistent performer this season. ... The Celtics are playing the first night of a back-to-back that closes Saturday in Minnesota. Tonight's game closes a three-game homestand, while Saturday's visit to Timberwolves opens a three-game road trip.

(Read full game preview)

Health is paramount for road-slowed C's

February, 25, 2013
Sam Forencich/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Celtics couldn't quite corral the Blazers on Sunday night in Portland.
Operation Upright began for the Boston Celtics on Friday night in Phoenix when Celtics coach Doc Rivers took a calculated risk by resting Kevin Garnett.

The move offered a glimpse into Rivers' thinking over the final two months of the regular season and, his team ravaged by three season-ending injuries in recent weeks, he's clearly putting a premium on ensuring his remaining players are still able to step on the floor when the playoffs roll around.

If that comes at the cost of making their playoff path slightly more difficult, Rivers will take the tradeoff.

"Listen we’re not going to be a 1 seed, we know that, so we just want to be a seed," Rivers said before Friday's game in Phoenix, acknowledging that a road-heavy schedule (18 of Boston's 30 games after the All-Star break are on the road) makes climbing the Eastern Conference playoff ladder all the more difficult.

Boston dropped to 1-3 on a five-game road trip with a 92-86 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday and a tough turnaround awaits with a visit to Utah on Monday. The Celtics would love to close this road trip out on a positive note, but even with seven of the following eight days off, don't expect it to come at the expense of running veterans into the ground.

"The neat thing is that we are very close to the fifth seed," Rivers pointed out on Friday, his team now actually a mere 3 games behind fourth-seeded Brooklyn (and three games behind both Atlanta and Chicago). "But [the focus is] going to be health now for sure for us."

Which, maddening as it may be, might simply mean more roller coaster basketball from this team.

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Doc's Take: A 'my bad' game

February, 25, 2013
AP Photo/Don RyanDoc Rivers said it was one of those 'my bad' games versus Portland.
Knowing they were on the verge of stealing a win against the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night despite playing mediocre basketball for much of the game, the Boston Celtics were kicking themselves after a frustrating 92-86 loss. Head coach Doc Rivers labeled it a "my bad" game afterward, as his players were trying to hold themselves accountable for defensive lapses and some poor rebounding that allowed Portland to snag a win and snap a seven-game losing streak.

"It was one of those, 'My bad,' games, you know?" Rivers told reporters after the game. "I told our guys, we just had so many of them -- 'My faults' -- where we just lost sight of guys, offensive rebounds, timely. We didn't finish any quarter right. Every quarter they made a run. At the end of (the first half), at the end of the fourth quarter, at the end of the third. It was a terrible game, but give them credit. They made some big shots."

While Rivers was satisfied with Boston's defensive effort on two of Portland's biggest stars -- rookie Damien Lillard (12 points on 5-of-16 shooting) and All-Star Lamarcus Aldridge (16 points, four rebounds) -- he pointed to the trio of J.J. Hickson, Nicolas Batum, and Wesley Matthews as the difference-makers for the Blazers. All three scored in double-figures, with Hickson adding 11 rebounds and Matthews providing a game-sealing 3-pointer with under a minute to play.

"Those three. I said it before the game: When they win, those three play well," Rivers said. "I thought all three of those guys -- I mean, Hickson had some timely rebounds and energy plays. And I thought, again, we did a terrific job on Lillard without trapping. Avery (Bradley) was just phenomenal. And Aldridge had a good game, but it wasn't a dominant game. But then you've got to stop the other guys and where I was not happy was we just lost sight of guys. Some of it was good offense, some of it was we didn't play defense the way we're capable of."

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Rapid Reaction: Blazers 92, Celtics 86

February, 24, 2013
Steve Dykes/USA TODAY SportsKevin Garnett and the Celtics visited the Blazers on Sunday night.
Rapid reaction after the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Boston Celtics 92-86 on Sunday night at the Rose Garden:

Wesley Matthews scored a game-high 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting, hitting five 3-pointers, including a clutch triple in the final minute that helped Portland emerge with the win. Damian Lillard added a mild 12 points to go along with six assists and six rebounds, but his old-fashioned three-point play with 1:32 to go provided the winning points. Nick Batum (18 points) and LaMarcus Aldridge (16 points) did their part, while J.J. Hickson added a double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds) for the Blazers. Paul Pierce looked like he was taking over the game at times, finishing with 23 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds over 32 minutes to pace Boston. Kevin Garnett added 20 points and nine rebounds after sitting out Friday's win in Phoenix, but Boston's bench mustered a mere 19 total points.

The Celtics were down eight with under six minutes to go, but made a little charge that featured scoring on five straight possessions, culminating with a Garnett layup to tie the game at 86 with 1:46 to play. Unfazed, the Blazers attacked with Lillard in the pick-and-roll and, when Avery Bradley got snagged going over the top, Lillard got to the hoop for the layup and the foul. Pierce missed a tying triple at the other end and Matthews provided the dagger with a step-back 3-pointer with 53 ticks to go.

After scorching the Suns while putting up 113 points in Friday's win in Phoenix, the Celtics labored in the first half against Portland, shooting a mere 37.8 percent (17 of 45 overall). Green, coming off a 31-point outburst in a spot start against the Suns, missed 6 of 8 shots in the first half, while newcomers Jordan Crawford and Terrence Williams missed all six shots they put up in that same span. Portland shot 51.4 percent (19 of 37 overall), but only led by seven at the intermission. Green finished the game with 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting and was a team-worst minus-17 in plus/minus, while the rest of the bench was a mere 3-of-14 shooting for 8 measly points.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers, unhappy with whistles early on, got tagged with a technical foul midway through the first quarter. Rivers now has five techs this season, including two in Boston's last three games.

A tough loss for the Celtics, who made the late charge and looked like they were going to find a way to win despite playing lackluster ball for much of the night. Boston falls to 1-3 on this five-game road trip with a tough finale looming Monday in Utah. If Friday's win in Phoenix without Garnett was of the "feel-good" variety, this one will be filed in the "kicking themselves" category by Boston. The Celtics have to battle through any weary legs Monday knowing they have only one game over the following seven days.

Assists all around for C's

December, 1, 2012
Mark L. Baer/US PresswireKevin Garnett goes to the hoop for a bucket.
BOSTON -- Before Friday's win over the Portland Trail Blazers, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers said his entire roster would serve as backup point guard to make up for the absence of Rajon Rondo, who was serving the first half of a two-game suspension.

The Celtics proceeded to assist on 20 of 36 field goals, with those helpers distributed among seven different players, topped by Courtney Lee and Paul Pierce (five assists apiece) and Kevin Garnett (four) en route to a 96-78 triumph at TD Garden.

"We just basically played through the bigs," Rivers said. "We took all the pressure off the guards -- all they had to do is bring it up and then throw it to Kevin [Garnett] at the elbow, or Jared [Sullinger] at the elbow and then cut and move. That way there’s no dribbling; it was easier for them that way. And that's what I meant before the game when I said I told everybody was going to be the point guard. Basically what I was saying was, our bigs were the point guards today."

No Rondo, no problem, right? At least against a not-so-daunting Portland defense that was vulnerable in transition.

"That's one thing we tried to do with this game -- first get a stop, get the rebound, then throw the ball ahead and get easy points in the fast break," Lee said. Sure enough, the Celtics finished with a 20-12 advantage in fast-break points, but still found ways to generate open looks in half-court sets by putting the ball in the hands of their veterans.

"We played off Paul, and we played off Kevin a lot," Lee added. "That definitely helps us a lot."

So did generating consistent stops. Rivers has been emphatic that Boston's offense is often fueled by the ability to run when able to produce multiple stops against an opponent (a bit of a rarity this season).

The lack of Rondo to run the offense also forced players such as Jeff Green to be more aggressive on the offensive end. Instead of waiting for Rondo to find him in open spots, Green went hard at the basket and was rewarded with a season-high 19 points.

"We have to make plays," Green said. "We have to have everybody step up. Courtney played tremendous, [Jason Terry], [Leandro Barbosa] -- we've got to do it as a team. Rondo's our captain, he's our leader, and it's tough when he's not here, so everybody as a group, we've got to come together and hold together as a team and try to take his place."

Green: 'I've got to continue to attack'

December, 1, 2012
Steve Babineau/NBAE/GettyBoston's Jeff Green at work Friday versus the Blazers.
BOSTON -- Consistency has arguably been Jeff Green's biggest adversary this season.

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers has acknowledged it; general manager Danny Ainge has done the same. Even Green himself admitted earlier this year after one of his better outings that he had been playing "lackadaisical" at times.

But every so often, Green comes through with a standout performance, highlighted mainly by double-figure scoring, and the Celtics typically win as a result. After Green scored 19 points in 23 minutes in Boston's 96-78 win over the Portland Trail Blazers Friday night, the Celtics moved to 5-1 in games in which Green has scored 10 or more points. Not surprisingly, those standout games often feature the Green who attacks the rim, breaks out in transition and gets to the free throw line.

The question -- one the Celtics have been trying to answer all season -- is how to get that effort from Green night in and night out.

"I just gotta do it," Green offered after Friday's win. "That's about it."

Simple enough, right? As simple as Green sometimes makes it look on the court, at least. Friday saw him up against a nonchalant Portland defense and he was quick to take advantage with a host of strong drives to the rim and multiple trips to the line. Fourteen of Green's 19 points came in a breakaway second quarter that saw the Celtics turn a seven-point first-quarter edge into a 23-point halftime lead.

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Rapid Reaction: Celtics 96, Blazers 78

November, 30, 2012
Mark L. Baer/US PresswireCeltics guard Jason Terry drives to the basket against the Trail Blazers.
BOSTON -- Rapid Reaction after the Boston Celtics defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 96-78 on Friday night at TD Garden:

Jeff Green scored a team- and season-high 19 points to go along with four steals, three rebounds and two assists over 22:41. Jason Terry added 17 on 7-of-11 shooting, and Courtney Lee was phenomenal in a starting role (10 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals over 37 minutes). Paul Pierce also filled up his stat line (12 points, eight rebounds, five assists) over a manageable 27 minutes, and Kevin Garnett kicked in 10 points over 23 minutes -- the extra rest will help with the second night of a back-to-back looming Saturday in Milwaukee. LaMarcus Aldridge shouldered the load for Portland, registering 23 points and eight rebounds over 33 minutes.

The Celtics were up seven after one quarter, but broke the game open early in the second quarter. A Leandro Barbosa steal led to a clear-path foul, helping Boston score five quick points. Three of those came off a flashy and-one dunk from Green. Backing down Sasha Pavlovic, Green shook his former teammate with a little spin move and delivered a baseline jam through contact to ignite his own second-quarter scoring outburst. Green added a little finger roll and a 14-foot fadeaway soon after as the lead ballooned to 16. Green finished the half with 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting over 13 minutes.

Terry got tagged with a technical foul a mere 1:04 into the game for barking about a personal foul call. It's his second technical of the season. ... Celtics coach Doc Rivers hoped to avoid using Chris Wilcox, who had been battling an illness, but three first-quarter fouls for Jason Collins (serving as the first big off the bench) forced Wilcox into limited action. Wilcox finished with 13:46 of court time and looked no worse for the wear.

The Celtics feasted on a Blazers squad that is defensively indifferent (and got virtually no offensive assistance for Aldridge, particularly from an overmatched bench). The Celtics didn't miss Rajon Rondo (serving the first night of a two-game suspension) thanks to some gritty defense. The Celtics led by as much as 27, rookie recall Kris Joseph got some late playing time, and Garnett shared a Gino moment with Terry while breezing to a lopsided win. The Celtics will trek to Milwaukee for Saturday's game with the Bucks, but three days of rest await after that.

Pregame: Lee starts; Wilcox, Green available

November, 30, 2012

BOSTON -- With Rajon Rondo suspended for the first of two games, the Boston Celtics will start Courtney Lee at guard alongside Jason Terry on Friday against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers is hoping to utilize Lee's on-ball defense to slow down Portland rookie Damian Lillard and the Blazers' pick-and-roll attack. At the other end of the floor, Rivers is going with a point guard-by-committee to fill Rondo's shoes.

"Everyone’s going to be the point guard. I told our guys, the entire team has to be ready for ball-handling duties," said Rivers. "It’s left us in a pretty tough spot, but we should be able to play through this and win games still."

Could we see more of Paul Pierce at point forward like in past seasons when Rondo was injured or suspended?

"Last year we had a nice run [without Rondo], that one stretch, because Avery [Bradley] was healthy, which helped, too," said Rivers. "I think, again, Courtney will handle the ball, [Leandro Barbosa] will handle the ball, JET will handle the ball -- Paul and Jeff [Green, too]. We have a lot of ball-handlers, none of them are point guards. But you can still start your offense, and once the first pass activates the offense, you should be able to run offense."

Rivers gushed about Lillard's steady demeanor in his rookie season, but is hopeful Lee can help slow him down.

"I’m going to put Courtney on him, a lot, then go from there and see," said Rivers. "[Lillard is] a tough cover, and they run a lot of pick and rolls, and they run pick and roll with another guy -- [LaMarcus] Aldridge -- really good. ... They do it a lot, and they should."

"[Lee] is capable. I don’t know yet if he’s capable at the point or [just] the 2. But he is capable, there’s no doubt about that. He’s shown flashes; again, in the Brooklyn game, he guarded Joe [Johnson] extremely well in Brooklyn, and I thought he gave us energy the other night [versus the Nets] as well. I thought in Orlando he changed the game for us when we moved him to the point defensive position. He can do it, we’re still trying to evaluate what his better position doing it at, where he can make the most impact defensively."

For the Celtics, both Jeff Green (knee) and Chris Wilcox (illness) are available.

Green suffered a right knee sprain in Wednesday's game against the Nets.

"I ran into a screen, it buckled, got sore real quick, started to hurt, and that's about it," said Green. "It feels a lot better. Not as swollen."

Green went through shootaround on Friday and Rivers said he moved without limitation, which should mean he'll see his normal workload.

Wilcox left Wednesday's game in the first half after getting sick. He did not practice Thursday or go through shootaround on Friday. While Rivers said he's available, he's hoping not to use him.

"Chris is not going to play much, and, honestly, if I don’t have to play Chris, I will not play Chris," said Rivers. "But Jeff is fine."



Jeff Green
19.6 1.5 1.0 34.0
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.2
AssistsE. Turner 3.3
StealsK. Olynyk 1.3
BlocksK. Olynyk 0.8