Handing out some Celtics hardware

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
3:00
PM ET
With the 2013-14 NBA regular season drawing to a close, it's award time. You won't find many Boston Celtics in the mix for the league's major awards, so we're handing out some team-focused hardware as Boston wraps up this grueling transition campaign:

SportsNation

Who was the Celtics' MVP this season?

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    75%
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    10%
  •  
    15%

Discuss (Total votes: 1,112)

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Let's disqualify Rajon Rondo here. If he plays in Wednesday's season finale, he'll top out at 31 games played after a mid-January return from ACL surgery. Rondo's stat line is impressive at 11.7 points, 9.8 assists, 5.5 rebounds over a mere 33.3 minutes per game, but the Celtics are 11-30 since his return, including 6-24 in games he appeared. Examining the rest of the field, you could make a case for a number of players, maybe even the departed Jordan Crawford given Boston's early-season success. Our pick? Jared Sullinger.

Despite not having the luxury of a pure center alongside him, Sullinger performed admirably in his sophomore season, averaging 13.3 points and 8.1 rebounds. The Celtics asked him to step outside his comfort zone and he spent much of the season trying to extend his range beyond the 3-point line (to limited success while shooting 26.9 percent beyond the arc). The fact that Sullinger will shoot more triples (208) than free throws (203) is worrisome, but let's chalk it up to experimentation in a transition year. If the Celtics add a pure center next to him, Sullinger needs a serviceable 3-point shot to stretch the floor, but we'd also like to see more back-to-the-basket next season. According to ESPN's new WAR (Wins Above Replacement) metric, Sullinger topped the team and his real plus-minus stats help show that he was a better defender than might appear. Sullinger was the team's best two-way rebounder, giving the team a lift on the offensive glass that hasn't been seen in these parts in recent seasons. All this while coming off back surgery that limited his offseason. We're intrigued to see where Sullinger goes from here, but he certainly was one of the brightest spots this season.

Honor roll: Avery Bradley's blossoming offensive game made him a legitimate two-way threat, but injuries did rob him of nearly a quarter of his season. ... Jeff Green, for all his inconsistencies, is set to start all 82 games for the second straight season since heart surgery, but his WAR is even lower than that of D-League call-up Chris Johnson (albeit in two very different sample sizes).

SportsNation

Who was the Celtics' Rookie of the Year?

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    85%
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    14%
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    1%

Discuss (Total votes: 1,036)

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Kelly Olynyk's late-season exploits make this one a slam dunk. Olynyk, who set a career-high for scoring with 28 points in Monday's loss in Philadelphia, is averaging 15.6 points on 51.5 percent shooting in seven games for the month of April, while grabbing 7.3 rebounds over 25.1 minutes per game in that span. Olynyk's confidence has steadily grown and his natural offensive talents are on display more frequently. There's still strides to be made on the defensive end, but it's clear the 13th pick in last year's draft has a very bright future and, assuming the Celtics add a legit big next season, projects as one of Boston's top reserves.

Honor roll: If not for Olynyk's April strides, Phil Pressey might have made things interesting with his own April emergence. Pressey has been a serviceable backup ball-handler all season, making the most of spot starts as Rondo works his way back from surgery, but his playmaking talents have been on full display recently. ... It's too bad Vitor Faverani's season ended with a knee injury while on D-League assignment. It would have been interesting to get a longer look at him late in the season when he would have had more freedom to make the mistakes that caused him to get plucked from the rotation earlier in the year.

(Read full post)

Handicapping the Auerbach Award field

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
11:45
AM ET
Getty ImagesPast Auerbach Awards honorees include Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo.
The Boston Celtics will hand out their 9th annual Red Auerbach Award during Wednesday's season finale against the Washington Wizards at TD Garden.

The honor, presented each year since the 2005-06 season, is bestowed upon the Celtics player or coach who best exemplifies the spirit of what it means to be a Celtic through performance on the court and off. The award is named in honor of legendary coach, general manager, and president of the Celtics, the late Arnold “Red” Auerbach.

The award has typically been a nod to the best player on the team, though it made the rounds among Boston's four All-Stars (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, and Ray Allen) during the Big Three era and the team even bestowed it upon coach Doc Rivers one season.

Here's the full rundown of past winners:

2013: Garnett
2012: Pierce
2011: Rivers
2010: Rondo
2009: Allen
2008: Garnett
2007: Al Jefferson
2006: Pierce

So who takes the award this season? Let's handicap the field:

THE FAVORITE: While he'll top out at 31 games if he appears in Wednesday's finale and he's still shaking rust while working his way back from ACL surgery, it's probably fair to say Rondo is Boston's most valuable player (when healthy) and his efforts to be around the team even while rehabbing him make the captain the favorite to join Pierce and Garnett as repeat winners. Plus, it just seems right that No. 9 would win the 9th annual award.

THE FIELD: Jared Sullinger put together an excellent sophomore season and represents one of the bright spots for the future. The guess here is he'll be hoisting one of these awards in future seasons. ... Jeff Green will complete his second 82-game season since returning from heart surgery and while we tend to focus on his inconsistencies, Green will finish with a career high in scoring (16.8 points per game). ... Ankle/Achilles woes derailed Avery Bradley a bit late in the season, but his offensive game blossomed this season and he was one of the most impactful players when he was on the court.

THE DARK HORSE: Brandon Bass did what Brandon Bass does, quietly bringing his hard hat to work each day. He will close out the season having quietly started nearly 90 percent of Boston's games despite plenty of young competition pushing him for that starting gig. What's more, Bass was one of the most active players in the community off the court, most notably with his swimming initiatives. Only Rondo and Bradley have longer tenures here and Bass might be exactly the sort of under-the-radar guy that the Auerbach Award aims to celebrate.

THE OUTSIDE THE BOX PICK: Given that no player quite screams for the award this year, maybe the Celtics could go the curveball route. It's probably too early to give it to first-year coach Brad Stevens (though he was a soldier for navigating this season with a flawed roster), but maybe this is the year that the Celtics give it to president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. After all, he's the one in the spotlight while navigating this transition process and it was Ainge that ushered int he remodel with the deals that sent Pierce and Garnett to Brooklyn and Rivers to Los Angeles.

[More Red Auerbach Award coverage]

SC Featured: Boston Strong

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
9:15
AM ET
video

Sunday's "Outside The Lines" spotlighted the role Boston's athletes and teams played in helping the region heal in the aftermath of the bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon.

“We needed to be together. We needed a gigantic church. We needed a gathering, and a gathering that brings people together, and sports are the biggest venues to do that,” former Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.

OTL: Part 1 | Part 2

(Boston Marathon Blog)

Down the stretch they come

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
12:12
AM ET
Mercifully, there's only one game left in the 2013-14 season for the Boston Celtics.

Boston watched its two-game winning streak end Monday in Philadelphia as the 76ers withstood the Celtics' fourth-quarter surge and emerged with a 113-108 triumph at Wells Fargo Center. The Celtics stand in sole possession of the fifth-worst record in the NBA, which would give the team a 29.1 percent chance at a top-three pick and an 8.8 percent chance at the No. 1 overall pick.

A look at the full lottery standings through Monday's games, thanks to our friends at Tankathon:

Tanakaton: April 13


With the Lakers' triumph over the Jazz on Monday, Boston has a one-game cushion on both sides with a single game to play. With a loss on Wednesday against the Washington Wizards, the Celtics would assure themselves of no worse than the fifth position.

The final-day schedule: The Celtics host Washington; the Jazz visit the Minnesota Timberwolves; and the Lakers trek to meet the San Antonio Spurs.

If Boston finishes in a tie with Utah for the fourth-worst record, the two teams would split the lottery probability for those two spots -- meaning each team receives 103 pingpong combinations (out of 1,000). One extra combination is awarded to the team that wins a random drawing, and that team will also pick first if neither team vaults to a top-three pick.

Likewise, if the Celtics and Lakers end up knotted for the fifth-worst mark, the two teams would each receive 75 pingpong balls and draw for the extra combo and the tiebreaker.

The Wizards will have motivation to end Boston's season with a loss as they jockey for playoff position in the Eastern Conference. Washington needs a win Wednesday to assure itself the sixth seed in the East, which would mean the Wizards would avoid a first-round matchup with the Miami Heat.

Regardless of Wednesday's finale, the Celtics will finish the season with the third-worst winning percentage in franchise history. Boston already owns one win more than the 2006-07 entry that went 24-58. That year, Boston's record was good enough to easily have the second-worst record in basketball (though the pingpong balls defied them and the Celtics landed the fifth pick).

If the Lakers had defeated the Jazz on Monday, Boston would have been in a three-way tie for the fourth-worst record in basketball. In that instance, the Celtics' chances at a higher pick would have been only marginally better (90 pingpong combinations) and the Celtics would have been at the mercy of a random drawing to determine if Los Angeles or Utah would be in front of them for tiebreaking purposes.

The Celtics have one more game to go in this frustrating season, and then all eyes can lock on May 20, when draft position will finally be determined at the lottery drawing.

C's can't turn over a new leaf

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
12:05
AM ET
One of the areas where Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens yearned to see progress over the final games of the 2013-14 season was execution in late-game situations. Boston has really struggled to make plays, particularly on the offensive end, at the end of close games.

Despite winning consecutive games entering Monday's tilt in Philadelphia, Boston failed to show progress in that regard while dropping a 113-108 decision at Wells Fargo Center. Stevens might want to avoid the final 88 seconds of the game film: Boston committed four turnovers -- each one more head-shaking than the last -- to help Philadelphia post its third win of the season over the Celtics.

A glance at the miscues:

• With 1:28 to go in a one-possession game, rookie Kelly Olynyk, who has been one of the primary bright spots of this late-season stretch, threw a poor bounce pass to Jeff Green on the blocks, and it was picked by Michael Carter-Williams. Making matters worse, Olynyk got whistled for a blocking foul at the other end trying to take a charge from Tony Wroten in transition (and the call stood even after a lengthy video review).

• With Boston now down five, Rajon Rondo tried to attack the basket early on the ensuing possession, but left his feet to shoot, then decided otherwise with Carter-Williams contesting. Rondo tried to pass to the right wing, but there wasn't a green jersey within 20 feet of the ball and it bounced once before hitting a fan sitting next to the scorer's table.

• Still down five with 25 seconds to go, the Celtics called a timeout to draw up a play. The 76ers smothered Boston's players and Jeff Green had nowhere to inbound the ball, leading to a five-second violation.

• Despite all the miscues, Boston somehow got back within three and the 76ers threw the ball away on an inbounds play with 15 seconds to go, giving the Celtics one last gasp. The Celtics struggled to generate a quality 3-point look and, with about two seconds to go and desperate to get a shot off, Rondo handed off to Chris Johnson beyond the 3-point arc. Johnson elevated and actually made the 3-pointer, but not before a referee nearby whistled the play dead with 0.9 seconds to go because Johnson stepped on the sideline before his shot.

Boston had its chances, but execution hurt the team in crunch time. Stevens pointed out after the game that the Celtics probably let things get away in the first half when they gave back an early 10-point lead and watched the 76ers open a 17-point halftime advantage.

A couple more postgame thoughts from Monday's loss:

ANOTHER CAREER NIGHT FOR OLYNYK: Two nights after matching his career high for scoring, Olynyk bested his mark by scoring a team-high 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting with nine rebounds and three assists over 35 minutes. Olynyk continues to show a developing touch around the basket, finding opportunities while rolling off pick-and-rolls or attacking the basket in transition. Olynyk hasn't been bashful about drawing contact lately and finished with either hand early against Philadelphia. Of his 10 makes on Monday, six came at the rim, while he also got to the charity stripe for a team-high seven attempts. Olynyk's progress remains maybe the most encouraging aspect of Boston's late-season exploits.

LOOSE BALLS: GOOD GREEN: Jeff Green quietly put up 27 points in one of his better outings. Green produced eight of his 10 makes near the basket and took only 16 shots overall. Add in three steals and two blocks and only one turnover, and this is exactly the sort of efficiency the team needs from Green. ... Avery Bradley scored 23 points, but he needed 22 shots to get there. Bradley missed nine triples (2-of-11 beyond the 3-point arc). ... Rondo scored his eighth point less than three minutes into the second half, but didn't score again, preventing him from a triple-double (14 assists, 11 rebounds). Rondo took only eight shots but was 1-for-5 after the intermission. Hard to complain with his impact when he handed out seven assists and grabbed seven rebounds and was plus-18 in the final two quarters.
Tags:

2014game81

Rapid Reaction: 76ers 113, C's 108

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
9:45
PM ET
The Boston Celtics reverted to familiar ways on Monday, making things interesting late in the game but unable to produce the necessary plays to keep their winning streak going while falling to the Philadelphia 76ers 113-108 at the Wells Fargo Center:

THE NITTY GRITTY
Rookie Kelly Olynyk scored a career-high 28 points, while Jeff Green (27 points) and Avery Bradley (23) joined him in the 20+ club. Rajon Rondo flirted with a triple-double while putting up 8 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds over 42:25. Michael Carter-Williams scored 21 points, while Tony Wroten added 20 points to pace the 76ers. The Sixers shot 54.4 percent from the field while fending off Boston's second-half rally.

TURNING POINT
The Celtics led by 10 early, then fell behind by as much as 19 early in the second half. Boston surged within two heading to the fourth quarter, but could never get over the hump despite sticking close much of the final frame. The Celtics got a last gasp after a head-shaking turnover by the 76ers with 15.8 seconds to play. But in a microcosm of Boston's season, rookie Chris Johnson stepped on the sideline before launching what would have been a game-tying 3-pointer with 0.9 seconds remaining, The call was upheld on one of roughly 3,472 video reviews over the final two minutes of the game.

LOOSE BALLS
Even with just one game left in the season, Celtics fans held their breath when Rondo got hit with a stray elbow in the first quarter and dropped to the ground. He returned later in the frame. ... The Celtics were playing with nine available bodies as Jared Sullinger (ankle), Jerryd Bayless (knee) and Kris Humphries (knee) sat out. All three remain uncertain for the season finale. ... The Celtics turned the ball over 19 times, including three times in the final 88 seconds. ... Philly won the season series, 3-1.

WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics (25-56) had a two-game winning streak snapped. Boston, at least for the moment, owns the fifth-worst record in basketball, but that hinges on the Lakers-Jazz game out west (a loss by the Lakers would force a three-way tie for the fourth-worst record). The Celtics wrap up the 2013-14 season on Wednesday night with a visit from the Washington Wizards.

Rondo back in Celtics lineup

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
6:27
PM ET
The depleted Boston Celtics will get one body back on Monday night in Philadelphia.

Rajon Rondo, listed as a game-time decision, is back in the starting lineup against the 76ers after missing two games with a bruised left shin.

Jared Sullinger (ankle), Kris Humphries (knee) and Jerryd Bayless (knee) are all out for Boston.

Rondo's return gives Boston nine available players. Being shorthanded didn't stop the Celtics from winning their second straight game in Cleveland on Saturday.

Sullinger and Bayless were dinged up on Friday and sat out Saturday. Humphries is battling lingering tendinitis and will miss his second straight game.

W2W4: Celts vs. 76ers (Game 81 of 82)

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
10:00
AM ET
The Boston Celtics (25-55, 9-31 away) visit the Philadelphia 76ers (17-63, 9-31 home) on Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:

  • GOING STREAKING: The Celtics snapped a nine-game losing streak on Friday against Charlotte, busted a 13-game road losing streak on Saturday in Cleveland, and now visit Philadelphia looking to win three straight games for the first time in more than two months (Feb. 2-7). Meanwhile, the 76ers have lost four straight (and 32 of their last 34 overall).

  • PLAYING THE LOTTERY: A win by the 76ers or -- a loss by the Bucks in Toronto -- will cement Philadelphia in finishing with the second worst record in basketball this season. The 76ers would then have a 19.9 percent chance at the top pick and a 55.8 percent chance at a top 3 selection. The Celtics enter tied with the rival Los Angles Lakers for the fifth worst record in basketball. Boston can still finish anywhere from third to sixth in the final lottery standings and Celtics fans will have their eyes on the scoreboard when the Lakers visit the Utah Jazz on Monday night.

  • LOOSE BALLS: This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between the two teams. The 76ers lead the series, 2-1, but Boston won in Philadelphia back in February. Philadelphia's last win came in Boston earlier this month. ... As STATS LLC notes: Boston is averaging 105.4 points in its last five games, 9.4 points more than its season mark. ... The Celtics played Saturday with only eight available bodies. Rajon Rondo (left shin bruise), Jared Sullinger (sprained left ankle), and Kris Humphries (sore right knee) all have a chance to rejoin the lineup in Philly. ... This is Boston's final road game of the season as the Celtics wrap up the 2013-14 campaign on Wednesday night with a visit from the Washington Wizards.

(Read full game preview)

Lottery rivals: C's, Lakers tied

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
12:25
AM ET
Well, this is different.

The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers are the two most decorated franchises in NBA history, combining for 33 of the the league's 67 championships. But now, with matching 25-55 records, the two teams and their .313 winning percentages, are tied for the fifth worst record in basketball with two games to play. A look at the lottery standings, through Sunday's action, from our friends at Tankathon:

Tankathon: April 14


If the season ended today, the Celtics and Lakers would be splitting 151 ping-pong ball combinations and flipping a coin to see who gets the additional combos (and who goes first in the event that both teams are outside a top 3 spot).

According to ESPN Stats and Info, the only instance in which both teams missed the postseason in the same year was during the 1993-94 campaign. Both squads emerged with lottery picks and Boston took Eric Montross at No. 9, while the Lakers picked Eddie Jones at 10.

What's more, in the common draft era (since 1966), the Lakers and Celtics have both picked in the top 10 just twice: 1994 and 1966. It should be noted, of course, that there were only 10 teams in the league in 1966.

Pressey giving C's offense a jolt

April, 13, 2014
Apr 13
3:00
PM ET
BOSTON -- Boston Celtics rookie point guard Phil Pressey has done the impossible this month: He's made one of the league's most inefficient offenses perform as if it were among the NBA elite.

David Richard/USA TODAY SportsPhil Pressey attacks the basket against the Cavaliers.
Through six games this month, the Celtics are averaging a ridiculous 114.3 points per 100 possessions with Pressey on the floor. That's an insane number for a team that owns an offensive rating of 99.6, third worst in the league this season. But Pressey has jump-started Boston (his rating is 8.7 points higher than the team's average this month) while playing 26 minutes per game in six appearances in April, including leading the team to consecutive victories in spot starts for Rajon Rondo.

If anyone was paying attention to these lottery-bound Celtics, we'd fully expect an irrational sports radio caller to suggest that Pressey should be starting over Rondo. They'd note how the rookie has a 6-4 mark as a starter, while the Celtics are a mere 24-43 the last two seasons when Rondo plays. A heightened sample size would almost certainly bring Pressey back to earth a bit, but it's undeniable that he's making good things happen during his time on the floor.

Consider this: Pressey ranks 18th in the NBA in points created by assists per 48 minutes at 23.3, according to the league's player-tracking data. That number is better than the likes of Deron Williams (22.8), Kyle Lowry (22.7) and Tony Parker (22.1).

For the season, Pressey is averaging 3.1 assists over 14.7 minutes per game in 73 appearances. Zoom in on April, and he's handing out 7.5 assists over 26 minutes per contest in six games, including 39 helpers over his last four appearances while reaching double figures in helpers in all three games he started in that stretch.

But maybe more important is that Pressey has found ways to impact the game beyond creating plays. His ability to run an offense has never been in question, nor has his court vision. The knock on Pressey always has been an inconsistent jump shot and an inability to keep teams honest on the offensive end.

In April, he's averaging 5.8 points per game while shooting 42.9 percent from the floor. He still has strides to make with his 3-point shot, but he's attacking the basket more and, on Saturday in Cleveland, the 5-foot-10 guard showed off his hops with a putback dunk in transition that caused the Boston bench to do a double-take.

And hustle plays have become a staple for Pressey lately. On Friday against Charlotte, he went to the floor late in the third quarter for an effort-dripping steal before feeding Kelly Olynyk for a layup that sent the Garden into a frenzy. Later in that game, when Jared Sullinger missed a 3-pointer trying to seal the win in the final seconds, Pressey ran toward an open paint and managed to keep alive a rebound by tipping it up in the air. A teammate secured the rebound and forced Charlotte to foul in a one-point game.

(Read full post)

Will these wins work against the C's?

April, 13, 2014
Apr 13
12:35
PM ET
The Boston Celtics entered Friday's action tied with the Orlando Magic for the third-worst record in basketball. Two days -- and two victories -- later, they now sit alone with the fifth-worst mark and the Los Angeles Lakers looming within a game. First a refresher from our friends at Tankathon where everyone stands:

Tankathon: 2 games to go


This has caused all sorts of consternation for some denizens of Celtics Nation who worry that Boston's recent winning streak -- which might extend with Monday's visit to the Philadelphia 76ers -- could diminish the team's chances of landing an impact player in June's draft.

So it made us wonder: Just how much difference is there between Boston's potential landing spots? Here's a glimpse at the breakdown of percentages based on where the Celtics can finish (with two games to go, they are guaranteed to land somewhere between third worst and tied for sixth worst) with percentages for a top three spot, the No. 1 overall pick and the absolute worst spot it could finish if three teams below them vaulted into the top three lottery spots.

Keep in mind, that ties are broken by a coin flip with the winning team not only earning the extra ping-pong combinations, but slotted to receive the higher draft pick in the event that neither of the tied teams lands in the top three. Therefore, there are slight differences in the percentages below based on those ties (we gave the odds for the coin-flip winner below):

Hollinger's playoff odds currently project Boston to finish 26-56 and tied with the Lakers for the firth-worst record in basketball. Pending the coin flip, Boston would have approximately a 25.5 percent chance at a top three spot and a 7.6 percent chance at the top overall pick.

What does it all mean? It'll be hard for some to swallow the notion that Boston sacrificed a 20 percent chance at a top-three pick -- and halved its shots at the No. 1 overall selection -- because of its late-season surge.

But what's prudent to keep in mind is that Boston has been scorned by the ping-pong balls in the past. The team has positioned itself to navigate this transition process without relying on luck. Sure, vaulting to a top spot wouldn't hurt, but at the end of the day, you're leaning on chance a bit regardless -- and past history tells us that teams often make the jump into the top three.

Brad Stevens has said much of the year that he aims to control what he can control. The Celtics can't control how the ping-pong balls with play out, so Stevens has remained focused on trying to get as much out of his team as possible.

If disaster strikes and the Celtics get, say, the eighth overall pick this season, there will be plenty of second-guessing. Ultimately, it's probably not worth sweating right now. The Celtics seem content to let the chips fall where they may and they've got plenty of available assets if they desire to change their selection spot in June.

Olynyk delivers KO to Cavs

April, 13, 2014
Apr 13
12:45
AM ET
Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens has spent the entire 2013-14 season imploring rookie Kelly Olynyk to shoot more often. All it took was having nearly half the roster unavailable on Saturday, but Stevens finally got a look at Olynyk Unfiltered during Boston's 111-99 triumph over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena.

Olynyk put up a career-high 23 shots (making 11 of them), while scoring 20 first-half points and matching his career-high with 25 points overall over 39 minutes of floor time. He added 12 rebounds and three assists in a spot start that reminded many of Olynyk's potential.

In Boston's six games in the month of April, Olynyk is averaging 13.5 points on 53.3 percent shooting over a still-modest 23.5 minutes per game. He's taking (and making) his 3-point shot with increased confidence, while also using his passing skills to help facilitate the offense.

Here's the stat that leaps off the page recently: Over the past six games, Olynyk is averaging 1.066 points per play, according to Synergy Sports data. Even as he battles occasional turnovers bursts (he had a team-high four against the Cavaliers on Saturday), Olynyk has been ultra efficient on the offensive end.

Just how efficient? If Olynyk maintained that 1.066 points per play average over the course of the season, he'd rank just outside the top 10 in points per play among those with at least 600 offensive chances this season. That list is helmed by 3-point wizard Kyle Korver (1.15 ppp), MVP candidate Kevin Durant (1.125), Olynyk-idol Dirk Nowitzki (1.12), and four-time MVP LeBron James (1.115). Which is to say, Olynyk's recent output puts him in a pretty elite class, even in a small sample. For the season, Olynyk is averaging 0.899 points per play.

The bottom line is that there's been visible progress and Olynyk has responded particularly well when thrust into a larger role. Go ahead and put an asterisk on Saturday's game if you'd like -- the Cavaliers were clearly a largely disinterested bunch until the final minutes -- and that gave Olynyk a chance to show off his talents.

When Anderson Varejao drifted too far to clog up the paint, Olynyk made the Cavaliers pay by making his some triples (even if he didn't call glass while banking one early in the second quarter). Olynyk generated much of his point total near the basket, making a series of layups (with Cleveland unwilling to defend some of his drives). Olynyk and fellow rookie Phil Pressey continue to play well together due to their familiarity with one another.

Eventually, Olynyk was knocking down this sort of Dirk-like moves (GIF via Reddit; CSN Screenshot):

Olynyk one-foot fadeaway


Olynyk still has work to do on the defensive end. The Celtics are giving up a whopping 107.2 points per 100 possessions when Olynyk is on the floor this month and his Synergy defensive numbers for that six-game span are not pretty (allowing 0.982 points per play). But this is what the Celtics expected: An offensive game that was more NBA ready than his defense.

The other encouraging aspect of Olynyk's game recently is his rebounding. For the month of April, his defensive rebounding percentage is off the charts at 26.4 percent (well above his season average of 18.5 percent). Stevens has to like progress at both ends of the court.

But chances are he'll continue to be in Olynyk's ear about shooting more over the final two games. The Celtics have been all about progress since being eliminated from playoff contention and they've been more than happy to sacrifice a few ping-pong balls if it means that a guy like Olynyk is making strides and helping the team close out the season strong.

LottoWatch: C's alone at 5

April, 13, 2014
Apr 13
12:30
AM ET
The Boston Celtics won their second straight game on Saturday night in Cleveland and, combined with a loss for the Utah Jazz, have slipped to the fifth-worst record in basketball. A glance at the bottom of the league's lottery standings, including current chances at the highest of picks:

Celtics dip to 5th


The Celtics are only a half-game in front of the Lakers with two games to play. Boston is idle on Sunday, but will have an eye on the out-of-town scoreboard as the Lakers host Memphis (while Orlando visits Brooklyn).

Boston was tied with Orlando for the third-worst record in basketball before the weekend and owned as much as a 42.6 percent chance at a top 3 pick and a 13.7 percent chance at the top selection. Those percentages are down to 29.1 percent for a top 3 selection and 8.8 percent for the top spot now that Boston sits alone at the fifth-worst record.

Rapid Reaction: Celts 111, Cavs 99

April, 12, 2014
Apr 12
10:00
PM ET

Playing the second night of a back-to-back with only eight available bodies, the Boston Celtics avoided a bit of franchise infamy by snapping a 13-game road losing streak with a 111-99 triumph over the largely disinterested Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena.

THE NITTY GRITTY
Rookie Kelly Olynyk scored 20 of his 25 points in the first half and finished with 11-of-23 shooting and 12 rebounds while matching his career high in scoring over 39 minutes in a starter's role. Avery Bradley matched that 25-point output and grabbed eight rebounds while finishing a team-best plus-31 in plus/minus, while backcourt mate Phil Pressey flirted with yet another double-double (9 points, 13 assists) over a team-high 42 minutes. Brandon Bass and Jeff Green added 19 points apiece. Dion Waiters, Kyrie Irving and Jarrett Jack each had 15 points as the Cavs put seven players in double figures, but the game was never really close (only one lead change and the C's led by as much as 33 in the final quarter).

TURNING POINT
Back-to-back triples from Olynyk and Bradley helped Boston separate early, building a 12-point lead little more than five minutes into the first frame. Bradley and Green added late second-quarter trifectas as the Celtics' lead ballooned to 18 at the intermission. Boston was up 31 after three quarters and Cleveland only made things look close with a harmless trash-time rally to tighten up the final spread.

LOOSE BALLS
The Celtics were playing without Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger, Jerryd Bayless and Kris Humphries. ... With an eight-man bench, even guys like Joel Anthony (21 minutes) and Chris Babb (18 minutes) got healthy workloads. ... Boston shot 46.7 percent from the field (42-of-90) and 40 percent beyond the 3-point arc (12-of-30). ... The Celtics turned the ball over just 11 times leading to nine points.

WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics (25-55) have now won two straight (much to the dismay of the lottery watchers) and will -- at least for the moment -- move a half-game ahead of the Utah Jazz and own the fifth-worst record in basketball with three games to play (Utah is playing Denver in a late game and could force a tie for fourth-worst record with a win). With the victory, Boston avoided the longest road losing streak in franchise history (winning away from home for the first time since Feb. 10) and also ensured itself of finishing with a better winning percentage than the 2006-07 team (which owned the second-worst mark in franchise history). The Celtics will take Sunday off to rest those bodies that logged heavy minutes and cross their fingers for better health when they visit Philadelphia on Monday in their final road game of the season. The 2013-14 season wraps up in Boston with a visit from the Washington Wizards on Wednesday.

Pregame: Humphries out, too

April, 12, 2014
Apr 12
7:45
PM ET
Add Kris Humphries to the list of unavailable bodies on Saturday for the Boston Celtics.

Humphries tried to warm up in Cleveland, but his ailing knee won't allow him to go. Humphries eased him back into action on Friday night, after missing the previous two games with right knee tendinitis. The knee, which he says will only improve with extended time off, simply isn't healthy enough to play on consecutive nights.

That means that the Celtics are without Humphries, Rajon Rondo (left shin), Jared Sullinger (left ankle), and Jerryd Bayless (right knee). The Celtics have only eight healthy bodies available for Saturday's game

Boston started Phil Pressey, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, and Kelly Olynyk.

For the Cavaliers, Luol Deng is out.
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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jeff Green
PTS AST STL MIN
16.8 1.7 0.7 34.2
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.1
AssistsR. Rondo 9.8
StealsR. Rondo 1.3
BlocksK. Humphries 0.9