Celtics-Pacers review: Rondo rises to challenge


Celtics-Pacers review: Rondo rises to challenge

BOSTON Of the Boston Celtics' new Big Three, Rondo has the greatest track record of proven success with plenty of room to still grow as a player.

He has proven himself an elite passer and when properly motivated, a better-than-average defender.

Scoring hasn't been a strength of his, but that's exactly what Doc Rivers is asking him to provide more of moving forward.

Rondo took an important step in that direction on Friday in leading the C's to a surprisingly comfortable 94-75 win over the red-hot Indiana Pacers.

The three-time all-star finished with a team-high 18 points on 9-for-14 shooting to go along with seven assists and five rebounds as the Celtics (15-17) snapped a four-game losing skid with Friday's victory.

As good as Rondo played, he by no means was the sole reason for the Celtics pulling out an important, much-needed victory.

Here's a recap of the keys outlined prior to the game and how they actually played out for the C's.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Points will once again be tough to come by for the Celtics against an Indiana team that thrives in making life difficult for opponents offensively. Teams are averaging just 90 points per game against the Pacers, the second-best scoring defense in the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics didn't exactly light the scoreboard up, but their steady play all game defensively allowed them to position themselves for a comfortable lead that was never really threatened in the second half.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs Paul George: Pierce will have his hands full defensively against George who has emerged as one of the most improved players this season in part because of an increased opportunity to play with Danny Granger being out.

WHAT WE SAW: Pierce didn't put up huge numbers for the Celtics, but he delivered a much, much better showing than George who had struggles at both ends of the floor. In addition to his problems defending Pierce, George only had nine points on 4-for-18 shooting.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jared Sullinger seems to keep getting better with each and every opportunity he gets to play. His emergence as a reliable option off the bench who can score and rebound, bodes well in the C's recovery efforts from what has been a disappointing start to the season.

WHAT WE SAW: Sullinger picked up two quick fouls after having played about 11 minutes. To his credit, he played through the foul trouble and finished with a solid night off the bench with 7 points and a team-high 10 rebounds.

STAT TO TRACK: Boston has to hold its own on the boards, which will allow them to get out and run against a Pacers team that isn't used to having its transition defense challenged much. They are giving up a league-low 9.8 fast-break points per game in large part because they are one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the NBA which prevents teams from getting out in transition even after they make an initial defensive stop.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston spent most of the game within a rebound or two of the Pacers, and finished with 49-47 edge.

UConn falls to Central Florida, 24-16


UConn falls to Central Florida, 24-16

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. -McKenzie Milton threw for a season-high 317 yards and three touchdowns to lead Central Florida to a 24-16 win over UConn.

The freshman completed 29 of 45 passes and the Knights (4-3, 2-1 American) moved over the .500 mark by scoring 17 unanswered points and holding the Huskies (3-5, 1-4) scoreless in the second half.

Arkeel Newsome ran 21 times for 101 yards and Noel Thomas had his fifth straight 100-yard receiving game for UConn, catching nine passes for 165 yards.

But Thomas dropped a pass in the end zone on a third down with just over 3 minutes remaining, and quarterback Bryant Shirreffs came up short on a fourth-down scramble.

The Huskies got the ball back near midfield with just over 2 minutes left and drove to the 21, but failed to convert a fourth-down pass.

The Knights took the lead on the first drive of the second half, when Milton hit running back Adrian Killins over the middle for a 39-yard touchdown. It was the third consecutive drive of more than 70 yards for UCF.

A career-long 50-yard field goal by Matthew Wright early in the fourth quarter pushed the lead to eight points.

UConn scored the game's first 13 points, capped by a 3-yard touchdown run from Newsome.

The Huskies final points came on a 35-yard Puyol field goal, one of three he kicked in the first half.

The lead was the first at halftime this season for the Huskies.


UCF: The Knights have apparently found their quarterback in the freshman Milton, who started again over senior Justin Holman. It was Milton's fourth start this season. His 317 yards passing were the most since Holman threw for 336 yards against Temple in 2014.

UConn: The Huskies have two offensive weapons in Newsome and Thomas and need to find a third. Shirreffs was again the team's second leading rusher with 49 yards. Alec Bloom was the team's second-leading receiver. He had two catches for 20 yards.


UCF: The Knights visit No. 11 Houston next Saturday

UConn: The Huskies travel south to face East Carolina.

© 2016 by STATS & The Associated Press

Still wait-and-see on Smart's status for Celtics' opener


Still wait-and-see on Smart's status for Celtics' opener

BOSTON – Marcus Smart’s sprained left ankle injury continues to heal, but the Celtics remain in wait-and-see mode when it comes to his availability for the season opener on Wednesday against Brooklyn.
Smart sprained the ankle in the second quarter of a 121-96 preseason loss to the New York Knicks when he stepped on the foot of Knicks guard Justin Holliday.
He was helped off the floor by teammates Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas along with head trainer Ed Lacerte.
Since the injury, the Celtics have been pleased with the healing progress of the ankle, the same ankle he sprained as a rookie which kept him out for several weeks.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Smart is no longer in a walking boot and continues to be day-to-day as he receives a steady diet of treatments to help speed up the healing process.
Smart will undergo a series of tests to determine the ankle’s strength, prior to getting any kind of clearance to play.
That’s why Stevens isn’t worried about Smart returning to the floor too soon.
“I trust our staff. Our staff and Marcus will make that decision well,” Stevens said. “Then I play guys, if they are available.”
Smart has established himself as one of the Celtics’ top reserves, with the ability to play both guard positions and some small forward depending on the lineup on the floor. The Celtics have to prepare for the possibility that he will not be able to play in the opener (or the first few games considering Boston opens with three games in four nights.

His absence would create more playing time for Terry Rozier in addition to likely resulting in extended minutes for starters such as Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder.
As eager as Smart is to get back on the floor, he and the Celtics are mindful of the big picture.
This team wants to make a deep playoff run and they’ll everyone – Smart included – to do so.
That’s why as much as Smart wants to get on the floor immediately, he has to remember – or be reminded of – that this is an 82-game season and his long-term value to this team and its goals can’t be taken for granted.