Celtics-Pacers review: Rondo rises to challenge

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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.

Al Horford's strong play propels Celtics to 97-92 win over Kings

Al Horford's strong play propels Celtics to 97-92 win over Kings

BOSTON – You knew Boston’s dominance over the Sacramento Kings at the TD Garden was going to come to an end someday. 

Well that day won’t come around for at least another season as the Celtics’ forgotten man just a couple nights ago, Al Horford, came up with big plays at both ends of the floor that helped propel Boston to a 97-92 win. 

With Boston ahead 95-92 with less than 10 seconds to play, the Kings had one chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer. 

They got the ball to their best player DeMarcus Cousins who tried to draw a foul against his defender, Al Horford. 

Cousins’ attempt to sell there being contact behind the 3-point line was not being bought by the officials. 

After his missed shot, Sacramento’s Garrett Temple fouled Horford with 4.8 seconds to play. 

Horford, who finished with a season-high 26 points, went to the line and made both of the free throws to seal the victory. 

The Celtics (11-8) have now won five of their last seven games overall as they hit the road where they’ve won four in a row away from the TD Garden.

Meanwhile the Kings (7-12) have now lost nine straight at the TD Garden.

Sacramento had swung the game’s momentum in their favor at the end of the third and early in the fourth, but the Celtics refused to go down without a fight. 

A shot by Horford tied the game at 76. And on the ensuing Kings possession, Horford came up with a blocked shot that ultimately led to lay-up for Jonas Jerebko to put Boston up 78-76.

Cousins suffered a cut above his right eye in the fourth quarter and finished with 28 points, nine rebounds and three assists. 

After a Sacramento time-out following Jerebko’s basket, the Celtics came up with another turnover – their 15thforced turnover of the night – that led to a lay-up by Kelly Olynyk.

On the ensuing Olynyk basket, Cousins took a blow to the head on the play that forced him to leave with 7:08to play. 

With no Cousins on the floor, the Celtics tightened up their perimeter defense and made a point of attacking the Sacramento interior immediately.

Isaiah Thomas, who finished with 20 points, converted a three-point play at the 6:33 mark - 35 seconds after Cousins left the game.

The close finish was in stark contrast to how the game begin. 

In Boston’s 121-114 loss to Detroit on Wednesday, Horford only took five shots from the field. 

After the game, head coach Brad Stevens said that should have never happened. 

Jae Crowder called it “unacceptable.”

Well it didn’t take Horford long to get five shot attempts – about five minutes actually. 

And the four-time all-star hit most of them as he helped the Celtics lead by as many as 13 points in the first quarter before the Kings closed out the quarter with a 10-0 run to tie the game at 29. 

Horford led four double figure scorers for Boston which included Thomas, Jae Crowder (16 points) and Avery Bradley (15 points). 

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics hold on to lead after Kings rally back

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics hold on to lead after Kings rally back

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics take a slim 47-46 lead into the half over Sacramento, a team they have dominated at the TD Garden. 

The Celtics are looking to extend their winning streak at home over the Kings to nine in a row with a victory tonight. 

But the Kings are not going to go down easily, as they rallied back from a 13-point deficit in the first quarter. 

After Boston went ahead 29-19, the Kings scored the final 10 points of the quarter to tie it at 29. 

Sacramento took a couple of brief leads in the second, only for the Celtics to get a clutch shot or a timely stop defensively. 

The final points of the half came on a put-back basket by Al Horford which gave Boston a one-point lead that would serve as the margin going into the half. 

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Friday’s game.

 

STARS

Al Horford

After taking just five shots in Wednesday’s loss to Detroit, Horford had as many in the first six minutes. He would finish the half with 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting which included a pair of three-pointers.

DeMarcus Cousins

He had a horrible first half shooting the ball, but there was no denying Cousins’ presence and impact on the game. Despite missing six of his nine shot attempts he still led them with nine points and five rebounds.

 

STUDS

Avery Bradley

He looked a lot more like the Avery Bradley we’ve seen most of this season, and not the one who was a non-factor for most of Wednesday’s loss to Detroit. At the half he had nine points and four rebounds.

Matt Barnes

The oldest player on the floor certainly didn’t look past his prime. The 36-year-old small forward came off the Kings bench to score six points along with grabbing eight rebounds. 

 

DUDS

Rudy Gay

A 19.6 points per game scorer this season, Gay couldn’t get into any kind of flow or rhythm offensively. At the half, he had four points on 2-for-8 shooting which included him missing all four of his three-pointers.