OFFSEASON

After rough start, Allen takes - and makes - big shots

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After rough start, Allen takes - and makes - big shots

BOSTON Call it the re-run that never gets old; at least not for Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

It's the fourth quarter, the score is close, the ball is in Ray Allen's hands and swish!

"Ray Allen for 3!!!!" is soon heard throughout the TD Garden.

For a player who has made a career out of delivering fourth quarter daggers, there was plenty of reason to believe that on Saturday night, it just wasn't going to happen.

But there was Allen, gimpy ankle and all, coming up with one of the biggest shots of the night as Boston held on for an 85-75 Game 7 victory over Philadelphia to advance to the Conference finals where they'll meet Miami.

After missing eight of his first nine shots, Allen hit his only two shots of the fourth quarter - both 3s - that could not have come at a better time.

"Ray, he never could get it going but he made a couple of big shots, obviously," Rivers said.

But that didn't stop the Celtics from looking for Allen on a 3-pointer that, when he made it, doubled the C's lead to 60-54 at the time.

"To have trust in Ray, after the way he was shooting the ball, to get it to him for him to make it says a lot about Ray and I think it says a lot about our team," Rivers said. "That we trust you for 48 minutes. And I thought that was huge."

Seeing Allen struggle so mightily wasn't that big of a deal. He's a shooter, and it's not unusual for them to go through stretches in which shots simply do not fall.

But making things worst for Allen was the fact that it was clear that the Sixers weren't nearly as worried about defending him on the perimeter as they were in the first four or five games of this series.

Well aware that Allen wasn't moving as well as he's used to because of a right ankle injury, the Sixers often had the defender on Allen to help off and help defend the post area. That led to a number of great shot opportunities that more often than not, Allen makes teams pay for giving to him.

"I had some great looks," Allen said. "Probably the best that I've seen so far in the postseason. I wish I had them back, but they go in when they count. It's almost like I need the fourth quarter I love to get to that point and focus in a little more."

Seeing Allen continue to fire one missed shot after another, did nothing but want Rivers to see Allen continue to fire away.

But there was a point in the second half where the foot soreness that Allen has been dealing with, was getting painfully worst for him.

Rivers knew something was wrong when Allen passed up not one, but two wide open shot attempts - something a scorer like Allen would never, ever do.

When Rivers took Allen out of the game, he went over to him and reminded that, "we're not going to have that (passing up shots).'"

That's when Allen told him about the soreness in his foot.

"He just said, 'my foot's killing me. I need a break. I'm good,'" Rivers recalled. "I told him again, I said, 'You don't ever pass up shots.' The biggest part was Rondo went over there and told him the same thing, which I thought was great for Ray to hear, confidence-wise. And then Kevin (Garnett) went over and told him. I thought that was big for him to hear."

But Allen, arguably the greatest shooter of this generation, may not be as explosive as he once was or have the kind of above-the-rim ability that he once possessed.

Still, he is Ray Allen, a shooter who rarely sees a shot that he doesn't want to take.

"Ray is the ultimate gun slinger," Rivers said. "I mean, really. That's what makes great players great. I was a basketball player one day. And I would've never taken that shot late in the game like Ray, after missing my first 15. A lot of guys you have to have a (courage) to do that, you really do. It was just impressive. And you felt like if he got a shot - I didn't know if he was going to make it, but I knew he was going to take it."

Said Allen: "My lift isn't where it needs to be. At certain times, it's almost like I'm guessing - which I don't like to do - so as I'm coming around, just trying to take all my momentum into the shot."

But when it comes to taking and on most nights, delivering big shots, few have come through as often as Ray Allen. And there's no guesswork involved with that.

Healthy or not, Allen is still an important part of the C's plan even if he's not shooting the ball well. In Saturday's Game 7 win, the Celtics were plus-19 with Allen in the game - the highest plusminus ratio of any player on the floor.

But Allen knows as well as anyone that for the C's to pull off one of the biggest upsets and get back to the NBA Finals, they'll need everyone - himself included - to do what he does best.

And that's making shots, which is the story of Allen's career, a story that the Celtics wouldn't mind being repeated a lot in the conference finals against Miami.

OFFSEASON

Durant leads U.S. to second exhibition rout, 106-57 over China

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Durant leads U.S. to second exhibition rout, 106-57 over China

LOS ANGELES - Just two games into the U.S. basketball team's pre-Olympic tour, coach Mike Krzyzewski already sees the start of something big.

Kevin Durant scored 19 points, Klay Thompson added 17 and the Americans rolled to a second straight blowout exhibition victory, 106-57 over China on Sunday night.

DeMar DeRozan scored 13 points in his hometown, and DeMarcus Cousins had 12 points and seven rebounds in the second stop on the five-city tour leading the Americans to Rio de Janeiro. The victory over an overmatched opponent was impressive, but Krzyzewski liked it more for the composed, cohesive manner in which the new teammates worked together.

"We should have won, but the way we won was excellent," Krzyzewski said. "We're really growing together as a group."

After opening their showcase tour by trouncing Argentina in Las Vegas on Friday night, the U.S. team posted another rout at a packed Staples Center. Krzyzewski is finding it difficult to disguise his early optimism, praising his team's work in their brief practice time together.

And while they're still learning their teammates' tendencies and solidifying player rotations, the U.S. team looked remarkably connected for long stretches against China, which has no current NBA players.

Durant noticed it, as did Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, who kicked off the festivities by blocking a shot on China's first possession and throwing down an alley-oop dunk on the Americans' first possession.

"We've only been together a week, but it seems like we've been teammates for years," Jordan said.

Jordan scored 12 points and led a strong defensive effort with three blocks for the Americans, who held the Chinese to 30.9 percent shooting. Krzyzewski believes the American team will excel at defensive switching because of its abundance of versatile players.

"I think we're learning more about one another, and our defense was there pretty much the whole game," Krzyzewski said.

The Americans haven't lost a game since the 2006 world championships, winning 65 straight games. They're 47-1 in exhibitions since NBA stars took over the roster in 1992, going undefeated since 2004.

While LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kawhi Leonard all declined the chance to play in Rio, the Americans who accepted the opportunity appear to be serious about winning without some of the nation's top stars.

"We're young, but we've got a bunch of seasoned pros," said Kyrie Irving, who had 10 points and four assists. "We've been on a lot of journeys, and we've crossed paths before, but now we're all coming together at the right time."

Anthony was the only holdover in the Americans' starting lineup from Las Vegas while Krzyzewski works on chemistry and coordination. He put Paul George in with the starters alongside Anthony, Jordan, Kyle Lowry and DeRozan, whose family watched from courtside.

Both teams had early shooting struggles, but the Americans took charge with impressive speed late in the first quarter.

Durant, one of the two returning American gold medalists from London, heard boos from the LA crowd during pregame introductions. He quickly found his outside stroke with 14 points and four assists in the first half, and Cousins overpowered the Chinese down low for 12 first-half points on the way to a 55-29 halftime lead.

The Chinese team's most recognizable name to North Americans is Yi Jianlian, the Milwaukee Bucks' choice with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2007 draft. He spent five seasons with four NBA teams before heading back to the Guangdong Southern Tigers.

Yi led the Chinese with 18 points. Zhou Qi, the 7-foot-2 center drafted by the Houston Rockets in the second round last month, scored two points on 1-for-6 shooting. Exciting guard Zhao Jiwei scored 14 points.

The teams meet again Tuesday in Oakland, where Durant will play in front of his new home fans for the first time since defecting from Oklahoma City to the Golden State Warriors earlier this month.

They'll also meet Aug. 6 in the opening game of Olympic competition in Brazil.

OFFSEASON

After flurry of moves, Celtics still aren't done

After flurry of moves, Celtics still aren't done

You’re probably thinking the summer fireworks are finished after the Celtics brought back Tyler Zeller, added ex-Celtic Gerald Green, and signed rookies Demetrius Jackson and Ben Bentil. It’s true, these moves do lower the likelihood of a multifaceted trade, but it doesn’t totally extinguish the odds of something seismic happening.

The Celtics still retain their flexibility, since none of these deals have actually been finalized. Even after they are, they’d still have the pieces required to make a deal work for a superstar like Blake Griffin. It’s not hard to make a valid trade for one player, but it is difficult if it’s a multi-step process like a Russell Westbrook renegotiate-and-extend trade.

“This is not necessarily what the team will be,” a source told the Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach. “There’s probably changes coming.”

Well, yeah. Changes have to come. The Celtics don’t really have a choice here.

Assuming Jaylen Brown is signed, they’ll have 18 players with at least partially guaranteed contracts. So at least three players will have to be exported before the season, since the NBA requires a maximum of 15 players on a roster.

Here’s a look at the Celtics’ current projected depth chart:

  STARTERS BENCH RESERVES ON THE BUBBLE
FRONT COURT Amir Johnson Kelly Olynyk Tyler Zeller  
Al Horford Jonas Jerebko Jordan Mickey Ben Bentil*
Jae Crowder Jaylen Brown* Gerald Green James Young
BACK COURT Avery Bradley Marcus Smart RJ Hunter John Holland*
Isaiah Thomas Terry Rozier Demetrius Jackson  

So, something has to happen. It’s just a matter of what. You can choose to believe the Celtics aren’t actually trying to make a blockbuster move. Or you can choose to believe the signals that have been firing off this month from the Celtics themselves indicating they’re “not done.”

It wouldn’t be difficult for the Celtics to get closer to 15 players by completing a blockbuster trade for a player like Griffin.
 
Perhaps some combination of veterans (Amir Johnson, Avery Bradley, and Jonas Jerebko) with youth (Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, and James Young) and draft picks (2018 Nets pick) could bring in Griffin and Paul Pierce.

Saturday’s moves make sense regardless of any transactions to follow.

Zeller is a bargain at just $8 million as a steadying presence on both ends of the floor. But, if Johnson were dealt, he’d be able to slide right up the depth chart as the team’s backup center.

Green shot 37.2 percent on spot up threes, per SportVU, over the past three years, so he provides spacing as a scorer who can catch fire. Considering Brad Stevens’ track record of sapping every ounce of talent out of each of his players -- hello, Jordan Crawford! -- it’s possible the Celtics will be getting the Green who scored an efficient 15.8 points per game just two years ago in Phoenix, and not the subpar Green who struggled to stay on the court last year in Miami.

If one or two of Boston’s young wings were dealt, Green, on a mere veteran minimum contract, would have an even easier path to playing time as a spark off the bench.

It’s difficult to read into the signings of second-round picks Jackson and Bentil, but either way the should both spend the season developing with the Celtics’ D-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.

The Celtics haven’t made a move yet, but they also haven’t done anything to suggest they’re entirely done. These moves could be precursors to something significant, or not. But at the least they provide depth to an already impressive roster.

OFFSEASON

Report: Celtics agree to deals with Zeller and picks Jackson, Bentil

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Report: Celtics agree to deals with Zeller and picks Jackson, Bentil

On a busy Saturday for the Celtics, they have brought back center Tyler Zeller and agreed to deals with draft picks Demetrius Jackson and Ben Bentil, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe reported.

Earlier Saturday, Sean Deveney of the Sporting News reported that the Celtics will sign guard Gerald Green. 

Himmelsbach reports that Zeller's is a $16 million, two-year deal with the second-year not guaranteed. Jackson, the point guard from Notre Dame who was the 45th overall selection in the draft, has a guaranteed deal and Bentil, the forward from Providence who was the 51st player drafted, has a partially guaranteed deal. 

Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald reported that the second-year of Zeller's deal is a team option and that Green agreed to a one-year deal at the $1.4 million veteran mininum based on his nine years of NBA service.

The 7-foot Zeller averaged 6.1 points and 3.0 rebounds in 11.8 minutes a game last season. 

R.J. Hunter, James Young, Bentil and John Holland are in position to fight for the final roster spot, Himmelsbach reports, pending more deals, which the Celtics are reportedly working on. A source told Himmelsbach, that while there are probably changes coming, "There is no big deal right now." 

Bulpett reported that Celtics' talks with the Philadelphia 76ers involving a deal for Sixers' big man Jahlil Okafor have, according to sources, grown "stale" and that the moves Saturday put 2014 draft pick James Young's roster spot in jeopardy.

With Green, Zeller, and No. 3 overall pick Jaylen Brown, the Celtics have has 15 guaranteed contracts and three partial or non-guaranteed deals.