Big Four put on show in possible finale

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Big Four put on show in possible finale

BOSTON The Boston Celtics' Big Four won't be back at the Garden for more than two weeks.

And with the NBA trading deadline on Thursday, there's no guarantee when the C's do return, that the Big Four of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo, will all be back.

Well if this was going to be the last game played at the Garden by the Big Four, they certainly gave the fans in attendance something to remember with a 104-86 thumping of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Allen and Pierce led the way with 22 points each. Garnett, who only played 21 minutes, made all five of his field goal attempts and finished with 10 points and eight rebounds. Rondo, who played just 26 minutes, had eight points and five assists as the C's (21-18) won their fifth straight at home and improve their post all-star break record to 6-1.

Boston began to pull away in the first quarter after a lay-up by Garnett tied the game at 10.

From there, the C's went on an 8-0 run and took a double-digit lead into the second quarter.

Boston has one of the NBA's stingiest defenses.

But to start the second quarter, forget about being in shut-down mode.

The C's were more like in shut-out mode as they opened the third with a 16-0 run which propelled a comfortable win into an all-out crushing of a Blazers (19-21) team that has lost five of its last six games.

Portland got the lead down to 18 points in the fourth, but a jumper by Avery Bradley pushed the C's lead to 94-74, with 4:35 to play.

It was the kind of bounce-back performance that the Celtics certainly needed as they head out on an eight-game road trek that begins in Los Angeles on Sunday.

And while the mood among the players is certainly upbeat and optimistic, there's still the possibility that any member of the team - including the Big Four - won't be with the C's when they return home to face Washington on March 25.

While president of basketball operations Danny Ainge as well as head coach Doc Rivers have repeatedly said that there's no deal imminent, neither would rule out the possibility that a deal could be struck between now and the March 15 deadline.

And while players talked about the importance of chemistry and how difficult it can be to achieve, Rivers told Ainge to not worry about chemistry concerns if he can upgrade the roster, talent-wise.

"I'm not concerned with it, as far as on the floor," Rivers said. "Whoever we bring in, would have had one less practice than probably all of us, really. I told him (Ainge), 'if you think you can get a better talent this year, then the chemistry thing, is off.' Just go out and that's dangerous to tell Danny."

Stars, studs and duds: Olynyk finding his stride off Celtics bench

Stars, studs and duds: Olynyk finding his stride off Celtics bench

BOSTON – It’s easy to forget that Kelly Olynyk went several months without doing anything basketball-related as he was on the mend from shoulder surgery.

His return had its share of ups and downs, but it seems the 7-foot center has found his stride and he’s making opponents pay for it.

For the second time in as many games, Olynyk came up big for the Celtics as Boston continued on its winning ways with a 108-98 win over Charlotte.

Olynyk, who scored a season-high 26 points in Boston’s win at Atlanta on Friday, had an efficient 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting against the Hornets on Monday.

Assertive. Aggressive. Contract year.

It doesn’t matter how you describe what or why Olynyk is ballin’ so hard lately.

The point is he’s doing it a better job of recognizing opportunities to make plays and executing whatever role he’s being asked to play.

“Just feeling good with the second unit,” Olynyk said. “I’m just trying to be aggressive and help the starters out.”

In the past, teams have mixed up their defensive coverages on Olynyk which frequently left him being guarded by a quicker but smaller player, or a big man with limited mobility.

Often Olynyk settled for long range shots and 3’s, regardless of the defender.

But as we’ve seen the last couple of games, he has hurt teams with his scoring around the rim which has in turn opened things up for his teammates or himself.

“We need him to play like that all the time,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “When he’s aggressive, looking for his shot, shooting open shots, even getting in there getting rebounds, offensive put-backs, that only helps us as a unit. And he’s done a great job of that the past couple games. We need that from him.”

And as he gets further removed from his offseason surgery, opportunities for him to be an impactful player for Boston will only grow.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Monday’s game.

 

STARS

Isaiah Thomas

The Celtics win, and Isaiah Thomas has another offensive flurry in the fourth quarter. So what else is new? He led all scorers with 35 points which included 17 in the fourth quarter.

Kemba Walker

He’s still playing at a level that puts him in the All-Star conversation, but it’s not going to happen with the Hornets continuing to struggle. They’ve lost five in a row now despite Walker’s 24 points on Monday.

 

STUDS

Al Horford

Boston is playing more inside-out basketball of late, and that’s opening things up for both Horford and his teammates. Against the Hornets he had 22 points on 8-for-14 shooting along with six rebounds and four assists.

Kelly Olynyk

For the second straight game, Olynyk had a strong, impactful performance for the Celtics utilizing his strengths as a perimeter threat and a 7-footer who can take advantage of smaller defenders around the rim. He finished with 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting to go with nine rebounds, four assists and a steal.

Marvin Williams

He was the only other Hornet besides Kemba Walker who really impacted the game significantly. Williams had 21 points on 8-for-14 shooting which included 3-for-6 shooting from 3-point range.

Jae Crowder

The 6-foot-6 Crowder continues to have a sneaky-good season for the Celtics, particularly with his 3-point shooting which ranks among the league leaders. On Monday he had 15 points which included a trio of 3-pointers to go with seven rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot.

 

DUDS

Nicolas Batum

Avery Bradley put most of his effort and attention into defending Batum and man, did it ever pay off. Batum grabbed 10 rebounds, but wound up missing nine of his 11 shots from the field to finish with just four points.