OFFSEASON

Celtics lose fifth straight, 89-86 to Knicks

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Celtics lose fifth straight, 89-86 to Knicks

BOSTON There was more passion, more fire, more of everything that Doc Rivers has been imploring the Boston Celtics to bring to the floor for weeks.
Sadly, it still wasn't enough as the New York Knicks pulled away in the second half for a 89-86 win.
New York pulled ahead 80-70 in the fourth, looking as though they were ready to put the C's away and the Celtics at that point, seemed more than willing to oblige.
But the Celtics started making shots, which as we've seen, is usually followed by better defense.
It shouldn't be that way, but it is what it is.
With Rajon Rondo leading the way, the C's went on a 12-4 run to come within two points.
A tip-in by New York's Tyson Chandler made it a four-point game, only for Rondo to come back with a pair of free throws to cut New York's lead to 86-84.
Rondo was getting it done on the defensive end as well, drawing an offensive foul against Carmelo Anthony with 1:53 to play.
The C's couldn't capitalize on the turnover, as the Knicks eventually got a 3-pointer from J.R. Smith with 1:11 to play to lead, 89-84.
Smith's shot was huge, but the hero for New York was Anthony, who just used and abused the Celtics defenders most of the night with either the pull-up jumper or driving to the basket before finishing with a game-high 28 points.
Even with Anthony having a big game, Boston had its chances afterward.
A Rondo jumper followed by a Jason Kidd miss, gave the Celtics a chance to tie the game with 13.1 seconds to play.
Following a Celtics timeout, Paul Pierce lost the ball out of bounds with 7.1 seconds to play.
Making matters worse, the C's could not get close enough to any of the Knicks players as time expired, a sequence that reinforced the fact that the C's continue to fail at executing effectively in late-game situations.
Pierce led the C's with 22 points -- only 3 in the second half -- while Rondo collected his 27th career triple-double with 23 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.
Boston (20-22) has now lost five straight for the first time this season, and just the third time (twice last season) since the 2008 title run.
With so much attention paid to the post-game events in their Jan. 7 matchup involving Anthony and Kevin Garnett, it took much of the attention off what was a game that both teams desperately needed for different Knicks.
New York (26-14) came in atop the Atlantic Division by half a game, with the Brooklyn Nets nipping at their heels. The Celtics came in having lost four in a row and were looking to avoid a five-game losing skid.
Both teams delivered the kind of high intensity play that kept the game relatively close in the first quarter which ended with the Celtics ahead 24-20.
One of the keys to Boston's slim lead was what turned out to be a near-perfect quarter with the C's committing zero turnovers.
The second quarter did not go quite as well for the Celtics, with the Knicks going almost exclusively with multiple zone coverages.
Rather than attacking the interior of the zone, the C's relied on what they have relied on all season -- jumpers.
And has been the case often this season, those shots were off the mark which allowed the Knicks to spend a good chunk of the second quarter with a lead.
Boston eventually snapped out of his jump-shooting trance and began to try and score around the basket, or penetrate and kick out for what were open shots.
That was hit and miss for the C's, but the driving to the basket led to a surprisingly high number of free throw attempts.
But it was New York's work from the free throw line that proved to be the difference in the half, which ended with three made free throws by the Knicks which put them ahead, 50-48, at the half.
For Boston, Pierce was having a big night with 19 points in the first half, which was more points scored by the Captain than he had in each of the C's previous four games - all losses.
Boston pulled ahead 66-65 on a Jeff Green 3-pointer in the third quarter, but the Knicks closed out the third with a 7-0 run and the C's spent the rest of the game playing from behind.

OFFSEASON

Report: Celtics make qualifying offers to Zeller, Sullinger

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Report: Celtics make qualifying offers to Zeller, Sullinger

All the free-agent focus on the Celtics has been on players -- Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard -- who they might bring in. But they have players they might lose, too.

One, of course, is Evan Turner, who's an unrestricted free agent, free to sign to anyone after July 1. But they also have two others, Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger, who could have joined Turner on the completely open market if they didn't tender them qualifying offers.

Yesterday, according to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, they did just that:

Zeller and Sullinger are still free to solicit offers. But, because they made the qualifying offers, the Celtics have the right to match any deal the two might receive and keep them in Boston.

OFFSEASON

Blakely: Boston becoming a favored destination for free agents

Blakely: Boston becoming a favored destination for free agents

BOSTON -- In some circles the pursuit of Dwight Howard by the Boston Celtics is just as perplexing as Boston being one of the six teams getting an audience with Kevin Durant and, with that, a shot at the Durant sweepstakes this summer. 
 
Both serve as examples of how the Celts are no longer at the back of the line when it comes to being a potential destination for the best free agents. 
 
Of course it’s about sealing the deal, and getting the best free agents on the market under contract, and all that good stuff.
 
But before that can happen, Boston has to be seen as a place to even be seriously considered by free agents. That's exactly what we’re starting to see happen right now.
 
It’s easy to point to the Celtics having a ton of salary cap space, which in itself makes them a possible landing spot for players who we all know will be hauling in max to near-max salaries this offseason.
 
But there’s just one problem with that line of thought. More than half the league enters free agency with enough money to sign one max player.

The fact that Boston is on the short list for the summer’s top free agent (Durant) and have already secured a sit-down with one of the top centers (Howard) says a lot in terms of how far Boston has come in the eyes of players. 
 
And several factors point towards the Celtics getting an audience with other top-shelf free agents this summer if they fail to secure one or two of their top choices.
 
But let’s not kid ourselves. How others view this franchise is the reality of what the Celtics have to deal with when it comes to adding elite, upper-echelon talent like Durant. 
 
The fact that Durant is willing to include Boston in his short-list of teams is a bit of a head-scratcher when you see that the Celtics are the farthest away from the group in terms of competing for an NBA title (although an argument can be made that they are neck-and-neck with the Miami Heat along those lines). Durant has said in the past that would be something he would be looking for in whatever team he signed with.
 
The biggest selling point the Celtics have to offer Durant or any other free agent (besides money) is that they are a franchise on the rise, they have stability on the floor with Brad Stevens as the head coach, and they have stability in the front office with Danny Ainge. Both Stevens and Ainge signed long-term extensions earlier this month. 
 
And one of the perks that players who come to Boston quickly discover is the fan base, which is about as rabid a group as you'll find in the NBA.
 
There’s no mistaking they wear their emotions on their sleeves, whether it’s cheering the team on following a season-ending playoff loss, or booing the owner after the team makes a draft pick they don’t particularly care for. 
 
They bleed green!
 
Add all those things up and it’s clear that Boston has the kind of environment, the kind of culture, where a star can come and thrive. 
 
The Celtics and their fans have known this for a while.
 
Now it seems some of the game’s best players are starting to catch on, as well.

OFFSEASON

Is it curious that Kevin Durant is even giving the Celtics an audience?

Is it curious that Kevin Durant is even giving the Celtics an audience?

Mike Felger, Dan Shaughnessy and Glenn Ordway wonder why the Celtics are even getting a meeting with Kevin Durant when free agency begins. Does it mean they have a legitimate chance of signing him?