No more denying Rondo's an improved shooter


No more denying Rondo's an improved shooter

BOSTON Even with a fourth all-star berth under his belt, even with his impressive field goal percentage this season, teams still aren't convinced that Rajon Rondo has turned into a decent perimeter shooter.

While pouring in a season-high 30 points in Boston's 100-99 overtime loss to Chicago, Rondo shot 12-for-21 from the field with most of his shots made being jumpers.

Rondo played with the kind of aggressive demeanor offensively that was needed on a night when the Celtics just couldn't get much offensive punch from the bench or from most of the starters.

That is, everyone except Rondo.

While he remains a pass-first point guard, he continues to blossom into a more reliable scorer who can also score with jumpers, too.

"I thought he kind of surveyed the game and thought, 'I have to go get this for us,"' Rivers said. "And I thought he did that with his speed."

And the C's needed every point he could muster up with so many core guys struggling.

That's why Rivers had no problem with Rondo being more of a scorer on Friday.

"Guys were struggling; you could see Kevin (Garnett) early missing shots but playing hard. Paul (Pierce) ... he (Rondo) saw that and went and got points. I thought tonight was exactly what he should have done."

Rivers said opponents do recognize that Rondo's shooting the ball better than he has in past years from the perimeter.

"They don't believe it," Rivers said. "At the end of the day, that's not going to change this year. He can make 30 in a row, and that's not going to change."

That's not a problem for Rondo who came into Friday's game as the third-highest shooting percentage among guards in the NBA, and is currently shooting 49.6 percent from the field.

Celtics guard Courtney Lee remembers how his former teams in Houston, Orlando and New Jersey, would prepare to face Rondo and the C's.

"When we played against him, we wanted him to shoot the jump-shot," said Lee, who added that Rondo's play of late will change that.

"Teams are going to have to start respecting it," Lee said. "Because he's been putting in a lot of work after practice. I try to be the last one out of there, but he's in there shooting shots, too. You can see it's paying off."

Rondo said he wasn't surprised that teams continue to give him open looks from the perimeter.

"I just try to take what the defense gave me," said Rondo, who has had 13 games in his career of 25 or more points with four coming against the Bulls. "Our bigs got the rebound out to me early in transition, I was able to attack and create cross-matches were (Joakim) Noah or (Carlos) Boozer were picking me up. I just try to use my speed to go past those guys."

Not only does Rivers not anticipate teams changing up their approach to Rondo now, he believes the same strategy will apply to whoever the C's might face in the playoffs.

"That's just how our league works. You have to make them a believer for about year before they believe it."

Bradley could miss 'a little more time' with Achilles injury

Bradley could miss 'a little more time' with Achilles injury

BOSTON – Wednesday’s 117-106 loss to the New York Knicks was the fifth time in the last six games that Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley was out because of a right Achilles injury.

Well, it appears the 6-foot-2 guard may miss a few more with this injury.

“I can see him missing a little more time,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said following Wednesday’s loss. “I just think maybe he came back a little bit too early, whatever the case may be.”

Bradley was expected to play against the Knicks, but was a last-minute scratch.

Celtics big man Al Horford said he didn’t find out Bradley was out until the team was on the floor doing pre-game warmups and he didn’t see him.

“He was really sore,” Stevens said of Bradley. “Went through our walk-through and then came on to the court and did some stuff and was more sore today than he has been. I think he did treatment the whole game.”

This latest setback for Bradley is part of a growing narrative that has dogged him throughout his career which has included him missing games to injury in each of his six-plus NBA seasons.

Bradley came into this season once again hoping to be as injury-free as possible, only to see that dream dashed with this right Achilles strain he's suffering with currently.

Still, there’s no downplaying the significance and value the Celtics have in the 26-year-old. This season, he is second on the Celtics in scoring at 17.7 points per game and leads them in rebounds with 6.9 per game with both being career highs. In addition, he averages just under 35 minutes per game which is also tops on the team.

Marcus Smart has been Stevens’ choice to replace Bradley in the starting lineup when Bradley has been unavailable, and that’s not likely to change between now and Saturday’s home game against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Horford on rough night vs. Knicks: 'They deserved to win. They played better'

Horford on rough night vs. Knicks: 'They deserved to win. They played better'

BOSTON – With the night’s outcome all but a foregone conclusion, Al Horford’s last basket of the night got a sarcastic round of applause and a few jeers from the few fans that decided to stick it out for the final few seconds of Boston’s 117-106 loss to the New York Knicks.

Horford finished with a season-low five points for the Celtics (26-16).

Connecting on just 2-for-14 (or 14.3 percent) of his shots also represented the worst shooting night percentage-wise in Horford’s nine-plus NBA seasons.

“I struggled bad offensively,” said Horford who still managed to dish out a game-high 10 assists. “I tried to do anything I could to help us. It just wasn’t going for me.”

But as poorly as Horford shot the ball, he was more bothered by his defense and for that matter the Celtics’ team defense.

New York came into Wednesday’s game having lost 11 of its last 13 games and spent most of the night playing like a team that’s thirsty for a win.

They shot 50.5 percent from the floor, 40 percent on 3’s and dominated the glass 57-33 which helped fuel New York’s 24-12 advantage in second-chance points.

“We have to do a better job of holding teams to one shot,” Horford said. “That’s the first thing. I have to do a better job at protecting the rim. I know I can recall a couple instances where I needed to be there and I wasn’t impacting the ball as much as I would like to. I know I have to be better on the defensive end.”

Horford’s struggles on many levels mirrored the problems experienced by the rest of the Celtics.

“They punked us,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who led all scorers with 39 points. “They were the harder playing team on both ends of the floor. That was the definition of this game; they played harder than us.”

For most of the night, the New York Knicks were making all the big plays defensively and clutch shots offensively while the Celtics consistently failed to get that one defensive stop or knock down the one jumper that could have at least shifted the game’s momentum closer to being in their favor.

Boston rookie Jaylen Brown believes the Celtics didn’t take the struggling Knicks as seriously as they should have.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Brown who came off the bench to score 12 points for Boston (26-16). “It’s a game we should have won. We underestimated our opponent. We are a better team than that even though we played bad we still had a lot of opportunities to win the ball game.”

Horford had a different take on how things went down on Wednesday.

“I don’t think we overlooked them,” Horford said. “But I think we kind of … consciously or not, we felt we were going to win this game like, ‘We’ll struggle a little bit, but we’ll figure it out and win it.’ It didn’t work like that. In the fourth, we were right there. They made a couple shots. They deserved to win. They played better.”

And as the Celtics found themselves on multiple occasions having a chance to tie the game or take the lead in the fourth, it would have been fool’s good if they somehow managed to squeak out a win on Wednesday night.

“We didn’t deserve it,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder who had 21 points. “When you don’t deserve it, the basketball gods don’t bless you.”

But there’s plenty of season left to be played, and the Celtics – as we saw on Wednesday – have plenty of room for improvement.

Especially Horford, particularly when it comes to getting back on track shooting the ball.

“It was at the point where I didn’t have it,” he said. “That was tough. So I tried to impact the game in other ways whether it was setting screens or giving people shots, stuff like that. That was definitely tough for me because they were good looks. They just didn’t go in.”