Celtics lose to Nets as third-stringers blow lead in final minutes

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Celtics lose to Nets as third-stringers blow lead in final minutes

BOSTON Every now and then, Paul Pierce reminds us all why he's considered a professional scorer.

It took him just 12 minutes to drop 20 points on the Brooklyn Nets.

Even with a big scoring game from Pierce and the Nets playing without their big Three - Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace and Joe Johnson - the C's still couldn't put Brooklyn away as the Nets rallied in the closing minutes for a 97-96 win.

Brooklyn closed out the game by scoring seven of the game's last eight points for the win as the C's had their core guys on the bench while most of their end-of-the-bench players saw some mop-up duty.

Boston (1-4) had multiple chances to squeak out a victory in a game that they controlled for most of the night, but continued to come up short.

With 27 seconds to play, the C's had the ball and trailed 96-95.

Following a time-out, Jason Collins was fouled with 23.8 seconds to play.

Collins made the first free throw, but missed the second which was rebounded by the Nets with 22.9 seconds to play and the score tied at 96.

Brooklyn's Stephen Dennis was fouled going to the basket with five seconds to play.

He missed both free throws, but Nets big man Mirza Teletovic grabbed the rebounded and was immediately fouled by Rob Kurz.

Teletovic made the first of two free throws as the C's grabbed the loose ball and called a time-out with 3.6 seconds to play.

Following the time-out, Courtney Lee's lob attempt to Micah Downs failed as the ball sailed out of bounds with 1.3 seconds to play.

The C's had one last shot to steal back the game, but Kris Joseph's desperation heave was well off the mark as time expired.

Boston opened the with a 9-2 run, but soon saw their lead - and control of the game - swing in Brooklyn's favor as the Nets outscored them 23-12 to end the first with a 25-21 lead.

The second quarter was one in which the C's played from behind most of the quarter, but a barrage of jumpers by Paul Pierce brought the Celtics back and eventually propelled them to a 49-47 lead at the half.

Pierce's hot hand didn't cool off in the third quarter as Boston pushed its lead to double digits before settling on an 83-74 lead going into the fourth quarter.

He led all scorers with 29 points that came in just 27 minutes of action.

In addition to Pierce, Boston also got a nice scoring lift from Courtney Lee who has had his problems shooting the ball throughout the preseason. He finished with 13 points, five of which came in the third.

Orchestrating all this hot shooting for the C's was Rajon Rondo, who was having a very Rondo-like night in putting up numbers in several categories. Although he scored just five points, he also grabbed five rebounds and dished out a game-high 11 assists.

Boston's strong play in the third came with head coach Doc Rivers back in the locker room where he was presumably watching the game on TV, or he may have done a little channel surfing and checked out the second presidential debate.

Regardless, the Celtics once again showcased how diverse they can be with their lineup.

But with Kevin Garnett back on the floor (Rivers gave him the night off on Monday because of Boston's back-to-back games), the Celtics had an edge about them that only Garnett and his presence can provide.

So when you take strong play defensively and add Pierce knocking down open and contested shots, the Celtics are a tough team to beat - preseason or not.

Did Suns ask Josh Jackson to cancel his Celtics workout to keep him from Boston?

Did Suns ask Josh Jackson to cancel his Celtics workout to keep him from Boston?

BOSTON – It appears there may be an answer to the mystery surrounding Josh Jackson’s decision to not work out for the Boston Celtics leading up to Thursday’s NBA draft.

While conventional wisdom tells us that such decisions are often made by the agent who in this case is former NBA player B.J. Armstrong.

Boston instead selected Jayson Tatum at No. 3 with the Phoenix Suns scooping up Jackson with the No. 4 pick.

MORE: Danny Ainge on Josh Jackson: 'He didn’t want to play for the Celtics'

During Jackson’s introductory press conference, there was a sense that it wasn’t necessarily Armstrong who strong-armed Jackson into not working out for the Celtics. But apparently, he got an assist from Suns General Manager (and ex-Celtics assistant GM) Ryan McDonough.

A reporter asked McDonough if Phoenix may have encouraged Jackson to cancel his workout with the Celtics who were flying into Sacramento, Calif. to watch Jackson workout only for it to be canceled after they had departed which as you can imagine, did not go over well with Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations.

“I’d like to consult my attorney B.J. Armstrong (Jackson’s agent),” McDonough said, smiling.

The more McDonough talked, the clearer it became that he and Armstrong were in cahoots to do all they could to get Boston to pass on Jackson at No. 3 which as McDonough mentioned, doesn’t break any rules.

“You guys all know my history with the Celtics and the respect I have for Danny Ainge and the organization,” McDonough told reporters on Friday. “But I think you guys who know me well know how competitive I am. Look, it is a competition. The Celtics were ahead of us at No. 3 and they could have selected whoever they wanted to. I think they got a very good player in Jayson Tatum, but that doesn’t mean B.J. and I and … other members of my staff couldn’t talk and try to formulate the best plan to get a player we were really high on to a place we felt he really wanted to go and would be a great fit for him.”

McDonough is right in that no rules were broken if he and Armstrong did decide to work together in an effort to get Jackson to Phoenix.

But to cancel the workout after the Celtics executives and head coach Brad Stevens had left, forcing them to spend a night on the road for a workout that Jackson’s camp probably knew wasn’t going to happen well before the Celtics contingent boarded for Sacramento … not cool.

Here are words I thought I would never say … the Ball clan got it right.

They told Boston from the jump that Lonzo Ball wasn’t going to work out for them, so the Celtics knew he didn’t want to be a Celtic from the very beginning.

Jackson’s actions said the same, but his words kept hope alive that he would work out or at the very least, talk to the Celtics organization – neither of which happened.

He kept referring to the fact that he didn’t think Boston was interested in him when they had the number one pick (that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if they asked him to work out for them; otherwise, what’s the point from the Celtics'  perspective of asking to work out a guy they had no interest in drafting?)

After they traded down to the number 3 pick, a deal that was cemented last weekend, Jackson said there wasn’t time to do a workout for Boston.

The draft was nearly a week away and he didn’t have time to work out for a team that had the third pick overall knowing that the top two picks (Markelle Fultz at No. 1 and Lonzo Ball at No. 2) were essentially accounted for?

“If I could have, I probably would have worked out for them,” Jackson said (with a straight face). “But I think everything worked out for the best.”

Yup.

Boston will once again be among the better teams in the East and will contend for the best record like they achieved this past season before their season ended in the Conference finals to Cleveland. 

Jackson will spend his rookie season playing a lot of minutes with a Suns team that probably won’t win as many games as he did a year ago at Kansas (33).

Enjoy.

Report: Celtics could land George if they sign Hayward

Report: Celtics could land George if they sign Hayward

As rumors swirl in this post-draft, pre-free agency week for the NBA, Adam Kaufman of 98.5 The Sports Hub reported Friday that the Celtics could land long-rumored target Gordon Hayward AND trade for Paul George. And Kaufman says George would be more than just a one-year rental.

Kaufman elaborated on a possible George deal on his "Celtics @ 7" show Saturday. He said the trade with the Indiana Pacers wouldn't cost Boston next year's Brooklyn pick, rather it would be the first-round pick (Lakers 2018 or Kings 2010) acquired this week from the Philadelphia 76ers when Boston traded down the No. 1 for No. 3, along with Jae Crowder and another salary filler. 

MORE CELTICS: 

Before you run out and buy that No. 13 Celtics Paul George jersey, Dan Feldman of NBCSports.com explains how financially disadvantageous it would be for George - long thought to want to head to the Lakers - to do this.