East All-Stars fall short in flashy affair, 148-143

191544.jpg

East All-Stars fall short in flashy affair, 148-143

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

LOS ANGELES Teamwork. Crisp ball-handling. Defense.

Keeping with what has been an All-Star game tradition, you didn't find any of those traits in heavy supply on Sunday.

So it should come as no surprise that the Boston Celtics' All-Star quartet had little impact as the West held on for a 148-143 win.

Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo were all All-Stars prior to Sunday's game.

Their success in Boston has been due in large part to their collective efforts, and not necessarily because of their individual skills.

NBA All-Star games are not conducive to players who are at their best in a team-oriented system.

"It's more of a pick-up game setting," said Pierce, playing in his ninth All-Star Game. "It's kind of hard. You're not in a system. You're in a free-flowing game. Usually it's made for the better athletes, the guys that can get up and dunk and put on a show."

That certainly was what the Staples Center crowd got from one of their own, Kobe Bryant.

Bryant finished with 37 points and 14 rebounds, and was an obvious choice in claiming his fourth All-star game MVP award.

"Let's be honest, Kobe had it going, to say the least," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, the head coach of the Eastern Conference squad.

As for the Celtics' fantastic four, Rondo had the best game statistically.

He finished with eight assists and six points. Allen led all Celtics in scoring, with nine points. Pierce chipped in with six points.

One of the few Celtics highlights came in the fourth when Garnett, who had four points and five rebounds, grabbed a rebound and launched a long outlet pass to Allen who soared in for a dunk.

For Garnett, Sunday's game was his 14th consecutive All-Star appearance, which ties an NBA record he now shares with Jerry West, Karl Malone and current Celtics teammate Shaquille O'Neal.

"To be in your prime and play All-Star caliber basketball is a compliment to you and your work ethic," Garnett said. "I'm just fortunate I was here with three others, coaching staff and guys in the organization. If this is the last one, couldn't go out a better way."

Aside from Rondo, there's no telling if any of the other three Celtics will ever be back as All-Stars.

Allen has shown no signs of slowing down anytime soon, but you have to believe at some point Sugar Ray's jumper won't be nearly as sweet as it is. Pierce is getting up in age, and his game will also likely undergo a decline in the coming years. Ditto for Garnett.

But for one night, in Los Angeles of all places, the four pillars to the Celtics' resurgence played on the grandest stage of them all.

And while it certainly would have been nice if one or all of them put up big numbers, that's never been their style since donning a Celtics uniform.

Boston has been so successful because despite their immense talent, each has sacrifice some facet of their game in order to help the C's remain a title contender.

When you spend years making those kind of sacrifices, it's hard to imagine tossing that to the side for one night.

So as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James (29 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists) battled it out for the All-Star Game MVP award, you could find Garnett and company on the bench, cheering on their rent-a-teammates like James and New York's Amar'e Stoudemire (29 points, six rebounds).

And while all involved agree that the free-flowing nature of the game didn't necessarily jive with what the Celtics do best, that shouldn't detract from what will surely be a memorable weekend.

"I'm just trying to enjoy myself, enjoy the moment," Rondo said. "I'm just trying to enjoy myself."

Having three teammates there, plus the entire Celtics coaching staff, certainly helped.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Clutch plays down stretch help Celtics hold on for 104-98 win over Pistons

Clutch plays down stretch help Celtics hold on for 104-98 win over Pistons

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – The fourth quarter rolled around and the Boston Celtics got something they seldom get at that time – big plays made by someone not named Isaiah Thomas.

A 3-pointer from the corner by Jaylen Brown and a hustle play by Marcus Smart proved to be the difference for Boston as they held on for a 104-98 win over the Detroit Pistons.

Trailing 96-95, Brown drained a 3-pointer and was fouled on the play.

On the miss, Smart grabbed the rebound and was fouled.

Smart, who had 14 points and five assists, made both free throws that put Boston up 100-96 with 37.3 seconds to play.

The Pistons would never get any closer as the Celtics (38-21) snapped a two-game losing streak and just as important, won the head-to-head series three games to one.

While it’s unlikely these two will finish the regular season with an identical record, the Celtics need to win as many head-to-head battles in the East as they can just to make sure they don’t run into a situation like they did last year when they finished in a four-way tie and ultimately wound up as a fifth seed.

Despite winning three of the four meetings this season, the Pistons (28-31) never make it easy.

A strong finish in the third quarter had Detroit trailing Boston by just five points going into the fourth. It soon became a one-possession game after Jon Leuer short jumper.

Smart got the Celtics on the scoreboard in the fourth by draining a jumper while being fouled by Andre Drummond. The 3-point play put the Celtics ahead 82-76 with 9:41 to play.

Detroit responded with an 8-2 spurt to tie the game at 84-all following a lay-up by Jon Lauer with 6:03 to play.

Boston scored four of the next five points to regain their lead, but there was no mistaking the Pistons were not going away anytime soon.

Throughout the fourth, Detroit began to get more of the 50/50 balls, resulting in second and third-shot opportunities which for several stretches proved to be the best play call for the Pistons.

Boston’s biggest weakness against Detroit, rebounding, was alive and well and as problematic as ever.

But the Celtics did just enough when it mattered to more than hold their own on the boards.

They finished +6 (51-45) on the boards against Detroit, leading after each quarter of play.

Detroit tied the game at 88 on a 3-pointer from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope that rattled in with 3:55 to play.

Not surprisingly, the Celtics got the ball in Isaiah Thomas’ hands and he soon put Boston back on top 90-88 following a pair of free throws.

Detroit went ahead 93-92 following a trio of free throws by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope only for a Marcus Smart put-back basket put the Celtics back on top.

Caldwell-Pope wasn’t done. He drained a 3-pointer that put the Pistons (96-94) back on top with 2:08 to play.

Boston led by as many as 15 points, but saw their lead all but wiped away by the time the fourth quarter rolled around.

Detroit, picking up its overall aggression and efficiency scoring the ball, were within 70-66 in the third before a turnover led to a Jae Crowder lay-up with about three minutes to play in the quarter.

Boston began to surge away with Terry Rozier draining a 3-pointer followed by a pair of free throws that put the Celtics ahead 78-69 with 1:32 to play in the third.

It was yet another example of the ‘Next-Man-Up’ mantra that has been instrumental to Boston being able to sustain one injury after another.

Rozier’s role was increased in part because of his play, but also because of Gerald Green’s heel injury. He would finish with 13 points off the bench.

But the Pistons continued to prove to be pesky bunch as they chipped away at Boston’s lead which stood at 79-74 going into the fourth quarter.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Rough start for Al Horford

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Rough start for Al Horford

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of tonight’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Detroit Pistons in which the Celtics lead 54-50.

 

STARS

Isaiah Thomas

At the half he led all scorers with 16 points coming on 6-for-10 shooting from the field.

Reggie Jackson

The former Boston College star has been a main cog in the Pistons’ offense tonight, leading them with 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting with five assists.

 

STUDS

Marcus Morris

He was relatively quiet most of the first half, but came up with a last-second 3-pointer that sent the Pistons into the half with some momentum to cap off a 15-9 run to end the quarter.

Jaylen Brown

Boston is looking for a steady No. 2 scorer to compliment Isaiah Thomas, and Brown was that guy throughout most of the first half. He finished with nine points on 4-for-5 shooting to go with three rebounds.

Amir Johnson

The former Piston looked very much at home around the rim in the first half, scoring just four points but grabbing seven rebounds in addition to dishing out two assists.

Andre Drummond

He had six points and six rebounds in the first half, but didn’t really dominate the way you would expect from the best big man in the building. Boston didn’t give him too many looks at the basket, and when they did they fouled him. He went to the line for five free throws in the half, and missed all of them.

 

DUDS

Al Horford

Boston has made getting him the ball tonight a priority, and the four-time All-Star is simply not finishing off plays. Credit Detroit’s defense which has contested most of Horford’s shot attempts. That said, he has to deliver more offensively than the two points he scored while missing eight of his nine field goal attempts.