Talking Points: Celtics 91, Knicks 89

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Talking Points: Celtics 91, Knicks 89

BOSTON Point guard Rajon Rondo told CSNNE.com that whenever he returned to the Boston Celtics lineup, he would be a mere shell of himself for a while.

He wasn't kidding.

Rondo, back in the starting lineup after missing eight straight with a right wrist injury, was among the Celtics to pick his game up in the second half as the Celtics rallied for a 91-89 win.

There were a bunch of big shots down the stretch for Boston, but none bigger - or as improbable - as Paul Pierce's 24-foot heave with 14.4 seconds to play.

On the shot, Pierce was stripped by Iman Shumpert. In the mad scramble for the ball, Pierce came up with it and just launched a shot towards the basket in hopes of beating the shot clock.

The shot seemed too good to be true.

And after the officials reviewed the play, apparently it was.

The replay showed Pierce got it off a split second after the shot clock expired.

That put the pressure to win on the Celtics' defense, which came through with just enough stops to extend their home court dominance over the Knicks to 10 in a row.

With the win, Boston (12-10) now finds itself two games over .500 for the first time this season, while the Knicks (8-15) continue to struggle having now dropped 11 of their last 13 games.

Much of the focus coming into the game was on Rondo, whose return seemed inevitable based on his participation in the C's shoot-around on Friday morning. He finished with seven points, seven assists and five rebounds.

As much as the attention leading up to the game was on his wrist, all eyes soon fell on him because of a different injury.

It was his right eye, which apparently got a little too close to Shumpert which resulted in a swollen eye that made Rondo look like Little Mac from Nintendo's Punch-Out.

Banged up wrist. A right eye that was blackening with each passing second.

It wasn't Rondo's best look.

And for most of the first half, it wasn't one of Rondo's better games, either.

Boston trailed 55-49 at the half, and Rondo had one point and three assists.

The second half saw a more aggressive Rondo, whose scoring helped the C's cut into a New York lead that reached double digits.

Boston found itself within one possession after a Chris Wilcox put-back basket as the third quarter came to an end.

The C's inched a little closer when Brandon Bass made a pair of free throws to cut New York's lead to 77-75.

Boston got even closer with a pair of Wilcox free throws that tied the game at 77 and later, a Bass jumper to tie the game at 79.

That's when the Big Three took over, with a Ray Allen 3-pointer giving the C's an 82-79 lead that it was able to maintain for the rest of the game.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Raptors missing Lowry in first half

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Raptors missing Lowry in first half

TORONTO -- Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half which ended with the Boston Celtics ahead 55-45 over the Toronto Raptors.

STARS

DeMar DeRozan

Playing without Kyle Lowry (right wrist), DeRozan made the most of what, not surprisingly, were a few more shot attempts. He led all scorers with 19 first-half points on 7-for-13 shooting.

Isaiah Thomas

The strong play by Thomas prior to the All-Star break, hasn't gone anywhere. He led the Celtics with 11 points in the first half on 3-for-7 shooting along with four assists.

 

STUDS

Jonas Valanciunas

Boston had problems throughout the first half keeping him off the boards as he tallied five points and a game-high six rebounds.

Jaylen Brown

The rookie showed a heightened level of maturity at both ends of the floor, scoring 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting.

 

DUDS

Corey Joseph

We all know he's not Kyle Lowry, but he has to do a better job of filling in for the All-Star than what we saw in the first half if the Raptors are to have any shot at rallying tonight. He was scoreless in 17 minutes, missing all three of his shots from the field. 

Olynyk staying active, hopes to continue recent success on the boards

Olynyk staying active, hopes to continue recent success on the boards

TORONTO – Kelly Olynyk has a diverse skillset, one that has made him a fixture in the Boston Celtics’ rotation.

Boston has come to expect him to provide some offense and good playmaking, but lately he has given them what they desperately need – rebounds.

While this is still Boston’s greatest weakness, the recent play of Olynyk when it comes to the boards provides a glimmer of hope that maybe just maybe, rebounding won’t be such hindrance to this group.

Boston (37-20) will certainly need that tonight as they take on the Toronto Raptors, a team that got a lot stronger with the addition of Serge Ibaka – another really good rebounder – from Orlando shortly before the trade deadline.

As for Olynyk, he attributes his recent success on the boards as just being more active once the ball is in the air.

In addition, he’s tired of hearing about how bad the Celtics have been on the boards.

They come into tonight’s game ranked among the league’s bottom-10 in just about every rebounding statistical category of note.

* Rebounds per game (41.2, 28th in the NBA)

* Rebound percentage (.479, 27th)

* Defensive rebound percentage (.747, 29th)

“We’ve struggled rebounding all year,” Olynyk said. “I’ve focused my game of late to help shore up that. It’s just a matter of being more active, put your work in early, get the initial contact and get guys off.”

In Boston’s last eight games, Olynyk has averaged 7.0 rebounds per game while still scoring at a decent 13.6 points per game clip off the bench.

For the season, he’s averaging 9.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.

Of course, you can’t count on Olynyk to take on the lion’s share of the rebounding for the Celtics.

But to his credit, he’s finding a way to do a better job on the glass of late compared to how he has fared overall this season.

And by doing so, it gives Celtics Nation hope that the team’s front office made the right decision to keep this group intact rather than go out and trade for a rebounding big man.

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, has expressed concern that adding a player whose strength was rebounding only might do more harm than good due to its impact on an offense that ranks among the league’s best this season.

Olynyk echoed similar sentiments.

“We’re second in the East now, a couple games back and on a good roll with great chemistry. Everybody likes each other, playing for each other,” Olynyk told CSNNE.com. “That’s a rarity sometimes. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it."