Celtics cut down Nets in fourth quarter, 94-80

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Celtics cut down Nets in fourth quarter, 94-80

By JessicaCamerato
CSNNE.com

BOSTON - Doc Rivers had his concerns about Wednesdays game against the New Jersey Nets.

It wasnt because the Boston Celtics were hampered by injuries or the fact that the Nets pulled off an upset last season at the TD Garden.

Rather it was because it was February 16 - their final contest before the All-Star Break.

I always call this the one individual game of the year, because its the game before All-Star Break and both teams have just too much stuff, he said prior to the game. The Nets probably have plans, guys are leaving out tonight or tomorrow, and our guys are doing the same thing so its a single-game focus. Im more concerned about that.

The Celtics' 94-80 victory wasnt pretty but it wasnt expected to be, given the circumstances. Paul Pierce led all players with 31 points and Kevin Garnett recorded a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds). Brook Lopez led the Nets with 18 points.

Listen, every games not going to be beautiful, said Rivers following the win. You would love to blow every team out - thats not going to happen. Its the NBA. We just want to win the game.

The Celtics starters kicked off the game like they were ready to quickly wrap up a win. Pierce, who scored just one point against the Miami Heat on Sunday, recorded 10 points in the first 11 minutes. The Celtics led by 15 with 2:29 to go before the Nets began to fight back. They went on a 10-2 run in the final two minutes to trail, 27-22, at the end of the first quarter.

The first quarter we came out very explosive, said Kevin Garnett. You could tell right away that we were trying to get this game out of the way.

After a poor shooting performance by the Celtics in the second quarter (37.5 FG), they were outscored 24-19. Brook Lopez, who made just one basket in the first quarter, finished the half with 10 points. The Nets tied the game, 46-46, at halftime.

The offensive woes continued for the Celtics in the third quarter as they shot 7-for-21 from the field. While they tied the game up three times, they failed to connect on go-ahead baskets and found themselves tied, 70-70, heading into the fourth quarter.

With their shots inconsistent, the Celtics turned to their foundation - defense.

I was upset at halftime because I thought our starters came out with unbelievable spirit to start the game, and then our second unit - and it happens - our second unit watched how much we were scoring and they forgot that the reason we were scoring was because we were playing such great defense, said Rivers.

The entire team was on the same page to finish up the game. Even with Pierce and Rajon Rondo playing less than five minutes in the fourth quarter, the Celtics held the Nets to only three field goals.

The Cs, on the other hand, began knocking down three-pointers and getting to the line - 10 of their 24 points in the final 12 minutes came from free throws. The Celtics outscored the Nets by 14 in the final quarter for their 40th win of the season.

They improved to 25-5 at home, passing last season's win total at the TD Garden.

We realized how close the game was and we needed to get it done, said Glen Davis. We cant play like that. Being the last game of the first half of the season, we needed to leave a better impression on what we have to do, because this next half, we need to go. We cant slip up in game we need to win. We need to win them.

The Celtics next game is February 22 against the Golden State Warriors in California.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter athttp:twitter.comjcameratoNBA

Tanguay: Celtics should roll the dice on Dragan Bender

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Tanguay: Celtics should roll the dice on Dragan Bender

Danny Ainge recently hinted on Toucher & Rich that the Celtics were interested in drafting Dragan Bender.

And they need to do exactly that. 

No, I'm not crazy. Neither is Danny.

Drafting Bender is the Celtics' best option. As Ainge pointed out, his job is to make the move that's best for the team. Not just for the short term, but for the long haul.

Now, I can't say I've been to Croatia to work out Bender. Like many of you, I 've only seen him via the Internet.

It is easy to look at him and think he’s a project. That’s because he is. He’s 18 and, even though he's 7 feet tall, he only weighs about 220 soaking wet. He's a kid, too skinny at the moment for the NBA, and would no doubt get killed if you put in the post today.

And, like I said, I'm not crazy. I'm not committed to Bender. If  Sacramento calls and offers Boogie Cousins for any combination of picks the Celtics have, the deal should be made immediately. To a degree, I feel the same way about Jimmy Butler. However, the consensus is those two players aren't going anywhere. (And even if they are available, suppose the Lakers decide to dangle the No. 2 pick for either of them? That would make a trade nearly impossible for Boston.)

But if the Celtics keep the third pick -- and he isn't taken by either Philly or L.A. (highly unlikely) -- Dragen Bender should be Ainge's choice. And it will be the right move.

Let’s break it down.

There's just no one else in this draft with Bender's upside. Buddy Hield is a 22-year-old shooting guard who completely disappeared in the NCAA championship game. He has a shot to be a very good NBA player, but he won’t transform the organization. Neither would Jamal Murray from Kentucky. Nor Kris Dunn from Providence.

The risk for Bender is HUGE. The reward is even HUGER. Ah, that’s not a word, right? Well then, BIGGER THAN HUGE! Or HUGEST!

Bender could be that guy.

And, I also admit, he also wind up playing in Europe or Israel.

Still, Danny has to roll the dice on this guy.

Bender can handle the ball, block shots, shoot the 3, and -- like all European players -- is fundamentally sound. The issue for this kid is toughness in the low post and getting stronger. I put my money on Celtics strength and conditioning coach Bryan Doo to get him ready for NBA life.

And I'm not one those boneheads who are pushing for Bender because Kristaps Porzingis has worked out for the Knicks. One has nothing to do with the other. For every Porzingis there's at least one Stojko Vrankovic. Or Darko Milicic.

Take Bender, Danny. In two years this guy may have gained 15 to 20 pounds of muscle, learned the rigors on and off the court of the NBA, and look like the next Porzingis, Or Dirk Nowitzki or Porzingis. Then use the other two Brooklyn first-round picks, and the Celtics could be back on their way to greatness.

But if you play it safe, Danny, and don't take Bender, the Green will simply be stuck in the mud of mediocrity.  

Ben Bentil ready for opportunity to showcase his talents in the NBA

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Ben Bentil ready for opportunity to showcase his talents in the NBA

BOSTON – Opportunity.

Ben Bentil learned at an early age to recognize it and in doing so, make the most of it when it presents itself.

That’s how a 15-year-old kid from Ghana, who grew up wanting to be a professional volleyball player at one point winds up playing basketball and soccer at one of the most prestigious boarding schools in the United States (St. Andrews School in Wilmington, Del., which is where the move Dead Poets Society was filmed in 1989).

That’s how that same kid goes from being a role-playing freshman at Providence College last season, to the Big East’s leading scorer a year later – and doing so in the shadows of Kris Dunn, a high-scoring guard who is a consensus top-10 pick in next month’s NBA draft.

“I’m glad I had the best point guard in the country on my team,” Bentil, who averaged a Big East-leading 21.1 points per game this past season for Providence, told CSNNE.com. “We took advantage of it.”

And with the June 23 NBA draft on the horizon, Bentil once again finds himself in position to make the most of an opportunity that so few saw coming this quickly in his career.

“It’s been an unbelievable journey,” said Bentil who averaged 6.4 points and five rebounds per game as a freshman.

A journey that by all accounts is far from over.

Prior to deciding to stay in this year’s draft, the sophomore big man wanted to see how he stacked up against other draft hopefuls at the NBA pre-draft combine in Chicago. He took advantage of a new rule that allows college players to participate in the combine and return to college if they don’t sign with an agent.

This would prove to be yet another opportunity that Bentil made the most of.

In his first game, he had 15 points and 11 rebounds in just 20 minutes.

The next day he had 17 points and six rebounds in just 19 minutes.

Those strong performances combined with really good feedback from NBA executives at the combine and afterwards, made Bentil’s decision to stay in the draft a no-brainer.

A league executive contacted by CSNNE.com in reference to Bentil said he’s “a solid second round pick now,” adding, “and could work his way into the late first-round depending on workouts.”

A second league executive contacted by CSNNE.com via text on Tuesday morning echoed similar sentiments.

“Good second round pick,” the text read. “Could impress teams, play his way into mid-to-late 20s of first round.”

That jibes with the factors Bentil said would likely need to be in place for him to stay in the draft.

“If I know I’ll go in those ranges, I’ll probably stay in,” Bentil said.

In addition to his scoring and rebounding, Bentil also eased the concerns a number of teams had about his size.

At the combine he measured out at 6-8 ¼ with a solid 7-1 ½ wingspan. In addition, Bentil’s hand length was 9.50 inches, which tied 7-footer Dedric Lawson for the longest hands at the combine. Bentil also showed his shooting touch from the perimeter as he knocked down 14-of-25 NBA 3s taken from five different spots on the floor.

And at Providence, the Friars did a lot of switching defensively which often meant Bentil had to guard smaller, seemingly quicker players – the kind of challenge he’ll face in the NBA where teams live on a healthy diet of pick-and-roll sets.

Knowing that Bentil has the quickness to hold his own defensively on switches and the length to where being undersized won’t be as big a detriment as feared on the boards or in getting his shots off offensively, Bentil finds himself in good shape to take advantage of what should be increased opportunities leading up to next month’s draft.

Bentil worked out for five teams initially, but a representative with Octagon basketball told CSNNE.com that Bentil’s list of teams to work out for will be expanded. In addition, Octagon has a pro workout day this week with several teams (the Celtics are expected to be among them) having representatives in attendance to watch the workouts of Octagon clients.

And that will present yet another opportunity – there’s that word again – for Bentil to showcase his talents.