Celtics fall to Pacers as Rondo returns, 107-100

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Celtics fall to Pacers as Rondo returns, 107-100

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

INDIANAPOLIS There were plenty of plays that could sum up the kind of night it was for the Boston Celtics.

But none drive the point home more than the uncontested lay-up by Darren Collison with less than a minute to play that essentially sealed the 107-100 victory for the Indiana Pacers

The Celtics were collectively a step slow in rotating on that play, and many others all game.

"We couldn't get a stop all game," said Paul Pierce. "In the most important part of the game, the fourth quarter, we couldn't get a stop right there."

If it were a one-game thing, fine.

Chalk it up to being one of those nights.

But the problems Boston has had, especially defensively, is raising the kind of concerns that no team should be having this late in the season if it's serious about winning a championship.

"It's a weird time to be talking about this," Pierce said. "It's nine games to go in the season. This is the type of stuff you talk about at the beginning of the year. We're about to go into the playoffs. We shouldn't be talking about this stuff."

The mounting losses to teams that are either out of the playoff picture or barely hanging on has created a mixture of disappointing and frustration that seems to be permeating throughout the locker room.

"I'm frustrated when we lose," Pierce acknowledged. "I'm frustrated with the inconsistency we're playing with. It's the little things that frustrate me, things that I know this team can do because we did it all year long. And then we wait until the last 10 games to start regressing."

And that regression is coming at a time when the Celtics (51-22) are in no position to give games away.

Boston's loss, combined with Chicago's loss to Philadelphia keeps the C's two games behind the Bulls for the best record in the East.

However, the Celtics are now tied with Miami for the second-best record in the East. If the two were to finish with the same record, the C's would get the higher seed because they've already won the head-to-head matchup by beating the Heat in each of their first three matchups this season.

But the Celtics have more pressing matters than to worry about their playoff seeding.

First they must make it through the regular season with some semblance of improved play.

And it's no secret that it's the Celtics defense, more than anything else, that has to get better soon.

Despite the changes made in recent weeks to the roster, the Celtics stick to their belief that the foundation for their success is still built upon their play defensively.

"I know we're dealing with different issues here, but we are a defensive team," said Kevin Garnett. "We have to get back to that; start getting back into a rhythm whatever that may be."

Boston also needs to get Rajon Rondo to start playing like the Rajon Rondo we saw at the start of the season who was a dark horse MVP candidate.

After missing Sunday's game at Minnesota because of right pinkie finger injury, Rondo convinced coach Doc Rivers and the medical staff that he was fit to return against the Pacers.

Rondo erupted for 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting to go with 8 assists and 4 rebounds.

"That's how he has to play every night," Rivers said. "He attacked. His speed was a factor. We haven't seen that in a while, and that's terrific."

Not so terrific of late has been the Celtics defense, especially when it comes to defending the lane.

Although Boston had as many points (42) in the paint as the Pacers, there was no mistaking the dominating impact that Indiana 7-footer Roy Hibbert had on the Celtics and the game as a whole.

He finished with a game-high 26 points, benefiting heavily from the few Celtics big man available, getting into foul trouble.

Both Garnett and Nenad Krstic were in foul trouble most of the night, which limited their impact on the game and, even more important, the amount of time Rivers could use them.

Foul trouble. Injuries. New guys. Old guys. New roles.

All have been factors of late in the Celtics' late-season swoon.

But in terms of their concern level, the Celtics' struggles defensively has been arguably the most difficult challenge for this team to stomach - and as of late, get past.

"It's frustrating, for lack of a better word," Garnett said of the team's defensive problems. "We put ourselves here. Just like we put ourselves here, we'll take ourselves out of it."

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

Celtics work out Finney-Smith, five others on Wednesday

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Celtics work out Finney-Smith, five others on Wednesday

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Boston Celtics brought in six players for workouts on Wednesday. Here’s a glimpse at each player, all of whom are considered potential second-round selections or prospects likely to go undrafted.
 

Dorian Finney-Smith

6-8, 220, Florida

Position: Forward

Summary: Was second-team All-SEC by coaches and third-team all-conference by the AP. Led Gators in scoring (14.3) and rebounds (8.3) for the second and third consecutive seasons, respectively.

Projected draft status: Second round.

 

Quincy Ford

6-8, 225, Northeastern

Position: Guard/Forward

Summary: Averaged 16.4 points, 7.0 rebounds while shooting 34.8 percent on 3s. Underwent season-ending back surgery that sidelined him for the 2013-2014 season. Bounced back with a pair of solid seasons, the last of which earned him a spot of on the NABC All-District Second team as well as the All-CAA Second team.

Projected draft status: Late second, undrafted.

 

Marcus Georges-Hunt

6-5, 216, Georgia Tech

Position: Guard

Summary: Averaged 16.7 points, shooting 45.4 percent from the field while dishing out a team-high 3.3 assists per game. Has a knack for getting to the free throw line, evident by him ranking 13th in free throws made and 18th in free throw attempts.

Projected draft status: Undrafted, maybe late second round.

 

Sheldon McClellan

6-5, 200, Miami

Position: Guard

Summary: A transfer from Texas, McClellan averaged 16.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists for Miami this past season while shooting 50.4 percent from the field and 40.6 percent on 3s. Has a lot of tools that are intriguing to the NBA, but consistency and decision-making are areas of uncertainty about where he’ll eventually land.

Projected draft status: Second round pick.

 

Mike Tobey

7-0, 260, Virginia

Position: Center

Summary: Turned a few heads during Portsmouth Invitational when he averaged 12 points per game. Appeared in all 37 games this season with Virginia, but only had seven starts. Shot a team-best 60.1 percent from the field and was second on the team with 22 blocked shots.

Projected draft status: Undrafted.

 

Jameel Warney

6-8, 260, Stony Brook

Position: Power forward

Summary: The best player in Stony Brook history, Warney was a double-double machine this season in which he averaged 19.8 points and 10.8 rebounds to go with 3.0 blocked shots. An Honorable mention All-American, Warney was the America East Player and Defensive Player of the Year. Does not have much of a face-the-basket game but does provide a nice strong presence defensively.

Projected draft status: Second round to undrafted.

Draper: Better financial option for Durant to stay in OKC one more year

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Draper: Better financial option for Durant to stay in OKC one more year

A. Sherrod Blakely and Kyle Draper discuss the chances the Boston Celtics land Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler or DeMarcus Cousins.

Celtics begin working out draft prospects Wednesday

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Celtics begin working out draft prospects Wednesday

BOSTON – The Celtics’ practice facility will become a basketball port-of-call in the coming weeks as some of the best young talent passes through, all with the goal of doing their best to impress the Celtics’ brass.

Austin Ainge, the Celtics’ director of player personnel, said Boston will begin working out players on Wednesday with the first group consisting of six players - two guards, two forwards and two big men.
 
“We’ll put them through a lot of different situations,” Ainge, who declined to identify the six players working out on Wednesday, told CSNNE.com. “We’ll see how bigs are at guarding guards, and guards defending bigger players, some of the roles they would have to play if they were Celtics…We’ll get a good look at what they can do in a lot of different scenarios.”
 
With eight draft picks [three in the first round and five in the second], the list of players making the rounds will likely be longer than usual.
 
Ainge said he anticipated the Celtics will work out 80-100 players, which is slightly more than they usually do.
 
“With trades, you just never really know,” Ainge said. “So we try to work out players all the way through 60.”
 
Speaking of trades, Ainge anticipates the Celtics will be on the phone more than past years because they have so many picks and, by all indications, do not plan to use them all.
 
If Boston can’t package some of their picks to acquire more talent, the Celtics will look even closer than usual at drafting players from overseas with the intent that they don’t join Boston’s roster for a couple of years.
 
Because Boston has so many picks, you would think they would be in position to be more selective than past years when it came to who they brought in for workouts.
 
“With our picks, it is in a player’s best interest to work out for us,” Ainge acknowledged. “But for us, we want to see as many players as possible so that we can draft the best fit, the best player that’s available.”
 
The draft lottery later on May 17 will determine exactly where the Celtics will be selecting with the pick they acquired as part of the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce trade with Brooklyn in 2013.
 
Boston acquired three picks as part of the trade. They used the first one to draft James Young two years ago.
 
This past season, Brooklyn (21-61) finished with the third-worst record, which gives Boston a 15.6 percent chance that the Nets pick it receives will be the No. 1 overall selection. 
 
If Boston lands one of the top-two picks, a workout with LSU’s Ben Simmons and Duke’s Brandon Ingram – the consensus top-two players in this year’s draft – is likely. And if the Celtics wind up with the No. 2 pick, they might work out Dragan Bender who is the top overseas prospect in this year’s draft.
 
In addition to the Brooklyn pick, which will be no worse than the sixth overall selection, Boston has another pair of first-round picks (16th and 23rd overall), along with five second-round picks (31st, 35th, 45th, 51st and 58th), at their disposal.