Celtics outshine Lakers in L.A., 109-96

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Celtics outshine Lakers in L.A., 109-96

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

LOS ANGELES Paul Pierce has been at his best in the biggest games for the Boston Celtics.

Sunday was no different, as the Captain led the way in Boston's 109-96 win over arch-rival Los Angeles Lakers.

It was Boston's first time at the Staples Center since losing in Game Seven of the NBA Finals.

Regardless of that last meeting, there's always added significance to the game whenever these two longtime rivals face each other.

"These type of games, you love to be in," Pierce said. "It feels good when you come out with a win."

And Pierce's play had a lot with the Celtics pulling away in the second half.

He had a team-high 32 points, which included a 14-point outpouring of offensive juice in the third quarter that washed away whatever control of the game the Lakers enjoyed.

"I was able to just run the break, and Rondo just really kicked it ahead," Pierce said. "I was moving without the ball, really getting myself open. Just try to move without the ball, get out on the break, find the cuts, get to open spots, and Rondo and the other guys made the extra pass and I was the recipient of it."

As well as Pierce shot the ball, he wasn't the lone player putting up big numbers.

Kobe Bryant had it going offensively as well, leading all players with 41 points. He became the first player this season to score 40 or more points against the Celtics.

Even as Bryant continued to drain one shot after another, Celtics coach Doc Rivers didn't seem overly concerned.

Why?

Because even as Bryant was going off, the rest of the Lakers were, well, off.

Bryant's 41 points came on 16-for-29 shooting from the field. The rest of the Lakers shot a combined 20-for-52 from the floor.

"I didn't think anybody else wanted the ball," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. "We did run a couple other plays to get guys into position, but I thought those times he had the best opportunities when other people were moving to the ball. But, a lot of times it didn't look like we were running anything out there offensively."

Boston continued to switch defenders on Bryant, but it didn't matter.

Bryant, who did not tally a single assist, was not going to be stopped.

"I told them, 'Don't overreact to Kobe. Kobe's Kobe,' " Rivers said. "We knew that before the game. He's not going to change. He's going to be great tonight, tomorrow and the next day. So don't overreact to that."

While there was a stretch in which Ray Allen (21 points) seemed to limit Bryant's effectiveness, Rivers was quick to caution to not read too much into that stretch of play.

"Right before Ray went out, Kobe was starting to get it going on him," Rivers said. "And we put Paul on him. Kobe is good. You can't keep one guy on him; just the look of a different guy helped."

Boston had a bunch of players who looked quite different than the guys who struggled the last time the C's were in this building.

In the Game Seven loss, the Celtics were horrific on the boards as the Lakers out-rebounded them by 13.

On Sunday it was the exact opposite, with the Celtics holding a 43-30 edge on the glass.

"Defensively and rebounding, were the key," Rivers said. "We held our own on the glass. And then our execution offensively, was . . . when you saw us play the last two games and you saw us play tonight, you don't think that's the same two teams."

Another change from the last time they played in the Staples Center, was the Celtics got some much-needed offensive firepower from the bench.

In the Game Seven loss, Boston's second unit only scored a total of six points, all by Glen Davis.

On Sunday, it was a different game, different story.

Davis, who was questionable leading up to the game because of a sore right hamstring, came off the bench and scored 13 points.

"It was a big game," Davis said. "It hurts a little bit, but if you can run, why won't you play?"

He wasn't the only Celtic giving the C's a lift off the bench.

Nate Robinson, who came into the game having missed 20 of his last 29 shots from the field in Boston's previous four games, had 11 points off the bench on 4-for-7 shooting from the field.

But against the Lakers, you can never be comfortable with a lead as long as Bryant is on the floor.

After a lay-up by Rajon Rondo gave Boston an 89-80 lead, the Lakers countered with a 7-2 run which included all seven points being scored by Bryant.

Rivers has seen Bryant when he gets on a roll like that, which is why he called a time out with 5:19 to play in hopes of cooling him off.

It worked.

Kevin Garnett nailed a jumper.

And after a defensive stop, Davis completed a 3-point play to give Boston a 96-87 lead with 4:29 to play.

The Celtics weren't done.

Another defensive stop allowed the Celtics to get out in transition.

That's when Rondo, who tallied 15 of his game-high 16 assists in the second half, connected with Kevin Garnett on a lob pass for a lay-up that gave the C's a comfortable 98-87 lead.

"We got the ball in Rondo's hands. He's the playmaker," said Garnett, who had 18 points and 13 rebounds for his 15th double-double this season.

And the Celtics continued to play their best against the best teams.

But in terms of what Sunday's win will mean to this rivalry, or even more significant, a potential meeting in the playoffs?

Not a whole lot.

"It's two good teams," Rivers said. "Both of us have to play better if we want to see each other again in the Finals. We're both winning games, but honestly, we both have to be better teams than we are."

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

Phil Jackson: Knicks' biggest mistake was not trading for Jae Crowder in 2014

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Phil Jackson: Knicks' biggest mistake was not trading for Jae Crowder in 2014

Knicks president Phil Jackson’s biggest mistake? Taking the job in the first place?

Well, besides that. Jackson tells Today’s Fastbreak that it was not getting Jae Crowder when he had the chance.

Here’s Jackson quote, part of a long interview with Charley Rosen: 

"I think my biggest mistake was actually this…One of the first deals I engineered when I came back to New York was to trade Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas for Shane Larkin, Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, plus a second-round pick that the Mavs owed to the Celtics. In talking with Boston, I was given the option of taking that pick or else taking Jae Crowder. I liked Crowder but I thought he wouldn't get much of a chance to play behind Carmelo, so I took the pick, which turned out to be Cleanthony Early. While Cleanthony has missed lots of time in the past two seasons with us, he still has the potential to be a valuable player. Even so, I should have taken Crowder."

Jackson’s timeline is actually a little off. The Chandler and Felton to the Mavs deal was actually in June 2014. The Celtics, of course, acquired Crowder at the December 2014 trade deadline in the deal that sent Rajon Rondo to the Mavericks. Still, you get the point. Jackson covets Jae Crowder, who has proven to be a little more valuable than Cleanthony Early. And, in light of where NBA salaries have gone, the five-year, $35 million deal Crowder signed with the Celtics last offseason now seems like one of the biggest bargains in the NBA. 

 

 

Can Jerebko parlay playoff starts to a bigger role with Celtics?

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Can Jerebko parlay playoff starts to a bigger role with Celtics?

Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Tyler Zeller. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON – Considering all the different storylines that developed among the Celtics at the end of last season and this summer, it’s easy to forget that Jonas Jerebko was in the starting lineup.

With sporadic minutes in the regular season, Boston found itself trailing the Atlanta Hawks 2-0 in their best-of-seven playoff series.

So what did coach Brad Stevens do?

He shook up the starting lineup by inserting Jerebko. who helped Boston even up the series at two games apiece before the Hawks bounced back and ended the Celtics season after six games.

Those last four games against the Hawks – the only games Jerebko started all season - served as a reminder to many that the 29-year-old could still be an impact performer.

It was the kind of run to close out the season that Jerebko will certainly be focused on trying to build upon this season.

The ceiling for Jerebko: Starter

While he will likely begin the season as a reserve, Jerebko will certainly come into camp with a little more bounce in his step courtesy of a strong showing in the playoffs.

After averaging just 4.4 points and 3.7 rebounds in 15.1 minutes in the regular season a year ago, Jerebko became a major force in the playoffs for Boston.

In his first game as a starter, Jerebko had a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds as Boston won Game 3, 111-103.

He was even more impactful 48 hours later with another a second straight double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) in yet another Celtics victory.

The Hawks made some adjustments in Games 5 and 6 to close out the series, but it wasn’t before Jerebko had put together the best postseason stretch of his career.

Compared to the regular season, Jerebko more than doubled his playing time in those final four games by averaging 31.3 minutes to go with 11.5 points and 7.8 rebounds.

Jerebko will be hard-pressed to return to that role at the start of this season.

Boston signed Al Horford to a four-year, $113 million contract, so you know he’s starting.

And Amir Johnson’s defense and ability to run the floor so effectively will likely result in him resuming a starting role, too.

That leaves Jerebko joining what looks to be a very talented and deep Celtics bench.

Even though he’s unlikely to start, Jerebko will get his share of opportunities to play.

At 6-foot-10, Jerebko has the size to play both power forward and center. And depending on the opposing team’s lineup, Jerebko has the potential play some small forward as well.

It was that versatility that made Stevens turn to Jerebko in the playoffs last season to replace Jared Sullinger, who signed with the Toronto Raptors in the offseason.

And while the idea of Jerebko as a starter seems a bit far-fetched at this point, he is yet another Celtics reserve who has proven himself to be ready to play and play well when given an opportunity to step on the floor regardless of what that role may be.

The floor for Jerebko: Seldom-used reserve

Despite a strong finish last season, Jerebko will once again have to fight and claw for any minutes on the floor. While the Celtics certainly were aided by his versatility, this season’s roster has a number of players who, like Jerebko, can play multiple positions at both ends of the floor.

NBA veteran Gerald Green is 6-8 and will play shooting guard and small forward. But depending on the lineup, it’s not a stretch to envision him playing some power forward. Ditto for rookie Jaylen Brown and starting small forward Jae Crowder sliding up one position.

Beginning the season on the rotation fringes is nothing new to Jerebko, whose role was very much up in the air when the Celtics traded Tayshaun Prince to Detroit prior to the 2015 trade deadline for Jerebko and Gigi Datome.

Gradually, Jerebko earned his minutes and proved he was indeed a valuable piece of what Stevens and the Celtics were trying to build here in Boston.

And now, with a season-plus of time with the Celtics under his belt, Jerebko finds himself once again being challenged to show that he’s more than just a body on the roster.

 

Report: Celtics renounce draft rights to 2013 pick Colton Iverson

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Report: Celtics renounce draft rights to 2013 pick Colton Iverson

By Dan Feldman, NBCSports.com Pro Basketball Talk

The Celtics bought the No. 53 pick in the 2013 NBA draft to get Colton Iverson out of Colorado State, and he thanked them by allowing them to keep his rights the last three years.

Iverson rejected the required tender – a one-year contract, surely unguaranteed at the minimum, teams must extend to retain exclusive negotiating rights to a second-round pick – year after year to sign overseas. Accepting the tender would’ve likely meant Iverson going to Boston’s training camp and getting waived. Perhaps, the timing of that would’ve limited his European options that year. But it would’ve made him an NBA free agent – or, best-case scenario, he could’ve made the Celtics and drawn an NBA paycheck.

As it was, Iverson limited himself to joining Boston and only Boston. If another NBA team wanted Iverson, it would have had to trade for him.

And what does Iverson get for that loyalty? A Celtics contract with at least a partial guarantee?

Nope.

Just a head start on finding another team – which he could’ve gotten for himself three years ago.

Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe:

This is why second-round picks should be more aggressive about accepting the required tender. Even if you get waived, you open NBA options.

Iverson is a strong 7-foot center who plays with physicality. He can help in certain matchups, and he’d make sense as a third center on teams that have first- and second-stringers playing a different style.

But Iverson is 27, and his NBA window may be closing if it hasn’t already.

It’s a shame he spent so many years beholden to Boston, which didn’t want him.

It was probably just courtesy of the Celtics to renounce his rights now rather than have him sign the tender. They would have guaranteed him no money with the tender, and they could have gotten a few minor benefits with it – an extra body for training camp, the ability to assign his D-League rights to their affiliate after waiving him and the slightest chance he impresses enough in the preseason to hold trade value.

But them forgoing those potential advantages, even if out of courtesy, also sends a signal about how little they value him. Teams don’t do these types of favors for players they actually covet.