Rondo: "We want to build on this game"

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Rondo: "We want to build on this game"

BOSTON -- Rewind 48 hours.

Rajon Rondo stood in the Boston Celtics locker room following the team's fourth straight loss. He talked about the team's lack of defense and trust in one another. He didn't have an explanation for it, but knew they needed to find a solution.

On Friday night, he delivered a different message. Following the Celtics 94-75 win over the Indiana Pacers, he spoke about improved D, a collective team effort, and players stepping up on the court.

"It was a good team win for us tonight," said Rondo (18 points, seven assists, five rebounds). "We did a pretty good job defensively. I think we held them to 35 percent in the first half, forced some turnovers. I've got to do a better job of taking care of the ball in the second half, but other than that, we got what we wanted offensively. We weren't standing around tonight, we had a lot of different play calls, different guys were aggressive, and we played well together."

The Celtics improved to 15-17 and showed progress in their victory. Avery Bradley played his second game since returning from double-shoulder surgery, scoring six points in 23 minutes and giving Rondo another tenacious backcourt counterpart.

"He's the best on-ball defender in the league," Rondo said of Bradley. "I let him pick up (D.J.) Augustin and he turned the game around. His energy picked up, we got a lot of deflections in the first half, created points for our offense."

Rondo also credited the Celtics bench, who maintained the lead when Kevin Garnett was ejected (Flagrant 2 Foul) in the fourth quarter. Noteably, Courtney Lee scored 13 points in 23 minutes, Jared Sullinger grabbed 10 rebounds in 30 minutes, and Leandro Barbosa chipped in six points in as many minutes.

"We're a really bad team if we couldn't hold a lead in the fourth quarter, and they didn't have their starters in either. But nevertheless, I don't want to discredit our bench," he said. "Courtney played great for us tonight, LB (Leandro Barbosa) came in and gave us some energy, and (Jared Sullinger) Sully fouled out but he played big in the stretch when he was in the game. It was a collective team effort tonight. We played great as a team and we've got to continue to build on this win."

The Celtics will face the Hawks in Atlanta on Saturday, where they are looking to continue their momentum before playing the Knicks in New York on Monday. They know there is still work to be done.

"We want to build on this game," said Rondo. "But it's only one game."

Lowe: Wouldn't be shocked if C's move Bradley

Lowe: Wouldn't be shocked if C's move Bradley

Zach Lowe’s most recent podcast is worth a listen, as it features plenty of talk about what the Celtics may or may not due ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline. 

Lowe brought up the possibility of the Celtics top-1 or top-2-protecting Brooklyn’s first-round pick and including it in a deal for Butler. He surmises that the inclusion of the Brooklyn pick -- protected or not -- might not come until the final minutes. 

“Look, if Butler gets traded or if Paul George gets traded, that’s when it’s going to happen,” Marc Stein responded. “It’s going to happen in the last five to 10 minutes, so Boston has to make a decision, and let's see if they’re doing the math that they’ve had these assets for a while and it is time to do something bold and the time is now. Really, I think Boston will do it. The question is what will Chicago or Indiana do? And those are two hard reads.” 

Stein spoke to the Celtics’ lack of activity at certain points, but he said that if the C’s do fail to come away with a star player Thursday, it won’t be for lack of aggressiveness. 

MORE TRADE TALK

“I think the Celtics are taking criticism for waiting, and they’ve had all these assets they haven’t moved yet, but I think the record shows that Danny Ainge in general, in total, is very aggressive, not afraid to roll the dice, not afraid to make the aggressive move,” Stein said. “So I have less doubt about Boston saying, ‘Let’s just do it.’ I have far more questions about what Chicago and/or Indiana would do.” 

Lowe said that he imagines the Bulls would “think about” trading the C's Butler if Boston threw in the Nets’ pick unprotected, but added that Chicago would demand to also take two players out of Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown. 

“I think that will be the offer and they’ll get there and Chicago will either have a moment where they say, ‘We walk away or we’ll do it.’ And Boston’s not going to throw in the other Nets pick,” Lowe said. “That’s just not going to happen.”

Rating the aforementioned foursome in terms of trade value, Lowe said that Crowder is the best piece because of his “ridiculously good” contract, followed by Brown, Smart and Bradley. 

Lowe added that he considers Bradley one of the “sneaky interesting pieces at this trade deadline” because his contract is up after next season, which is the same time that Isaiah Thomas’ contract expires. Lowe says that given the uncertainty of his future in Boston, he wouldn’t be overly surprised if Bradley is moved at the deadline. 

Report: Ainge wouldn't trade Nets pick for Butler, but would for George

Report: Ainge wouldn't trade Nets pick for Butler, but would for George

Will the Celtics part with the right to Brooklyn’s 2017 first-round pick in order to get a star before Thursday’s trade deadline? 

MORE TRADE TALK

Citing a pair of NBA executives, Frank Isola of the New York Daily News wrote this week that Danny Ainge’s willingness to trade the pick should be in doubt.

Sola named Chicago’s Jimmy Butler and Paul George as potential targets, adding that the C’s might include the latter.   

Wrote Isola: 

Two executives doubt that Ainge, who historically plays it close to the vest, would give up the Nets pick in a deal for Butler. However, Ainge might consider it in a trade for George, the Pacers-free agent-to-be who has expressed doubts over re-signing with the Pacers.

‘With Danny, no one ever knows what he might do,' said the executive. ‘He's one of the best. If he thinks he can make a run at the Cavs this season, considering all the injuries Cleveland has had, I can see him making a move.

‘Everyone is talking about Butler to Boston but Danny and Larry Bird go way back. Paul George could be the sleeper.’

This season, the 26-year-old George is averaging 22.3 points 6.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists a game.