Without Rondo, Celtics fall to Nets 102-97

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Without Rondo, Celtics fall to Nets 102-97

BROOKLYN, NY Well the Boston Celtics got an eyeful of what a Rajon Rondo-less game would look like on Thursday night in Brooklyn.
It wasn't pretty, folks.
But give the Celtics credit.
They battled until the absolute bitter end of this game.
However, their efforts weren't enough as the Nets held on for a 102-97 win over the C's that snapped Boston's three game winning streak.
After a 6-0 spurt by Brooklyn broke open an 87-all tie with 1:45 to play, Boston ran off five straight -- including a 3-pointer by Jeff Green -- that cut the Nets lead to 93-92.
Deron Williams sank a pair of free throws with 43 seconds to play after driving into the lane and drawing a foul. He finished with 24 points and eight assists.
Down 95-92, Doc Rivers called a time-out.
Paul Pierce drove into the lane and was fouled, and nearly had a 3-point play opportunity had his shot taken one or two friendly bounces.
Not only did he miss that shot, but he missed both of his free throws with 34.5 seconds to play that kept the C's deficit at three points. Pierce led the C's with 22 points.
A pair of Joe Johnson free throws were followed by a Pierce 3-pointer with 24 seconds to play that made it a 97-95 game.
The C's could never get any closer than a two-point deficit for the rest of the game.
With Rondo out, there was an opportunity for a number of Boston players to contribute in ways that they hadn't before.
And while a number of them did just that, it still wasn't enough to snap the Nets' winning streak which now stands at four in a row.
At no point was Rondo's absence more noticeable than the game's final moments, a time when he usually dominates play in some way, shape or form.
Watching the C's struggle to get great shots down the stretch was a cruel reminder of just how valuable Rajon Rondo is to this team.
Rondo was out because of sprained right ankle injury suffered in Boston's victory over Utah on Wednesday.
Replacing Rondo in the starting lineup was Leandro Barbosa, who had a season-high 16 points on Wednesday in Boston's victory over Utah.
He was even better on Thursday as a starter -- his first start since Jan. 22, 2010 when he played with the Phoenix Suns -- in tallying his second straight season high scoring in as many days, with 17 points.
But replacing Rondo is not the job of one man; not on this team, anyway.
It took the collective efforts of Boston's slew of perimeter players to keep them within striking distance.
In addition to Barbosa, the Celtics also got a season-high scoring night from Courtney Lee who finished with 13 points and eight rebounds which was also a season-best.
To see the Celtics playing with a lead at all, let alone in some of the latter stages of the game, was unexpected considering how thoroughly beaten they were on the boards in the first half.
With seemingly no answer in sight for the team's ever-persistent rebounding woes, Rivers elected to give seldom-used Jason Collins -- make that never used Jason Collins -- a chance to play.
Collins' interior defense and shear presence helped the Celtics chip into Brooklyn's lead which stood at 31-26 after the first quarter.
Boston managed to make it a game in the second quarter in which they scored 12 of the quarter's first 19 points and were able to tie the game at 38 following a 19-foot jumper by Kevin Garnett.
But that would be as close as the C's would get in the second quarter as Brooklyn scored seven straight and took a 59-50 lead into the half.
First-half frustration among the players and Doc Rivers began to surface as the game went on, with both making their displeasure known with the way the game was being called.
One of the more bizarre calls came in the second quarter when Leandro Barbosa drove into the lane and was grabbed around the neck by Keith Bogans.
The ruling on the floor at the time was a flagrant-one foul. But after the officials reviewed the replay, they ruled that it was a standard two-shot foul.
But that call, albeit questionable, did not decide this game.
Boston struggled most of this game for the same reason they usually struggle -- rebounding.
How bad was it?
The Nets had almost as many offensive rebounds (15) at the half as Boston had total (17).
And those multiple opportunities generated 19 second-chance points in the first half, while the Celtics could only muster up six.

Texas Hold'em: Noel would interest Celts, but Mavs probably won't let him go

Texas Hold'em: Noel would interest Celts, but Mavs probably won't let him go

The Celtics' two main targets in free agency are expected to be Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin. But what if neither signs here . . . or what if the C's have other plans? This week, we'll look at some of  'The Other Guys' who might interest the Celtics: TODAY: Dallas' Nerlens Noel.

BOSTON -- When the Celtics had trade talks with Philadelphia last season, it was no secret they had their eyes set on Nerlens Noel.
 
The 23-year-old has shown tremendous potential as an elite, rim-protecting big man.

THE OTHER GUYS: POTENTIAL CELTIC FREE-AGENT TARGETS


The Dallas Mavericks saw those same qualities, which is why they engineered a trade for him last season despite knowing he would be a restricted free agent this summer.
 
And while he would certainly be the kind of player Boston would absolutely love to add to the mix, seeing the Mavericks go in a different direction seems highly unlikely.
 
But until he signs with the Mavericks or any other team, the Celtics can’t be totally discounted as a possibility if they strike out on Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin.
 
WE LIKE HIM BECAUSE . . .
 
His proven body of work and his potential. Noel has shown flashes of being a decent player offensively, but he’s going to get paid handsomely this summer because of his defense and rebounding.
 
According to Basketball-reference.com, Noel has been among the NBA’s top 10 in defensive box plus/minus two of his three NBA seasons.
 
During the 2014-15 season, his defensive plus/minus was +4.5 (fourth in the NBA) and the following season it was +3.4 (eighth in the NBA).
 
And while his upside is viewed primarily through a defensive prism, his presence on the floor seemed to provide a much-needed jolt to the Mavericks offensively.
 
In his 22 games with Dallas, he averaged 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds with a solid offensive rating of 106.1.
 
NOT CRAZY ABOUT . . .
 
You love Noel’s length and athleticism, but you wish he would add some weight to withstand the physical rigors of playing primarily in the post. In an ideal world, Noel will add another 10-15 pounds, which would put him weight-wise similar to another standout Maverick from a few years back, Tyson Chandler. But Noel’s narrow shoulders and pogo-stick thick legs will likely result in his current 228-pound frame not changing much in the near future. He will still be a factor defensively, but there will be nights when stronger, more physical centers will give him problems. Fortunately for him and the Mavericks, big men whose strength is well, their strength, are becoming scarce in this new age of position-less basketball in the NBA.
 
IN CONCLUSION . . .
 
Noel would look really good in a Celtics uniform, but there’s little to no chance the Mavericks allow him to get away. They've made it clear that re-signing the 6-foot-11 big man is their top priority. And short of Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry saying they want to become a Maverick, it’s highly unlikely Dallas will change course.
 
PRICE TAG
 
Four-year, $106.4 million. That’s the most a team outside of Dallas can offer the soon-to-be restricted free agent. Noel knows the Mavericks won’t hesitate to offer him a max contract, which would give him more guaranteed years (five), better raises (eight percent versus five percent) and a total package of $143.55 million, which is more than $37 million beyond what other teams like the Celtics can offer.
 
Again, something would have to go unexpectedly wrong for Noel to wind up on any roster other than the Mavericks.

Bruins sign restricted free agent Acciari to two-year deal

Bruins sign restricted free agent Acciari to two-year deal

The Bruins have locked up a potential fourth-line piece for next season at a bargain basement price.

The B's signed Rhode Island native and Providence College alum Noel Acciari, a restricted free agent, to a two-year deal worth $1.45 million, a contract that breaks down to a very affordable $725,000 cap hit for each of the next two seasons. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound bowling ball of a forward finished with two goals and five points in 29 games for the Bruins last season, and has appeared in 48 games at the NHL level over the last two seasons in Boston. It was also encouraging that Acciari seemed to be tapping a bit more into his offense toward the end of the season, and was building some confidence for whatever modest offense he’ll end up bringing to the NHL table once he’s reached his potential ceiling as a player.

Clearly the two-year, one-way deal portends that Acciari, 25, will be counted on as a high energy, hard-hitting fourth-line player who does a good job of aggravating opponents while playing at full tilt. The real question is whether his body can hold up with his maximum effort style of playing, and whether he can avoid serious injuries with some of the car-crash level of violence he puts in his hitting.

Acciari has battled several different injuries over the last couple of seasons, but managed to be healthy enough to log time in the playoffs for both Boston and the P-Bruins.

Either way it’s a low-risk, affordable contract for the Bruins for a young player who, if healthy, will be a large piece on their fourth line as a diligent worker and excellent teammate. So that’s a good proactive signing for Don Sweeney as he continues to work on a more complicated contract for a higher profile player like David Pastrnak.