Celtics

Rondo's ACL tear puts Celtics on emotional roller coaster

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Rondo's ACL tear puts Celtics on emotional roller coaster

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics filed into their locker room, riding the momentum of a double-overtime victory against the Miami Heat. Rajon Rondo hadn't played; he was a late scratch to receive an MRI for a hyperextended right knee. Some of the Celtics had heard rumblings of a more severe injury during the game but brushed it off as a rumor.

Once they entered the locker room, Rondo delivered the news. He informed his teammates he had suffered a torn right ACL on Friday against the Atlanta Hawks and would require season-ending surgery.

"It's a blow, man. I'm not even going to front, it was a blow," said Kevin Garnett. "We were in here just talking about the game, and then he walks in and 'Do (Rondo is) really hype. He was quiet and the staff came in and told us what's going on."

The mood changed in an instant, as Courtney Lee demonstrated to media after the game.

"I'm going to do this for you, remember this," Lee said, then let out a loud sigh of disappointment.

Rondo is the Celtics floor general, averaging 13.7 points, 11.1 assists, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game this season. He also plays a major role in the locker room.

"It was hard," said Avery Bradley. "I could see it on his face. You didn't know what he was going to say. When he said it, everybody's head just went down. We went from cheering to being sad."

Lee further described the atmosphere, "It was emotional in here when he told everybody. KG got everybody out of the locker room, talked a little bit, expressed what needed to be done. It was emotional, like I said. Other than that, we've got to move forward. It's sad news, but we've got to fulfill his shoes the best way we can. That's just going out and playing hard."

The element of surprise enhanced the sudden disappointment. Rondo had played through the injury Friday night and warmed up prior the game on Sunday. He wasn't removed from the lineup until close to tip off.

"I was definitely shocked by the news," said Paul Pierce. "I thought he was suiting up tonight. We didn't learn until a couple minutes before the game that he was getting an MRI."

He continued, "You're on an emotional high in the locker room and then you see that Rondo's probably going to be out for the season. You have a lot of mixed emotions in here. You want to celebrate the win, but you know you feel for your teammate, a leader. Pretty much wherever he goes, we go. It's hard knowing that he's going to be out for the year. It's a tough pill to swallow."

The Celtics locker room was more somber than the Heat, who had been defeated, 100-98. The Celtics knew they lost far more.

"It's pretty sad," said Leandro Barbosa. "He's a big key for our team and it's tough. It's tough to take it, but we are a group and we're going to support him in anything that happened to him. I'm sure he will be cheering for us, too. But we love him and we got his back."

The Celtics will search for answers, taking the rest of the season game by game. They know they cannot replace Rondo, they will have to find ways to win without him.

Said Garnett, "He's becoming the heart and soul of this team."

Kyrie goes back to the mask tonight

Kyrie goes back to the mask tonight

The mask will be back tonight in Atlanta for Kyrie Irving.

The Celtics guard told reporters at the team's shootaround Saturday in preparation for Saturday night's game against the Hawks - where Boston will try and win its 15th in a row - that he'll grudgingly go back to wearing the clear plastic facemask he had been using to protect a facial fracture he suffered last week. 

Irving wore the mask against Brooklyn for a full game earlier in the week then ditched it in the second half of the victory over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday. He shot just 4-for-16 from the field (1-for-5 on 3's) against the Warriors and has made no secret of his disdain for wearing it.  

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To get to 15, C's need to keep up the D

To get to 15, C's need to keep up the D

BOSTON – If you were to deconstruct the building blocks of the Celtics' 14-game winning streak, you would find the foundation lies in what they’re able to accomplish defensively.
 
And to the Celtics’ credit, their defense has been challenged in a multitude of ways already.

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They have managed to beat teams with great one-on-one talent (Golden State), those that rely heavily on athleticism and length (Milwaukee) as well as those that put a premium on sharing the ball (Philadelphia), which will be among the ways Atlanta could potentially challenge the Celtics tonight.
 
While the Hawks (3-12) have had their struggles this season, it hasn’t necessarily been because of selfish play offensively.
 
Atlanta averages 327.9 passes per game, which ranks third in the NBA.
 
The problem hasn’t been getting players the ball; it’s what happens – or doesn’t happen – when they get it.
 
Despite being a top three passing team, the Hawks average 22.9 assists, 10th in the NBA. And they're connecting on 45.5 percent of their shots from the field, 14th in the league.
 
For Boston to continue its winning ways, it’ll again be because their defense will have taken away things the Hawks love to do.
 
When it comes to scoring, Atlanta has been one of the NBA’s best at generating offense off screens.
 
Despite having an offense that ranks 19th in scoring (104.2) this season, Atlanta has been among the league leaders when it comes to scoring off screens.
 
In fact, only two NBA teams (Golden State and Cleveland) have generated more points off screens this season than Atlanta (141).
 
That still shouldn’t be a major issue for the Celtics defense, which allows a league-low 94.1 points per game and has shown the ability to find success against any and every kind of offense.
 
Here are five below-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s game between two teams at opposite ends of the success spectrum this season.
 

KYRIE IN THE CLUTCH
It’s one thing to score a bunch of points, but it takes a special player to do it in the latter stages of play, especially against an elite team that knows you’re looking to get points any way possible. We saw Kyrie Irving shrug off a horrible shooting night (4-for-16) in the 92-88 win over Golden State that included him draining all seven of his fourth-quarter free throws. But Irving coming through when the game counts shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. According to NBA.com/stats, Irving is averaging a league-best 5.8 points in “clutch” situations (last five minutes of a game with the margin being five points or less), ahead of notable standouts Damian Lillard (5.0) of Portland who is second and ex-teammate LeBron James (4.6) who ranks behind Irving, Lillard and Miami’s Dion Waiters (4.9).
 

HIGHS, LOWS FOR HORFORD
Although he spent nine seasons in Atlanta, it has been anything but a sweet homecoming for Al Horford statistically speaking. In the four games he has played against his former team, Horford has averaged 8.8 points and 6.8 rebounds, which are his lowest career scoring and rebounding averages against any team. However, the 5.8 assists he averages against the Hawks represents his highest career average in that category against any team.
 

JAYLEN BROWN
His athleticism has always made Jaylen Brown a standout and the way he has shot the ball this season in clutch situations has stood out as well. But what hasn’t been talked much about is his defense against 3-point shooters. NBA.com/stats lists Brown with 67 contested 3’s this season. That's tops in the NBA. And his 4.2 contested 3’s per game rank sixth in the league.
 

DENNIS SCHRODER
When you see the numbers, it’s clear that much of what the Atlanta Hawks do these days is centered around Dennis Schroder. But upon deeper inspection, it’s apparent that Atlanta is literally driven by the play of the 6-foot-1 point guard. Known for his attacking style of basketball, it doesn’t come as a surprise that he’s one of the league’s best at getting to the rim. According to NBA.com/stats, Schroder leads the NBA with 19.1 drives per game. The closest Celtic in that category is Irving who averages 9.7 drives per game which ranks 38th in the league.
 

TAUREAN PRINCE
With Schroder looking to run out in transition as much as possible, Taurean Prince has been more than willing to help fill lanes and provide an option for Schroder to pass to on the break. That has led to lots of spot-up shot opportunities for Prince this season. He comes into tonight’s game averaging 5.4 spot-up possessions per game, which ranks third in the NBA behind Detroit’s Tobias Harris (6.3) and New Orleans’ DeMarcus Cousins (6.2).