Final: Kings 118-96: Who would have thought the Kings would put the most points up against the Celtics on this three-game west coast swing. They embarrassed the Celtics with seven 3-pointers -- in the fourth quarter -- and three scorers over 20 points. The Celtics lost the final three games of this trip by a total of 71 points and were handed their 12th double-digit loss.
Fourth quarter, 5:57, Kings 97-84: It's demoralizing that the Celtics couldn't even play a close game with the Kings, who are 10-19. Sacramento has led by double digits for the last 10 minutes and are showboating, most notably Isaiah Thomas, who has 23 points.
End of third quarter, Kings 84-73: Well the Celtics give up another 30-point quarter, 8 of those on free throws, and then shoot 33 percent in the period to trail by double figures. The Celtics are shooting 39.4 percent and have missed at least five layups. Jeff Green has 16 for Boston. Jason Thompson with a season-high 20 for Sacramento while John Salmons has added 18 points.
Third quarter, 4:57, Kings 72-63: Sacramento is on a 13-6 run as the Celtics continue to allow the Kings to shoot open perimeter shots or are committing shooting fouls. John Salmons has 16 points for the Kings. Marcus Thornton left the game with a sprained left ankle.
Third quarter, 9:20, Kings 59-57: The Celtics quickly fell behind by 8 points and then responded with 6 in a row behind a motivated Kevin Garnett, who already has 10 shot attempts after six all of Saturday. He has 14 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists while Rajon Rondo has 2 points and 7 assists. John Salmons leads Sacramento with 14 points.
Halftime, Kings 54-49: The Celtics actually led 35-31 but allowed the Kings bench to spark a 13-3 run and take the lead the rest of the way. Jason Terry and Jeff Green each have 14 points but the Celtics need Paul Pierce (5 points) to respond. Rajon Rondo has 2 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists after missing Saturday with a bruised right hip.
Second quarter, 3:59, Kings 44-38: Sacramento's bench has dominated the Celtics' starters with a 13-3 run, including three consecutive layups off fastbreaks. The Kings have scored 34 points in the paint while Jason Thompson leads them with 11 points. Jason Terry has 14 for the Celtics and Jeff Green has 9. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have just 9 combined.
Second quarter, 8:14, Tied at 28: The Celtics are playing better defense and going to Jeff Green, who has 9 points in 11 minutes after a miserable game Saturday. The Kings are 2-for-7 shooting in the quarter with three turnovers.
End of first quarter, Kings 24-18: Celtics lucky to be so close after shooting 28.6 percent in the first quarter, including a combined 1-for-9 from Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. Jeff Green leads the Celtics with 5 points and it seems like Doc RIvers is going to play him big minutes. Isaiah Thomas has 10 for Sacramento, most on Rondo.
First quarter, 2:48, Kings 18-10: It's the same story here so far as the Celtics can't stop the Kings in the paint, they have scored all 18 of their points in that fashion, and can't hit shot, they are 3-for-14 shooting. They have to hang on here until the shots start falling. Paul Pierce is already 1 of 4.
First quarter, 11:00, Tied at 2: Kevin Garnett and DeMarcus Cousins have each scored to open the game.
SACRAMENTO -- The Celtics get Rajon Rondo back for a critical game to end the calendar year. The Celtics are 5-10 on the road and under .500 and would like to make the long trip back home with an even record in preparation for their Jan. 2 matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies. Rondo missed Saturday's 101-83 loss to Golden State with a bruised right hip.
BOSTON CELTICS (14-15)
PG Rajon Rondo
SG Jason Terry
SF Paul Pierce
PF Kevin Garnett
C Jason Collins
SACRAMENTO KINGS (10-19)
PG Isaiah Thomas
SG Marcus Thornton
SF John Salmons
PF Jason Thompson
C DeMarcus Cousins
Officials: David Jones, Olandis Poole, Sean Wright
TV/Radio: 9 p.m. Comcast SportsNet / WEEI
• Leandro Barbosa return to the team after a four-game absence because of a personal matter in his native Brazil, He flew from Sao Paulo to Sacramento through Atlanta on Sunday morning.
• The Kings were without Tyreke Evans for the seventh straight game with a sore left knee.
• Paul Pierce entered Sunday 12 for his past 43 from the field after his 4-for-20 performance on Saturday at Golden State.
• Of the Celtics' 15 losses this season, 11 have been by double digits.
• Sacramento is coming off a thrilling 106-105 win over the shorthanded New York Knicks. James Johnson hit the winning 3-pointer at the buzzer, his first 3-pointer of the season.
• The Celtics will wear their traditional green uniforms
SACRAMENTO -- The Celtics were given a boost before their road trip finale against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday as Rajon Rondo was cleared to play after missing Saturday's loss to the Golden State Warriors with a bruised right hip.
Rondo participated in pregame drills and then went in for treatment and was listed as a starter for the key game. The Celtics have dropped six of the past eight games and the offense suffered in Saturday's 101-83 defeat.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Celtics again were beaten easily on the road, their 11th defeat of the season by double digits. Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Jeff Green combined for 12-for-50 shooting as the Celtics shot 36 percent and never led after early in the first quarter.
The defense was porous most of the night as the Warriors were allowed to shoot freely from the perimeter. The Celtics are now 5-10 on the road and below .500 (14-15).
Kevin Garnett, who attempted a season-low six shots, said defense is the issue.
“Since I’ve been here we’ve always been a defensive team that’s been fueled by the defense that’s turned over to some offense,” said forward Kevin Garnett, who attempted a season-low six shots. “And right now we’re not that. Somehow through practice, through repetitions we’ve got to change that.”
Garnett said the Celtics are entering a critical stage in determining their season’s fate.
“We gotta keep working at this,” he said. “This is when you start to see who’s with you. This is when you see who really wants it, who really wants to get down and work and grind for it and we’re about to find that out.”
When asked if he believes the Celtics have the potential to be a great club, he said: “We have no choice, man. If we wanna be great, we gotta stop talking about it and actually do it.”
Final, Warriors 101-83: Celtics suffer their 11th double-digit loss of the season by falling apart in the fourth quarter and going down quietly. The trio of Jeff Green, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry combine for 12-for-50 shooting and Kevin Garnett shoots a season low six shots in the defeat. Stephen Curry leads Golden State with 22 points and David Lee added 20.
Fourth quarter, 6:20, Warriors 89-74: The Celtics cut the deficit to 8 after a Paul Pierce 3-pointer at the 10:50 mark but can't stop Jarrett Jack, who has 6 points during an 11-4 run. The shorthanded Celtics gave effort but the Warriors have too many weapons.
End of third quarter, Warriors 76-67: Celtics score 8 points in the final 1:15 and 4 in the final 4.2 seconds to make this a game again. Courtney Lee has been the leader with 16 points in Rajon Rondo's absence. Jared Sullinger has 12 off the bench.
Third quarter, 2:27, Warriors 73-59: The Celtics are on a 6-0 mini run, trying to slice the lead before the final quarter. They are shooting 8-for-15 in the quarter and are playing decent defense but have to stop the 3-pointer, which has been an issue all season.
Third quarter, 5:25, Warriors 71-53: The Celtics have so many defensive breakdowns at this point that Doc Rivers looks helpless. Klay Thompson hit yet another uncontested 3-pointer and the Warriors have hit eight for the game. The Celtics' shooting percentage has rose to 35.6.
Halftime, Warriors 57-40: The Celtics can't stop Golden State, which is 6-for-10 from the 3-point line and 11 of 14 from the free throw line. David Lee has torching Kevin Garnett with 16 points, most of them from the perimeter, while Harrison Barnes has 13 points on five shot attempts. Paul Pierce has 5 points on 1-for-11 shooting, Jason Terry is 2-for-8 and Jeff Green is 1-for-7. Other than that, the Celtics are in good shape (sarcasm).
Second quarter, 2:57, Warriors 52-36: Paul Pierce just hit his first field goal and Klay Thompson picked up his third foul. Celtics looking for some type of momentum before the half. The Warriors are shooting 58.1 percent and have hit five 3-pointers.
Second quarter, 5:55, Warriors 44-25: Golden State is on a 15-2 run since the quarter began as the Celtics look inept and uninterested. They are 1-for-12 shooting in the quarter and Paul Pierce is 0-for-7 with zero points in 12 minutes.
Second quarter, 8:38, Warriors 35-25: The Celtics are 1-for-8 shooting in the quarter and desperately need a pickup or they will be blown out early. Paul Pierce has yet to score in 8 minutes.
End of first quarter, Warriors 29-23: The Warriors were poised for a 38-point quarter but the Celtics began challenging shots. The bad part is the Warriors attempted 10 free throws in the quarter to the Celtics' 4. Boston has to stop fouling. Harrison Barnes leads all scorers with 10 points while David Lee has 8. Jared Sullinger leads the Celtics with 6 points.
First quarter, 2:55, Warriors 24-21: Golden State led 21-11 and was hitting everything but Jared Sullinger scored 6 straight points as the Celtics are attacking the paint. Harrison Barnes has played like a highly touted rookie with 10 points in nine minutes while David Lee has 8 points. Courtney Lee has already matched his season average with 6 points while Sullinger has 6.
First quarter, 7:34, Warriors 15-9: Golden State on a 9-0 run as the Warriors are killing the Celtics on the pick-and-roll and Harrison Barnes has 7 points and David Lee with 6. The Celtics already have two turnovers, both on offensive fouls.
Hello folks, sorry about the snow in Boston but it's clear here in the Bay Area. The Celtics will try to knock off the Warriors without Rajon Rondo, who is out with a right hip injury. It is not considered serious
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Celtics were going to be hard pressed to beat Golden State with their current roster but now they will have to go at it without Rajon Rondo, who will miss the game with a left hip injury sustained Thursday against the Clippers. The Warriors are having their best season in 30 years and will be looking to end their year with another win, Courtney Lee will start for the Celtics at point guard.
BOSTON CELTICS (14-14)
PG Courtney Lee
SG Jason Terry
SF Paul Pierce
PF Kevin Garnett
C Jason Collins
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (20-10)
PG Stephen Curry
SG Klay Thompson
SF Harrison Barnes
PF David Lee
C Festus Ezeli
Officials: Danny Crawford, Haywoode Workman, Gary Zielinski
TV/Radio: 10:30 p.m. Comcast SportsNet / WEEI
• Leandro Barbosa is out for the fourth straight game with a personal matter but he is expected to join the team Sunday in Sacramento.
• Paul Pierce received three stitches in the mouth after his collision with the Clippers' Chris Paul on Thursday but he said it was nothing but a "fat lip."
• Doc Rivers said he has been impressed with the production of starting center Jason Collins despite his lack of statistics.
• After 23 blocked shots in his previous two games, Maine's Fab Melo registered two blocks in Friday's win over Sioux Falls.
• The Warriors are No. 1 in the league in defensive rebounds, sixth in 3-point percentage and ninth in field goal percentage.
• The Celtics will wear their green on black alternate uniforms.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Celtics will have to try to get back on the winning track without starting point guard Rajon Rondo, who will miss tonight's game with a strained quadriceps. Rondo was apparently injured trying to take a charge Thursday against the Los Angeles Clippers but he managed to finish the game.
Courtney Lee is expected to start in Rondo's place. The Celtics are short of ball handlers with Leandro Barbosa (personal matter) also out.
LOS ANGELES -- The Celtics were simply outclassed by the Clippers on Thursday night. Maybe eventually they can compete with teams like this but, for now, they are among the group of teams still trying to find themselves after a 106-77 loss. It was Los Angeles' 15th straight win.
"Well after that, we're gonna hide some money in the ceiling," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said in reference to hiding money in the ceiling of the locker room at Staples Center during the 2009-10 season and collecting it when the Celtics reached the NBA Finals. "(The Clippers) were unbelievable. I thought we really outthought the game. I told our guys that. I could hear all the talking about different coverages. We play the same defense every night for the most part and I just thought we were outthinking ourselves tonight and I should have stopped it but I didn't."
The Celtics scored just 30 points in the second half on 38.2 percent shooting and nine turnovers. The Clippers went on an 8-0 run to begin the fourth quarter to go ahead 90-67 and it was time to get ready for the Golden State Warriors.
Boston was never aggressive Thursday night and falling behind 18-4 was its biggest mistake.
"It's the same story, we win one, we lose one," guard Jason Terry said. "Until we break that cycle, we're not going to take that next step and we know that. For us, hey we gotta win the next one. At this points in the season, they are a better team than us."
Kevin Garnett led the Celtics with 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting while Paul Pierce added 12 on 5-for-13 from the field. Pierce has 20 points in the past two games after tallying 75 in the previous two.
"I thought we came out with too much respect (for the Clippers)," Garnett said. "We wanted to play back off some of their bigs and Blake (Griffin) hit some shot that he doesn't usually hit. They came out with a lot of confidence and they packed the paint and that is the reason why they have won 15 in a row. Teams like this, you have to come at them and attack them and we were not able to do that."
Final: Clippers 106-77: It got ugly in the fourth quarter as the Celtics scored 10 points on 4-for-17 shooting. The Clippers were just that good and the Celtics aren't ready for such competition. Maybe down the road.
Fourth quarter, 6:30, Clippers 96-71: The Celtics just aren't ready for the Clippers. Los Angeles is too deep and has capitalized on nearly every Celtics mistake. Boston hasn't played terribly but definitely not good enough to beat a team that has won 14 straight games.
End of third quarter, Clippers 82-67: A Rajon Rondo 3-pointer to beat the clock gave Boston a sliver of a chance to make a run in the fourth quarter. They trailed by as many as 21 and the problem is they can consistently hit shots to keep pace with LAC. The Clippers have four players in double figure and no Clipper has taken more than 12 shots. They have real balance.
Third quarter, 5:28, Clippers 71-57: The Clippers are staying close enough to make this interesting but they can't hit consistent shots to make a real run. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett each have 12 points but the Celtics' 12 turnovers have led to 15 Los Angeles points. Blake Griffin still leads the Clippers with 14 points.
Halftime, Clippers 60-47: The Clippers bench has lived up to billing, scoring 28 points, including 11 apiece from Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford, who can't be stopped off the dribble, Blake Griffin leads the Clippers with 10 points. Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry each had 10 for the Celtics. Boston has 9 turnovers.
Second quarter, 4:51, Clippers 50-40: The Clippers are going to be hard to beat if they keep shooting 3-pointers at a 54 percent clip. They have hit 6 of 11 so far, three by reserve Matt Barnes as they maintain a comfortable lead. The Celtics are playing better but need to cut into this deficit by halftime.
Second quarter, 7:54, Clippers 40-32: The Celtics started out the quarter with an 8-2 run but then allowed an 8-0 Clippers run and now have scored the last two baskets. Jason Terry has 7 points for the Celtics, 5 in the quarter. The Clippers are 17-for-31 shooting while the Celtics are 12-for-27.
End of first quarter, Clippers 30-20: The Celtics are lucky to be so close after shooting 36.8 percent and five turnovers. The Clippers were 10 for their first 15 but finished 2 of 8, allowing the Celtics to make a mini-run. Rajon Rondo has 5 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists already while Blake Griffin has 9 points and Willie Green has 6.
First quarter, 3:10, Clippers 24-11: The Celtics are just like that fighter stunned by a flurry. They are hanging on to the opponent, just trying to survive until the round end. The Clippers are shooting 62.5 percent and look like the best team in the league. Blake Griffin has 6 points.
First quarter, 7:19, Clippers 15-4: Well it's a worse-case scenario start for the Celtics. The Clippers have begin hitting 7-of-10 shots, including 6 points in the paint while the Celtics are 2-for-8 with no scoring besides from Paul Pierce. Willie Green, of all Clippers, leads Los Angeles with 5 points.
The Celtics take on the Los Angeles Clippers, who have won 14 consecutive games. The Celtics are on the second of a four-game road trip.
LOS ANGELES -- After a gritty win against the Brooklyn Nets, the Celtics face the hottest team in the NBA, the Los Angeles Clippers. That's a correct statement. The Clippers have won 14 straight games, a franchise record, and they may have the deepest team in the NBA. Of course, there are two marquee matchups: Rajon Rondo vs. Chris Paul and Kevin Garnett vs. Blake Griffin. The Celtics have been effective in shutting down Griffin over the years but this season he has an improved supporting cast.
BOSTON CELTICS (14-13)
PG Rajon Rondo
SG Jason Terry
SF Paul Pierce
PF Kevin Garnett
C Jason Collins
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (22-6)
PG Chris Paul
SG Willie Green
SF Caron Butler
PF Blake Griffin
C DeAndre Jordan
Officials: Marc Davis, Eric Lewis, Trey Maddox
TV/Radio: 10:30 p.m. TNT / WEEI
• Doc Rivers expressed disappointment over the firing of close friend Avery Johnson by the Brooklyn Nets but said coaches understand that being fired is the nature of the business.
• Team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Leandro Barbosa will return Friday for from personal matter and should be available for Saturday's game against the Golden State Warriors.
• Former Celtic Chauncey Billups and veteran Grant Hill remain out with injuries for the Clippers.
• Despite 23 blocked shots in his past two games, Fab Melo will not be recalled from NBADL Maine any time soon, according to Ainge.
• The Clippers lead the league in steals, are second in assists and third in field goal percentage. They are 26th in the league in free throw percentage.
• The Celtics will wear their green on black alternate uniforms.
LOS ANGELES -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers is not immune to what goes on outside the Celtics' circle and he said Thursday morning that he learned of close friend Avery Johnson's firing the night before. The Brooklyn Nets fired Johnson as their coach after 10 losses in the past 13 games, including a 93-76 pasting by the Celtics on Christmas Day.
"It's awful," Rivers said. "Obviously it's the business we're in. But it's a tough one. He's one of my best friends. It comes out of nowhere. Avery's a terrific coach, so who knows?"
While the Celtics beat Brooklyn in their previous meeting, they had major trouble with the physical Nets in the first two meetings. And the Nets were once one of the league's hottest teams.
"I just saw that they beat us two out of three times," Rivers said. "If you (go back to) three weeks ago, they were playing as well as anybody. The NBA is a league of ebbs and flows.
It is. You go on good streaks. You go on bad ones. You right your ship and go back on a good time. I thought it was awful quick to make a change. I'm very surprised by that, but listen, I don't work there, I don't do business there. My friend is Avery Johnson."
• Leandro Barbosa was not with the team at shootaround and Rivers acknowledged he's going through a "tough situation." It is uncertain when he will join the team.
• Rivers reiterated Avery Bradley will not join the team on the west coast and is still projected to return Jan. 2.
Some thoughts on tonight's game while visions of Fab Melo dance in our heads. ...
Coming off one of their best wins of the early season, the Celtics face their biggest test to date tonight in Los Angeles. The Clippers come into tonight's game with the NBA's best record, though it's unclear whether or not they are the NBA's best team. The Celtics, however, aren't even in that discussion in late December. The question for them is whether or not they can enter that conversation in April, May, and June.
Los Angeles has put it all together after acquiring All-Star point guard Chris Paul in a trade last season. Paul and Blake Griffin form a dynamic inside-outside combination. Veterans Caron Butler and Matt Barnes are steadying forces, while youngsters DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe inject energy into the team. Jamaal Crawford might be the Sixth Man of the Year if he continues to score at this clip (16.5 points per game).
Paul has done for the Clippers what the Kevin Garnett trade did for the Celtics before the 2007-08 season. The team is now a very real contender. In addition to Paul, LA presents problems for the Celtics in the front court. Matching up with Griffin and Jordan is no easy task, and the Celtics don't possess the young, mobile big men with size to make it easier. Griffin is too experienced now to be intimidated into a bad game by Garnett and company.
Speaking of bad games, the Celtics can't afford one from Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, or Jeff Green tonight. Rondo should be motivated going against Paul, while Pierce is in the midst of one of his best stretches of basketball in some time. The pace at which the Celtics captain is playing has been just about perfect. Against Brooklyn on Christmas Day, Pierce lulled the Nets into double-teams before firing off quick, precise passes on his way to 10 assists. That game followed games of 40 and 35 points respectively. This may be Rondo's team, but the Celtics fare better when their offense revolves around a productive Pierce.
Green was mentioned because the Celtics bench contributed in a big way Tuesday. Green had 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting in that game, silencing his overzealous critics for at least one more day. Should be a fun one tonight. The Celtics always seem to play better on the road when pride is on the line.
Here are the details for tonight's game:
Tip-off: 10:30 p.m.
Records: Celtics (14-13), Clippers (22-6)
Broadcast info:TNT, WEEI/93.7 FM (Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell)
Celtics: PG: Rajon Rondo SG: Jason Terry SF: Paul Pierce PF: Kevin Garnett C: Jason Collins
Clippers: PG: Chris Paul SG: Willie Green SF: Caron Butler PF: Blake Griffin C: DeAndre Jordan
Sullinger's minutes: Jared Sullinger had 16 points on 6-of-7-shooting Tuesday in 32 minutes. Averaging 17.7 minutes per game on the season, this trip will be a good chance to put Sullinger on the floor longer and see what happens.
Prepping for Bradley: With Avery Bradley scheduled to return when the Celtics get back to Boston next week, this is the last chance for Courtney Lee and Jason Terry to see extended minutes and sort out their roles. Terry is locked into the sixth man role off the bench when Bradley is healthy, so these three games out west will provide him with a chance to hone his offense. Lee, on the other hand, could see his minutes vanish when Bradley comes back unless he starts to turn it on.
Defense? Rebounding?: The Celtics held the Nets to 76 points on 40 percent shooting Tuesday and out-rebounded Brooklyn by five. The Clippers average 101.6 points per game. You can't expect Boston to keep Los Angeles under 80, but they've got to challenge just as well as they did on Christmas Day. Defense and rebounding are team concepts. Tuesday was a good start, but the Celtics need to show that they are thinking about those two fundamentals for more than one game.
Final, Celtics 93-76: The Celtics provide a nice Christmas gift for their fans, perhaps their best performance of the season. The Celtics led for the final 32 minutes of the game with Rajon Rondo leading the way with 19 points and Jared Sullinger with 16 and seven rebounds. The Celtics didn't need major nights from Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. They scored 8 apiece.
Fourth quarter, 5:17, Celtics 84-70: Things got physical quickly after mixups between Gerald Wallace and Kevin Garnett and then a flagrant foul on Jared Sullinger on Wallace. The Nets have scored the last 5 points to remain slightly hopeful of a rally but the Celtics could seal it with a couple of more hoops. The Celtics are shooting 49 percent and have committed just 10 turnovers.
Fourth quarter, 7:31, Celtics 82-64: The Celtics are trying to seal this game as Jared Sullinger continues to play his best game of the season with 16 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes. He is playing well with the first team and it wouldn't be shocking to see Doc Rivers change up his starting lineup to include Sullinger in coming games.
End of third quarter, Celtics 73-58: We've seen everything today as Rajon Rondo raced down the court on a fastbreak and launched a 3-pointer that swished the net, stopping a big Nets run and giving the Celtics a more comfortable lead to end the period. Rondo has 19 points and four assists while Jared Sullinger has 12 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
Third quarter, 1:13, Celtics 68-58: The Nets are on a 15-4 run to make this game interesting again as the Celtics continue to miss easy shots while Joe Johnson has gotten hot, including a 30-footer off the glass as the 24-second shot clock expired.
Third quarter, 6:30, Celtics 64-47: The Celtics have led by as many as 21 but are still waiting for the flurry from the Nets, who have scored the last 4 points. The Celtics are led by Rajon Rondo, who has 14 points and Jared Sullinger who has 10. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett each have 8 points.
Third quarter, 8:39, Celtics 58-42: Boston missed its first four shots of the half, including a couple of chip shots but Brooklyn has yet to score. The Celtics need to jump on the Nets before they get going.
Halftime, Celtics 56-42: The Celtics mixed a strong defense with an efficient offense and played one of their better quarters in recent memory, shooting 13-for-21 in the quarter and holding the Nets to 18 points in the period on 7-for-19 shooting. Jared Sullinger has been stellar so far with 10 points and six rebounds in 17 minutes while Rajon Rondo has 10 points and three assists. Brook Lopez leads Brooklyn with 10 points while Jerry Stackhouse has 7.
Second quarter, 3:56, Celtics 49-34: Boston is on a 27-8 run, led by stellar defense against the Nets perimeter players and attacking defense against Brook Lopez. Jared Sullinger has helped out big time with 7 points while Jason Terry just hit his second 3-pointer of the game after going 1-for-15 against the Bucks.
Second quarter, 8:26, Celtics 32-29: When they are not allowing Jerry Stackhouse to go North Carolina 1995 on them, the Celtics are playing pretty well. They are on a 10-3 run and are finally defending Brook Lopez with another defender so he won't have his way inside. Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger have combined for 11 points.
End of first quarter, Nets 24-22: With no big man to defend Brook Lopez, the Nets are going to their center nearly every time. He has a game-high 9 points while no other Net has more than 3. Rajon Rondo, who drained a 3-pointer with 3.5 seconds left in the quarter, has 7 points and two assists for the Celtics. Paul Pierce did not score in the quarter.
First quarter, 2:37, Nets 18-16: The Celtics are playing decent defense but need to start producing on the offensive side. And they are letting Brook Lopez have his way in the paint. With Jason Collins already with two fouls, Jared Sullinger is now playing center. The Celtics need a big man who can stay on the floor.
First quarter, 5:53, Nets 12-10: The Celtics are playing solid defense but keep fouling. Brook Lopez is having his way with Jason Collins in the paint and Collins already has two fouls. So we will see newcomer Jarvis Varnado soon.
First quarter, 6:50, Nets 11-6: The Celtics scored the game's first 4 points and looked to make a statement but the Nets have responded with a three-point play from Deron Williams and 3-pointers from Keith Bogans and Joe Johnson. The Celtics are 3-for-12 shooting and are again missing layups.
BROOKLYN -- Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Barclays Center as the Celtics try to notch a Christmas win over the Nets in what has turned into a critical game. The Celtics have already lost to Brooklyn twice, once here at Barclays on Nov. 15 (102-97) and again on Nov. 28 at the TD Garden (95-83) in that infamous Rajon Rondo-Kris Humphries fight game. Humphries will not play today because of a lower abdominal strain.
BOSTON CELTICS (13-13)
PG Rajon Rondo
SG Jason Terry
SF Paul Pierce
PF Kevin Garnett
C Jason Collins
BROOKLYN NETS (14-12)
PG Deron Williams
SG Joe Johnson
SF Keith Bogans
PF Gerald Wallace
C Brook Lopez
Officials: Mike Callahan, Leroy Richardson, Zach Zarba
TV/Radio: Noon, ESPN / WEEI
• In a surprising development, the Celtics left Avery Bradley back in Boston to work out for another week with the team's strength and conditioning coach Brian Doo before an expected Jan. 2 return. Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he did not want to rush Bradley back from double shoulder surgery and the team likely won't practice on this road trip.
• Chris Wilcox (right thumb) and Leandro Barbosa (personal matter) are also not with the team today. Barbosa is expected to join team in Los Angeles.
• Humphries may not have played anyway and has fallen out of coach Avery Johnson's rotation.
• Newcomer Jarvis Varnado is with the team and will wear jersey No. 52. Varnado has not appeared in an NBA game
• The Celtics have averaged just 90 points against the Nets this season with Paul Pierce leading the club with 18 points per game.
• The Celtics will wear their green on green Christmas Day uniforms for the first time with the traditional green jerseys, green numerals and white trim. It's a clean look.
The Celtics have officially signed former Miami Heat draft pick Jarvis Varnado from Sioux Falls of the NBADL to add to the team's thin frontcourt depth. Varnado, who played at Mississippi State, averaged 14 points, 10 rebounds and a league-leading 3.9 blocks.
Varnado, 6-feet, 9-inches and 210 pounds, was the 41st overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft by the Miami Heat, but never played a game in Miami. He played in Italy and Israel the past two seasons. The Celtics needed big man depth because center Chris Wilcox is expected to miss a month with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb.
Meanwhile, center Fab Melo remains in the NBDL and the club does not want to stunt his development by promoting him too quickly. Varnado's signing was first reported by Yahoo! Sports.
WALTHAM -- The Celtics haven't had a legitimate, productive starting center since trading Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder nearly two years ago. And they can't seem to keep centers healthy.
Chris Wilcox, who played some solid minutes off the bench, could miss a month with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb, according to coach Doc Rivers. Wilcox injured the thumb in Tuesday's loss to the Chicago Bulls while bracing his fall after taking a charge.
The Celtics now have one legitimate center on the roster -- Jason Collins, meaning they are likely in search of a replacement with an open roster spot. An NBA source told the Globe earlier this month that longtime veteran Erick Dampier was on their radar.
Rivers said 2012 first-round pick Fab Melo is not a candidate to be called up despite blocking an NBADL record 14 shots for Maine Saturday against Erie.
"Chris is out; he's out for a while," Rivers said. "I don't know how long (but) the first report I got was three to four weeks. He'll be out."
When asked about Melo, Rivers said: "I can tell you I talked to Fab as in 'How you doing?' I haven't talked to anyone that thinks he's ready to come up yet."
Rivers admits the Celtics need another big man.
"You would think (we would sign someone)," he said. "But obviously that's the one position where they don't grow on trees. We just have to be patient. Obviously we need another big (man) with Chris being out. I don't know if we're going to get another big on this (four-game) trip."
- Leandro Barbosa won't be back with the team until the Dec. 27 game against the Los Angeles Clippers because of a personal matter. The Celtics will play Christmas Day in Brooklyn with 11 active players.
- Rivers would not rule out Avery Bradley returning before his Jan. 2 projected date or even playing Christmas against Brooklyn. "I think there's a chance, but I don't know what the chances are," Rivers said. "Again, I haven't talked to anybody. I mean the fact that he went through today's practice games (and will practice tomorrow), but I don't know. I just try to stay out of that. It's close. I don't want anyone to feeling like I am pressuring them. Avery wants to play. I guaranteed you he wants to play the next game."
- Jeff Green participated in practice despite a bruised cheekbone and chipped teeth and said he will play Tuesday against Brooklyn
Final: Bucks 99, Celtics 94
First overtime, 0:02.6, Bucks 99-94 -- Bucks make their free-throws late to take control in overtime. Monta Ellis makes 1 of 2 free throws, and Brandon Jennings hits both of his free throws to put Milwaukee up 97-94 with 18.5 seconds remaining. Paul Pierce takes a three to tie the game, but misses, and the Bucks feed the ball up court for a Larry Sanders uncontested dunk to bring the score to 99-94.
First overtime, 0:36.1, 94-94 -- Down by four coming out of a team timeout, Paul Pierce, the Celtic's hot hand all night, hits a fadeaway jumper to bring his team within two points. On the ensuing Milwaukee possession, Brandon Jennings's turnover leads to a Kevin Garnett jump shot that ties the game. The crowd here at the Garden is deafening. Pierce now has 35 points.
First overtime, 1:16, Bucks 94-90 -- Defense lacking on both ends of the court, but both teams have failed to capitalize on their opportunities. After the Celtics jumped out to a two-point lead behind a Rajon Rondo layup, Milwaukee has scored six in a row to go up by four points. Monta Ellis has four of Milwaukee's six points in the extra frame.
End of fourth quarter, 88-88 -- Following two free-throws by Paul Pierce and a slam dunk by Jeff Green, the Celtics force a turnover in their defensive end with under 10 seconds remaining. Jason Terry brings it down the sideline and puts up a three pointer, but he misses. The rebound finds Pierce at the top of the key, who drains his third three-pointer of the night with 2.5 seconds remaining. Larry Sanders misses a potential game-winning bucket as time runs out, and this game is going to overtime.
Fourth quarter, 0:46.0, Bucks 87-81 -- Poor shooting comes back to bite the Celtics. Jason Terry misses a wide open two-point attempt with under a minute to go to bring the game within one. The Bucks grab the loose ball and get a Larry Sanders dunk over Kevin Garnett out of their offensive possession. The Celtics are now 31 for 80 shooting on the night, a dismal 38.8-percent. Take away Pierce's stellar 11-for-18 shooting night, and the Celtics have shot 20 for 62, or 32-percent, from the field.
Fourth quarter, 1:46, Bucks 83-81 -- Paul Pierce is doing it all tonight for the Celtics. With the Celtics down five, the captain sank a fadeaway jumper following a foul, but missed the ensuing free throw. Following a Brandon Jennings bucket, Pierce sank a three-pointer with two sets of hands in his face, and was able to get a steal on the next Milwaukee possession to give the Celts the ball in a one-possession game.
Fourth quarter, 4:52, Bucks 79-76 -- Luc Mbah a Moute is having himself quite the game for Milwaukee. The forward drained a deep two with Paul Pierce in his face to give him 20 points for the night and to give Milwaukee the three-point lead. The former UCLA Bruin's career-high is 22, which he scored against Golden State on March 16.
7:47, Bucks 74-72 -- Mike Dunleavy takes an off-balance three and misses, but the rebound finds Brandon Jennings in the corner, who nails the three point attempt. Milwaukee takes their first lead since they were up 11-10 with 5:05 remaining in the first quarter.
Fourth quarter, 8:32, Celtics 72-71 -- Celtics defense noticeably absent early in the fourth. Mike Dunleavy scores five points in the span of 30 seconds, and the Bucks go on a 9-2 run to get within one before Doc Rivers is forced to take a timeout.
End of third quarter, Celtics 70-62 -- Rajon Rondo picks the pocket of Luc Mbah a Moute, who is having a fantastic game, and gets the ball up to Courtney Lee for the easy layup before the horn. The assist is Rondo's seventh of the night. He is averaging 11 assists per game in two meetings against Milwaukee this season.
Third quarter, 3:00, Celtics 64-60 -- After Monta Ellis hit four free throws in a span of 40 seconds to tie the game, Jeff Green knocked down a jumper from left of the basket. On the ensuing Buck possession, a Rajon Rondo steal led to an uncontested reverse slam dunk by Brandon Bass. The crowd's back into it, and the swing in momentum forces Milwaukee to take a timeout.
Third quarter, 6:04, Celtics 56-54 -- Paul Pierce has single-handedly kept the Celtics in this game. Pierce has a game-high 19 points on 8 for 12 shooting. The rest of the team is shooting 14 for 37, or 37.8-percent. Kevin Garnett is 4 for 13 from the field.
Start of the third, Celtics 46-43 -- Speaking of Milwaukee, for those keeping track at home, Paul Pierce entered tonight's game 48 points behind Milwaukee / Los Angeles Laker great Elgin Baylor for 24th on the NBA's All-Time scoring list. His 17 first-half points bring him within 31 points of Baylor.
End of the second quarter, Celtics 46-43 -- Milwaukee's Ersan Ilyasova nails a three with a hand in his face to bring the Bucks within three at the break. Paul Pierce leads all scorers with 17 points. Celtics have done a good job of suffocating Milwaukee's strong guard tandem of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, both of whom average 18 points per contest. Ellis has 11 on the night, while Jennings only has two points on 1 for 3 shooting through the first half.
Second quarter, 3:59, Celtics 41-33 -- Boston hasn't been great from beyond the arc, but they get one there. Jason Terry hits only the second of 12 Celtics three-point attempts on the night, but widens Boston's lead to eight. Terry now 1 for 7 shooting on the night.
Second quarter, 8:20, Celtics 32-24 -- Jared Sullinger forced to sit with this third personal foul in just under 10 minutes of game action. Off the bench, Sullinger currently leads the Celtics with five rebounds.
Second quarter, 9:37, Celtics 30-22 -- Jason Terry takes and makes the technical shot following a defensive three-second violation by the Bucks. Makes him the eighth Celtic to score a point in less than 15 minutes of game time.
End of the first quarter, Celtics 25-17 -- Paul Pierce off to another quick start. A game after scoring 40 against Cleveland, Pierce put up 13 points in the first frame. Jeff Green had six points in the frame, equaling his total point output over the last two games.
First quarter, 3:50, Celtics 16-11 -- Jeff Green takes the feed from Rajon Rondo and takes it in for the two-handed dunk. Green immediately gets back on defense and helps force a turnover at mid-court, feeding the ball to Courtney Lee for a layup and a five-point Celtics lead.
First quarter, 5:47, Bucks 10-8 -- Larry Sanders with six points early for Milwaukee. Took a bounce pass down low and was able to beat Brandon Bass under the rim. Bucks have been forcing it inside on the Celtics early and often.
First quarter, 9:49, Celtics 3-2 -- Celtics get on the board with a Paul Pierce three pointer from the top of the key. Before the bucket from their captain, the Celtics were 0 for 6 to start the game.
Pregame -- Welcome to TD Garden, where the Boston Celtics will take on the Milwaukee Bucks. Andrew MacDougall here to provide updates throughout the course of the game. Should be a good one.
The Celtics will matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks for the fourth and final time this season. As you math majors already know, after tonight, the Bucks will comprise of 15 percent of the Celtics' schedule. Milwaukee came to TD Garden on opening night and beat the Celtics 99-88 in a game that wasn't that close. The Celtics won at Milwaukee 96-92 on Nov. 10 behind Paul Pierce's 25 points but blew a late 3-point lead in a 91-88 loss at Bradley Center on Dec. 1.
BOSTON CELTICS (13-12)
PG Rajon Rondo
SG Jason Terry
SF Paul Pierce
PF Kevin Garnett
C Jason Collins
MILWAUKEE BUCKS (13-11)
PG Brandon Jennings
SG Monta Ellis
SF Marquis Daniels
PF Luc Mbah a Moute
C Larry Sanders
Officials: Ken Mauer, Sean Wright, Brett Barnaky
TV/Radio: 7:30 Comcast Sportsnet / WEEI
• Chris Wilcox (right thumb) and Leandro Barbosa (personal matter) are not available for the Celtics tonight
• Celtics coach Doc Rivers said the club will stay with Jason Terry as the starting shooting guard until Avery Bradley returns.
• After going 1-for-14 in Wednesday's loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, Monta Ellis is 13-for-51 shooting in his past three games.
• Forward Tobias Harris, who scored 18 points against the Celtics in the season opener, is out with a right elbow laceration after a collision with Sacramento's Jason Thompson.
The Globe's Gary Washburn offers his take on the Celtics' victory over the Cavaliers on Wednesday night, paced by a 40-point performance from team captain Paul Pierce.
End of the game, Celtics 103-91 The Celtics certainly needed this one. Back home after a disappointing road trip, in which they dropped all three games, the Celtics managed to build a 20-point lead, watch it disappear, then regain control. They relied on 40 points from Paul Pierce plus 20 from Rajon Rondo to overcome Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers. Pierce got a number of standing ovations tonight, the last one when he was taken out with 1:03 left in the game.
Fourth quarter, 3:13, Celtics 98-85 And that's 40 points for Paul Pierce now. He seems to be able to make any shot he wants tonight. Any shot. They are showing Pierce on the scoreboard, and he just got a standing ovation from the crowd here.
Fourth quarter, 4:30, Celtics 94-84 Pierce gets the lead back to double digits with a pair of free throws. The Celtics are shooting 57.9 percent in this game.
Fourth quarter, 6:17, Celtics 88-82 Pierce just had his first miss from beyond the arc tonight. He's still 6-for-7 from there, with 34 points on a night that the Celtics really need his help as a 20-point lead is down to four.
Fourth quarter, 9:19, Celtics 82-77 The Cavaliers are on a 17-2 run right now, and are down just five points. The Celtics can't afford to blow this game against an inferior opponent.
End of the third quarter, Celtics 82-72 The Cavaliers cut the deficit down to 10 points at the end of the third quarter with Pierce and Rondo on the bench. Kyrie Irving has 21 points, but interestingly has zero assists. Rondo is up to eight assists, to go along with his 14 points.
Third quarter, 3:42, Celtics 78-59 Paul Pierce gets a nice ovation as he exits, being replaced by Jeff Green. Pierce leaves 6-for-6 on threes, with 32 points.
Third quarter, 5:56, Celtics 72-57 Paul Pierce. Well, that was certainly needed for the Celtics. Pierce is leading the team as they break open this game against the woeful Cavaliers. Pierce has been outstanding, shooting 9-for-11 overall, including 6-for-6 from the line and an amazing 5-for-5 from beyond the arc. He has 29 points so far.
Third quarter, 7:53, Celtics 67-55 Paul Pierce is up to 24 points, and the Celtics are doing a much better job on defense than they have been of late. They're holding the Cavs to 43.4 percent shooting while shooting 60.5 percent on their end. The 12-point lead is their biggest of the night.
Halftime, Celtics 54-46 Kevin Garnett looks like he's enjoying being back at the power forward spot. He has 10 points at the half. Pierce leads the team with 15 and Rondo has 10. Alonzo Gee has 11 for the Cavaliers. Sullinger leads the Celtics with five rebounds, and Jason Terry has three assists.
Second quarter, 1;32, Celtics 52-44 Nice alley oop from Rondo to Garnett pushed the lead back to eight points as some fans start chanting "MVP."
Second quarter, 4:38, Celtics 45-36 The Celtics are opening things up a bit here in the second quarter. Paul Pierce just hit a three -- he's 3-for-3 on threes -- to put the Celtics up by nine points, their biggest lead of the game.
Second quarter, 5:31, Celtics 40-36 The Cavs are featuring a balanced scoring attack with no player with double digits in points. The Celtics have Rondo with 12 and Pierce with 10. Rondo still is without an assist tonight.
Second quarter, 8:43, Celtics 32-31 Even with no Anderson Varejao for the Cavs, the Celtics are still being out-rebounded by 14-13.
End of the first quarter, Celtics 27-25 So the Celtics aren't exactly impressing with their defensive effort so far in this game after some lackluster defense on the road in the last three games. Rajon Rondo has 12 points and four rebounds and zero assists so far.
First quarter, 2:28, Celtics 23-19 The Cavs missed a chance to get their first lead of the game, and that turned into a Paul Pierce three pointer at the other end. Pierce added a second three after the Cavs got a basket. He is up to 10 points on the game, followed by Rondo with eight.
First quarter, 5:01, 13-13 Rajon Rondo has gotten out to a quick start for the C's. But he's the only one. Rondo has eight of the Celtics' 13 points in this game, plus three rebounds. Jason Terry has three points, and Brandon Bass has two.
First quarter, 10:02, Celtics 5-0 -- The Celtics have started well against the Cavaliers. But, of course, it's early. Jason Collins did just pick up his first foul in the game.
Pregame -- We're about to tip off here at the Garden. It will be interesting to see how the changes to the starting lineup affect the Celtics. Jason Collins and Jason Terry were inserted into the lineup by Doc Rivers after the Celtics dropped all three games on their road trip.
"Right now, until Avery comes back, for Jet (Terry's nickname) he just doesn't get involved when Rondo's not on the floor, when he's not playing with Rondo," Rivers said. "He had two shots last night. It has nothing to do with anybody else. It's more just trying to keep Jet involved. He needs to be out on the floor with a point guard that can deliver the ball to him."
That wasn't the only change, though. Rivers said he was pondering using Jason Collins at center and moving Kevin Garnett to power forward to change Garnett's matchups. That decision was confirmed by Sean Grande via Twitter moments later.
"I've been talking about a lot. We just haven't done it," Rivers said. "I've been trying to find ways of getting Kevin off the five spot all game. Right now, even when we bring the other guys in, the same guys guard him and he's stuck in the same position. The only way you can force the action is with Jason."
There was also news on the Bradley front. Bradley said that he would not play on the upcoming West Coast trip, though he will travel with the team. He said that the target date is early January, perhaps the Jan. 2 game against Memphis at home.
"They're saying January, around the first or second," Bradley said. "We're just going to see how I feel. We're hoping for the next home game after the West Coast trip.
"Knowing Ed [Lacerte], he sticks to his schedule. That's what he's been saying, around January. We'll see how I feel."
Bradley practiced for the first time on Monday in Chicago.
The Celtics have lost three straight, all three on their road trip through Texas and Chicago. They'll try to reverse that against the woeful Cavaliers, who are 5-21 coming into tonight's game.
BOSTON CELTICS (12-12)
PG Rajon Rondo
SG Jason Terry
SF Paul Pierce
PF Kevin Garnett
C Jason Collins
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (5-21)
PG Kyrie Irving
SG Dion Waiters
SF Alonzo Gee
PF Tristan Thompson
C Tyler Zeller
TV/Radio: 7:30 p.m. Comcast Sportsnet / WEEI
• This is the second in a back-to-back for the Celtics, in Chicago on Tuesday night and at home on Wednesday.
• The Celtics have yet to face the Cavaliers this season, but went 2-1 against them in 2011-2012.
It took all of 12 seconds in Tuesday night's game vs. the Bulls for the No. 1 problem of the 2012 Celtics season to become glaringly evident. Just after the jump ball, Chicago power forward Carlos Boozer rolled to the hoop as Kevin Garnett got caught in a pick-and-roll. Boozer took took a pass from Bulls center Joakim Noah in for a wide open lay-up. More defensive lapses followed as the Celtics allowed 100 points to a team that averages 92.4 points.
If you're a numerologist, you may see some larger meaning in a team with a 12-12 record showcasing its biggest weakness 12 seconds into a game. If you're a Celtics fan, any cuteness or coincidence to this early-season slumping has long worn off. After 12 wins and 12 losses, the bigger question is: What the heck is going on?
Two factors are largely at play. Defense, a staple of the teams led by Garnett and coached by Doc Rivers since 2007, has been a problem. And for the second straight year, the Celtics continue to struggle in the rebounding department. Just look at how the Celtics have declined in league rank in total rebounding and in both defensive effective field goal percentage (which accounts for defense against 3-pointers) and traditional defensive field goal percentage in the years since Garnett's arrival:
Total rebounds: Def. eFG% Def. FG%
2012: 13th 18th 20th
2011: 21st 2d 1st
2010: 4th 2d 3d
2009: 9th 9th 9th
2008: 2d 3d 1st
2007: 2d 1st 1st
In the last two seasons the Celtics have been dead last in offensive rebounding percentage. They're No. 12 in the NBA this season in John Hollinger's (former ESPN columnist who just got a front-office gig with the Memphis Grizzlies) defensive efficiency ratings, the number of points a team allows per 100 possessions.
The numbers back up what we've seen on the court. Paul Pierce talked about getting "outworked" vs. the Bulls, and we've seen that in recent weeks. A Bulls-Celtics game will always be a grind-it-out affair, and the Bulls simply ground harder Tuesday night. Chicago scored 48 points in the paint and made 21 free throws. If there was a way to get to the basket, the Bulls -- playing without former MVP Derrick Rose -- found it.
"This team is not a good team right now,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “It’s who we are right now. I’ve been saying that. This is who we are. We’re a .500 team and we play like that. We’ve won two games in a row [once this] season. Right now we’re not a good team. We’re going to find it, but we’re not right now."
The proof is everywhere, during every game. During last week's loss to San Antonio, a rebound careened out toward the free throw line on the Spurs' end of the floor. Courtney Lee was the closest player to the ball, but he hesitated and didn't aggressively pursue it. The ball hit the floor, bounced to a Spur, and San Antonio retained possession. It's an example that highlights, whether through effort or scheme, that something's broken and needs to be fixed.
The Celtics tried to fix many of their problems in the offseason by getting younger and deeper. Acutely aware that relying on Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to carry too much of the workload was a bad thing as the players aged, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge brought in Jeff Green, Jason Terry, and Lee, and re-signed Brandon Bass to give the team depth. The theory went that the loss of Ray Allen to Miami would be softened by the addition of the newcomers.
It hasn't worked. In addition to rebounding and defense, the production of the team's depth is a concern. The debate over Major League Baseball's MVP award shined light onto WAR, an advanced metric that calculates a player's value relative to a replacement player at his position. Hollinger developed something similar for basketball players called Estimated Wins Added. Where Celtics players stand on this list is telling.
As you'd expect, Boston's best three players rate highly. Rajon Rondo is 25th in the league in EWA at 3.5, Pierce is 26th at 3.4, and Garnett is 36th at 3.1. Then it gets hairy. Terry is the next highest-rated Celtics at 142d. Next in line are Leandro Barbosa and Chris Wilcox. You have to go all the way down to No. 253 to find Jeff Green (to be fair to the trade revisionists, Kendrick Perkins is down at 260). Courtney Lee is No. 312 out of 323 players listed, adding -0.6 wins above a replacement player. Ahead of all but the Celtics' new big three, Ray Allen is 75th.
Add up all of this and it's not surprising that the Celtics haven't won a game this season with a starting lineup of Rondo, Lee, Pierce, Bass, and Garnett. The team's problems are real, particularly on the defensive end, where they didn't struggle nearly as much when they got off to their slow start last season. Avery Bradley's ball pressure will help the defense, but it's unikely to fix it. To give you an idea of what the Celtics are missing, potential Boston trade target Marcin Gortat tied for 13th last season in EWA, higher than any Celtic. The Celtics don't just need Bradley and a big man. They need Bradley and a relentless, rebound-crazed big man. Seeing Joakim Noah Tuesday night and Anderson Varejao Wednesday night should hammer that home.
Rivers is right when he says the Celtics aren't a very good team. The offense (the Celtics are 5th in the league in field goal percentage) is passable. The defense has been laughable. Until that changes, what you see is what you're going to get.
Final: Bulls 100-89: The game wasn't that close as the Celtics trailed 100-79 before a late run. Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer each scored 21. Rajon Rondo led Boston with 26. Nate Robinson scored 18 off the bench.
Fourth quarter, 5:32, Bulls 95-75: When Nate Robinson is putting on a show, you know the game is pretty much decided. He has 15 points, 9 in the fourth quarter as the Bulls are proving they are the better team, which is embarrassing when you consider they don't have Derrick Rose.
Fourth quarter, 8:59, Bulls 87-73: After clawing to within 3 points late in the third period, the Celtics have been outscored 17-6, the past 6 by former Celtic Nate Robinson on 3-pointers. The Bulls have been patient in their breaking down of the Celtics defense, shooting 52.5 percent and sinking 19 of 21 free throws. The Celtics are being carried by Rajon Rondo, who has a season-high 26 points.
End of third quarter, Bulls 79-70: A 9-0 Chicago run near the end of the quarter may have done in the Celtics. Of course, it was done by methodical passing and defensive breakdowns. Luol Deng has 21 points for Chicago and Carlos Boozer with 19. Joakim Noah is two assists away from a trouble double. Rajon Rondo has 26 for the Celtics, the next-highest scorer for Boston is Paul Pierce with 14. The bench has done little with 7 total points on 3-for-13 shooting and nine fouls.
Third quarter, 3:18, Bulls 70-67: Rajon Rondo (10 points in the quarter) is keeping the Celtics close but they can't stop the Bulls, who continue to pound the ball inside and either score or get fouled. The Bulls have 38 points in the paint and 16 at the free throw line.
Third quarter, 9:04, Bulls 57-54: See what happens when you defend? The Bulls are 1-for-3 with a turnover in the quarter while the Celtics are 3-for-5 shooting and they look motivated to make a big run. Solid night for Kevin Garnett so far, 10 points and eight rebounds.
Halftime, Bulls 55-48: It was a difficult first half defensively for the Celtics, who allowed 55 points to the 27th-ranked scoring team in the NBA. The Bulls scored 30 of their points in the paint and 12 came on second chances. Luol Deng, who usually punishes the Celtics, led Chicago with 16 while Carlos Boozer has 12. Rajon Rondo made a scoring surge late in the half and has a team-high 13 for the Celtics.
Second quarter, 2:40, Bulls 49-38: The Celtics are risking falling behind too far to make a run because of their unwillingness to play defense. In one sequence, Rajon Rondo just stopped defending Nate Robinson, who canned an open 3-pointer. The Bulls have scored 28 of their points in the paint and have 12 second-chance points. The Celtics have 12 and 0.
Second quarter, 7:09, Bulls 40-29: It's getting ugly here as the Celtics are the rested ones but playing with no energy while the Bulls are scoring with ease against poor defense.
Second quarter, 8:32, Bulls 32-27: Chicago continues to score easy baskets and make it tough on the Celtics defensively. And it doesn't help from Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger are a combined 0-for-9 shooting with 1 point. Kevin Garnett has 8 for the Celtics.
End of first quarter, Bulls 28-23: It was way too easy in the first quarter for Chicago, 18 of its points were scored in the paint, 8 from the free throw line and 2 on a jumper. That's too easy. Luol Deng, the Celtics nemesis, has 14 points, 8 from the free throw line. Paul Pierce has 7 points for Boston.
First quarter, 2:45, Tied at 18: The Celtics are playing poor defense so far, allowing a score of layups on the extra pass. Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer have 6 points for the Bulls while Joakim Noah has 5 rebounds. Kevin Garnett pulled down 5 rebounds in his six minutes but Brandon Bass has already missed four shots.
First quarter, 7:00, Celtics 13-8: Courtney Lee is off to a strong start with 4 points but the Celtics have already given up four layups defensively. Paul Pierce has 5 points for the Celtics. Luol Deng 4 for Chicago.
CHICAGO -- The Celtics will try to end their three-game road trip with a victory against the Bulls, who are still missing all-star point guard Derrick Rose. The irony is the Celtics have been in Chicago for two days while the Bulls came back to Chicago early Tuesday morning after Monday's loss at Memphis. The Celtics begin a stretch of three games in four nights before three days off.
BOSTON CELTICS (12-11)
PG Rajon Rondo
SG Courtney Lee
SF Paul Pierce
PF Brandon Bass
C Kevin Garnett
PG Kirk Hinrich
SG Marco Bellinelli
SF Luol Deng
PF Carlos Boozer
C Joakim Noah
Officials: Jason Phillips, Violet Palmer, Leon Wood
TV/Radio: 8 p.m. Comcast Sportsnet / WEEI
• This is the Celtics' final visit of the season to United Center. They won here 101-95 on Nov. 12.
• The Celtics enjoyed a rare two-day break but return to action Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers, who host Toronto tonight.
• Avery Bradley said he felt fine after practicing for the first time in seven months on Monday, but he has no idea when he will make his game debut. Bradley said he may need "two weeks" of practice to get ready.
• Doc Rivers said Courtney Lee will start at shooting guard for the time being and Jason Terry will return to his normal bench role. Bradley could get the starting spot when he returns.
CHICAGO -- Avery Bradley's return to practice Monday at United Center comes at a perfect time for a team struggling to find consistency and with a void at shooting guard.
Not only did Bradley practice issue-free Monday after missing the first 23 games following double shoulder surgery, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said the starting shooting guard slot is available if he can unseat Courtney Lee.
"Yeah (but) he's got to get it," Rivers said of Bradley eventually returning to the starting lineup. "But he'll have to earn that and get it but I think on paper, it looks better. But you have to wait and see how it works once he gets back."
Rivers said before practice that Lee will remain the team's starter at shooting guard because Jason Terry boosts the bench with his scoring.
"I want Jason off the bench. You could see how well he's playing now. He's comfortable there," Rivers said. "We're just keep starting Courtney or whoever. I like Jason off the bench. I don't think it helps the starting lineup right now but you put him on the starting lineup and then our bench struggles. It's one or the other.
"Honestly, Jason and Courtney are really great in the second unit together. They really move the ball. The last three or four games our second unit has really come in and made runs for us."
Bradley last played in an NBA game on May 18 when he re-injured his shoulder during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. He under went surgery on both shoulders. once in June and the other in July.
He had been working out informally for the past few weeks but went through some personal workouts with player development coach Keyon Dooling on Saturday and was cleared by head trainer Ed Lacerte through a text message.
"I've really been looking forward to it," he said before practice. "I'm just excited to get out there and feel like I'm part of the team again. I can do everything, no restrictions right now. I just gotta see how it goes (Monday). Having to be patient has been hard for me but I feel like it's all going to pay off now. I feel like I came back stronger than I have ever been."
Rivers will welcome the team's best defender back.
"We've got to be a better defensive team," the coach said. "Avery's going to help us but he ain't the savior. But he's absolutely going to take a lot of pressure off the guys. He's going to do what he does defensively. Having said that, other guys have to join in."
Final, Spurs 103-88: Celtics allow five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and are handed another disappointing loss. Tony Parker scored 9 points in the final period. He finishes the game with 22 points and Gary Neal added 20. Paul Pierce and Jason Terry each scored 18 for the Celtics.
Fourth quarter, 6:24, Spurs 89-78: The Celtics are running out of gas and San Antonio is making them pay by hitting every open shot. A 3-pointer by Tony Parker and then jumper by Parker caused Doc Rivers' ire.
Fourth quarter, 9:04, Spurs 79-73: The Celtics aren't getting much help tonight from the officials and have committed 17 turnovers but still have a chance. Jason Terry has 17 points but none in the second half. Courtney Lee to the free throw line for one shot.
End of third quarter, Spurs 77-69: The Celtics are killing themselves with turnovers (17 for 24 San Antonio points) and defensive breakdowns. Rajon Rondo fell asleep on Nando De Colo, who sprinted to the basket for a layup and free throw. Celtics have committed 17 personal fouls to San Antonio's 7.
Third quarter, 3:14, Spurs 74-63: San Antonio is getting all the breaks, all the foul calls and the Celtics are letting this one slip away. Tony Parker just potentially flopped twice and both were called fouls on the Celtics.
Third quarter, 7:29, Spurs 61-55: The Celtics had a chance to take the lead but Rajon Rondo missed a layup and Gary Neal responded with a 3-pointer. Paul Pierce then hit a 3-pointer and Danny Green countered with a 3-pointer, so timeout Celtics. The Celtics have attempted two free throws all night.
Halftime, Spurs 52-49: The Celtics are hanging in there as each team is making runs at each other. But the key is the production from the San Antonio compliments. Tiago Splitter, Gary Neal and Matt Bonner have scored a combined 29 points on 11-for-17 shooting. Jason Terry is having his best game as a Celtic with 17 points and Paul Pierce has added 14. The Celtics again are having trouble with turnovers with 12.
Second quarter, 6:24, Spurs 38-31: The Spurs have stormed back with an 8-0 run as Gary Neal and Tiago Splitter continue to be the offensive difference. The two have combined for 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting. The Celtics haven't scored in nearly two minutes and are back to their ways of missing easy shots.
Second quarter, 8:57, Spurs 30-29: Jason Terry is on his game, scoring 6 straight points as the Celtics try to climb back into this one. He followed a long 3-pointer with a fastbreak layup as Rajon Rondo remains on the bench. The Celtics are shooting 52 percent but has committed seven turnovers.
End of first quarter, Spurs 26-21: San Antonio is pretty much getting what they want in the paint with Tiago Splitter already scored 8 points, all on layups. Tony Parker also has 8 for the Spurs. Kevin Garnett has 2 points for the Celtics.
First quarter, 2:54, Spurs 20-19: The Celtics are shooting 56 percent from the field but the Spurs are pounding the ball in the paint, having already attempted seven free throws. Tony Parker has 6 points for the Spurs.
First quarter, 6:56, Spurs 15-12: The Celtics got off to the fast start they wanted but the Spurs have countered with a 12-4 run as their offense continues to create easy shots. Tony Parker has the past two baskets for San Antonio. Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo each have 4 points for the Celtics.
SAN ANTONIO -- The Celtics will attempt to get back on the winning track against the Spurs, who beat them soundly 112-100 at TD Garden last month. Courtney Lee will return to the starting lineup after scoring 8 points as a starter Friday against the Houston Rockets. Tim Duncan is undergoing a career resurgence, including doubling his block total from last season.
BOSTON CELTICS (12-10)
PG Rajon Rondo
SG Courtney Lee
SF Paul Pierce
PF Brandon Bass
C Kevin Garnett
SAN ANTONIO SPURS (18-6)
PG Tony Parker
SG Gary Neal
SF Danny Green
PF DeJuan Blair
C TIm Duncan
Officials: Rodney Mott, Kevin Fehr, Ton Brown
TV/Radio: 8:30 Comcast Sportsnet / WEEI
• Rajon Rondo leads all NBA guards with a 51.4 field goal percentage. San Antonio's Tony Parker is second.
• Doc Rivers said he will reduce the minutes for Paul Pierce, who logged nearly 41 minutes Friday.
• The Celtics will stay in San Antonio Saturday night and travel to Chicago on Sunday in preparation for Tuesday's game against the Bulls.
Final: Rockets 101-89: Not the way the Celtics wanted to start this three-game road trip. They looked uninterested in defense in the second half, allowing the Rockets to shoot 57.1 percent and hit seven 3-pointers. James Harden led Houston with 21 points. Paul Pierce had 18 on 5-for-18 shooting for the Celtics.
Fourth quarter, 2:52, Rockets 96-85: The Celtics are just killing themselves with silly mistakes and missed shots, and the Rockets are making them pay with the 3-point shot. Houston just canned its 10th of the game, a Toney Douglas special after a Rajon Rondo lazy pass was picked by Chandler Parsons for a fastbreak. Disappointing effort for the Celtics.
Fourth quarter, 7:42, Rockets 86-78: Greg Smith has been the story tonight with 20 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes. The Celtics are letting him roam around the basket and he is taking advantage of the soft defense with easy layups.
End of third quarter, Rockets 75-70: The Celtics appear cinched for one of those clunker defensive quarters and tonight it was the third. Houston was 11-for-18 shooting in the period and 4 of 5 from the 3-point line, leading by as many 9 before the Celtics rallied for the final 4 points. Paul Pierce leads Boston with 14 points but on 4-for-14 shooting. James Harden has a quiet 16 for Houston on 5-for-13 shooting.
Third quarter, 5:30, Rockets 63-56: The Celtics came out lethargic in the second half and the Rockets have hit 7 of 9 shots to create some distance. Chandler Parson and James Harden each have 13 points as the Rockets are closing in on one of those unwanted 30-point quarters. The Celtics have five turnovers in the quarter and committing seven in the first half.
Halftime, Celtics 45-43: The Celtics went cold after taking a 7-point lead at the 3:35 mark, scoring 4 points for the rest of the period, but they trailed by as many as 13 and their defense against Houston's halfcourt offense is stifling. Paul Pierce scored all 12 of his points in the second quarter. But Greg Smith (11 points, 6 rebounds) is causing problems for the Celtics.
Second quarter, 2:26, Celtics 41-37: A stirring 18-2 run got the Celtics the lead as they contested every shot, forcing the Rockets into 4-for-15 shooting in the quarter. Paul Pierce has heated up with 11 points in the quarter. Rajon Rondo has six assists. Chandler Parsons and Greg Smith have 7 points for Houston.
Second quarter, 6:38, Tied at 32: The Rockets have cooled off while the Celtics are closing in but keep missing easy shots. But they are consistently getting defensive stops and Jason Terry just buried his second 3-pointer to tie the game. Amazingly the Celtics are shooting 33 percent. Houston is 2-for-7 shooting in the quarter.
End of first quarter, Rockets 27-19: The Celtics are lucky to be so close but they seemed to have figured something out defensively after giving up some early easy baskets. Kevin Garnett also came back into the game and drained a jumper after missing five of his first six. Courtney Lee leads the Celtics with 5 points while James Harden has 6 for Houston.
First quarter, 2:31, Rockets 23-13: The Rockets already have 6 fastbreak points and are pushing the ball at every opportunity. They are stretching the floor and moving the ball on pick-and-rolls, which is forcing the Celtics into scramble mode. Meanwhile, the offense is 6-for-18 shooting, including 1-for-6 from Garnett, who is on the bench. Courtney Lee has 5 points.
First quarter, 10:06, Rockets 6-2: It's obvious the Rockets plan to run after every Boston miss because they have already had two runouts that have led to a dunk and two-shot foul. Kevin Garnett has had three good looks but converted just one.
HOUSTON -- The Celtics will try to continue their momentum with a difficult game tonight against the Rockets and coach Doc Rivers has decided to insert Courtney Lee back into the lineup and move Jason Terry back to the bench. It is uncertain whether this is a permanent move.
Rivers also addressed the tragedy in Connecticut and said he would talk with his players about the issue before the game.
"I don’t know what right answer is (in whether I should address the team), I know a lot of our guys are talking about it,” he said. “It was awful, just awful day. It really is. This is our jobs. You know? This is not a game for us. This is what we do but when something like this happens, it supersedes job and everything else. As a parent, this is awful, awful what happened.
“I saw a guy do an interview there with a Celtics shirt on. So that does make it part of our community, that area. It’s probably 50-50 Celtics or Knicks in Connecticut. But this is a national incident. I think it hits home because we’re all parents and it’s just senseless.”
BOSTON CELTICS (12-9)
PG Rajon Rondo
SG Courtney Lee
SF Paul Pierce
PF Brandon Bass
C Kevin Garnett
HOUSTON ROCKETS (10-11)
PG Jeremy Lin
SG James Harden
SF Chandler Parsons
PF Patrick Patterson
C Omer Asik
Officials: Tom Washington, David Jones, Haywoode Workman
Game time: 8 p.m.
TV/Radio: Comcast Sportsnet, ESPN / WEEI
• Former Harvard standout Jeremy Lin said he's more comfortable in Houston after last year's event-filled season with the Knicks. Lin is shooting 39.9 percent from the field.
• Rivers said he will work Leandro Barbosa back into the rotation after being satisfied with the bench play the previous week. The Celtics, who played a double-overtime game Wednesday, had four games in the next six nights.
• Doc Rivers said Avery Bradley, who is traveling with the team, is progressing but he has no idea when Bradley will be cleared to practice.
• The Celtics travel after the game to face the San Antonio Spurs for the final time this season.
Double OT, Celtics 117-115 : That second overtime was really, really ugly. The two teams combined to score five points total in the first 4:20, which were full of missed shots, turnovers, and even Mayo slipping and losing the ball at one point. But Rondo drove for a layup with 40 seconds to go, giving the Celtics a three-point lead. And Pierce, who finished with 34 points, added a free throw to extend the lead to four points with 17.3 seconds left. Vince Carter hit a three with 9.3 to go. Two more foul shots from Pierce. Two foul shots from Collison. Two foul shots from Pierce. Turnover, Mavs. Two foul shots from Lee. And a three from Mayo that didn't change the outcome. Over. FINALLY.
Double OT, 3:20, Celtics 108-107: Pierce got the double OT started with a three. A little late, Paul, no? The Mavs answered with a bucket of their own.
End of first overtime, 105-105: OJ Mayo made the driving layup to tie the score, giving the Celtics the ball with 11.1 seconds to go. But the Celtics couldn't get anything going, with Rondo dishing to Pierce who couldn't get anything close to a real shot. Bad possessions for the C's at the end of regulation and the first OT.
Overtime, 1:07, 101-101: Terry gets the steal, but misses the layup from Rondo at the other end. Derek Fisher fouls Rondo, though, for his sixth of the game.
Overtime, 2:05, Celtics 101-99: Pierce drives to the basket, giving the Celtics a two-point lead and prompting a Dallas time out.
End of regulation, 96-96, : When the Celtics were up by 14 in the third, it didn't look like this game was going to go to overtime. But that's where we're headed. The game was tied at 96-96 with 24.6 seconds to go. Time out, Mavs. With 6.9 seconds to go, Rondo made the steal on Mayo, with Dallas not having attempted a shot. But with the ball in Rondo's hands at the end of regulation, the Celtics didn't get off a real shot either, and we're headed for extra basketball here at the Garden.
Fourth quarter, 1:09, Celtics 96-95: Huge call here. Joey Crawford says the Mavs have it on a ball that went out of bounds as Pierce and Marion fought under the basket. The refs go to the tape, and the call stands. Mavs ball with just over a minute to go.
Fourth quarter, 1:44, Mavs 95-94: The Mavs got their first lead of the game on a three from Derek Fisher.
Fourth quarter, 2:20, Tie 92-92: It's a tie game, at 92-92 with just 2:20 left to play. Time out, Celtics.
Fourth quarter, 3:33, Celtics 90-87: The Mavericks have 21 turnovers. The Celtics have 11.
Fourth quarter, 5:21, Celtics 88-85: Rondo is up to 12 points, 12 assists, and seven rebounds. But, more importantly, the Celtics have had a chance to extend their lead and they haven't. Of course, the Mavs have had a chance to tie the game or take the lead and they haven't either.
Fourth quarter, 7:27, Celtics 86-83: There's a lot of basketball left to play, but the Celtics could be doing their best to give away a winnable game.
End of the third quarter, Celtics 76-70: The Celtics still have the lead, but it's a lot more tenuous than it was earlier in the quarter. Rondo did hit a bucket at the buzzer to bring the lead to six points. It also gave him 10 points, and a double-double through three quarters. The Mavericks are getting balanced scoring from Collison (13), Kaman (12), Marion (11), and Jones (10).
Third quarter, 2:53, Celtics 70-63: The Celtics' biggest lead was 14 points, but the Mavs have cut it down to seven as the third quarter winds down. Boston is shooting just 44.1 percent and being outrebounded 30-26 by Dallas.
Third quarter, 7:26, Celtics 63-52: The 11-point lead is the biggest for the Celtics tonight. Pierce is up to 20 points, and Garnett has 10. Rondo has 10 assists.
Halftime, Celtics 48-43: So close. Paul Pierce had his toe clearly on the line on his shot with 49.4 seconds left. But though it wasn't a three, he made the bucket, drawing the foul from Collison to make it a three-point play. The Mavs answered with a three, but the Celtics still go into halftime leading by five points. Pierce leads the C's with 16 points. Chris Kaman has 10 for Dallas. Rondo has seven assists, and Jeff Green leads with four rebounds for Boston.
Second quarter, 2:35, Celtics 45-37: For all the talk about OJ Mayo at Celtics practice yesterday, Mayo has just four points so far in this one. He's 2-for-3 from the floor.
Second quarter, 6:43, Celtics 35-30: And, suddenly, it seems as if no one on the Celtics can shoot. They're 12-for-29 (41.4 percent), though they still have the five-point lead over Dallas. Jeff Green is the biggest offender, at 2-for-8.
Second quarter, 9:38, Celtics 33-25: Big possession right there. Kevin Garnett gets his first rebound since Friday night against the 76ers, and it ends in a three pointer for Courtney Lee. There haven't been many of those in the Garden this season.
End of the first quarter, Celtics 27-25: Despite playing for just five minutes, Garnett is your leading Celtics scorer tonight with six points. He's followed by Paul Pierce with five points. Rondo has five assists. Chris Wilcox has three rebounds. Kaman leads with six points for the Mavericks.
First quarter, 2:05, Celtics 23-21: The Celtics were 7-for-10 from the field. Now they're 9-for-19. And that's only because Brandon Bass made their last shot.
First quarter, 4:08, Celtics 21-15: In his five minutes, Kevin Garnett has zero rebounds. (He's been on the bench for a couple of minutes now.) Combined with his 0-fer on the boards on Saturday night, Garnett can't be happy. You might recall he did his best David Ortiz impression after that game against the 76ers: "That's bull #$@%!"
First quarter, 6:04, Celtics 15-13: Both teams shooting well so far. The C's have made 7-of-10. The Mavs have made 6-of-9.
First quarter, 10:57, Celtics 4-0: Celtics on the board first. Boston could REALLY use a winning streak, even one as small as two games. That's been the theme all week, that the team needs to stop this win one-lose one streak they've got going. Will that streak come against the Mavs?
There was another big crowd of media around Jason Terry before Wednesday night's game, this time full of Dallas reporters who covered Terry during his time with the Mavericks. He had said Tuesday that he didn't anticipate the game being emotional, perhaps other than a reunion with coach Rick Carlisle.
Asked if he misses Terry, Carlisle said, "Do we miss him? As K.C. Jones would say, 'Does a bear [expletive] in the woods?' Yeah, we miss him."
Carlisle reflected on the discussion he had when he first told Terry he was no longer going to be in the starting lineup.
"The conversation was him saying to me, 'hey, coach, whatever you need, I'll do. I'll start, come off the bench, whatever role you think is best for us to win as a team and help you do your job,'" Carlisle said. "That's unique. There aren't a lot of guys wired that way.
"It's one of the reasons that he's so beloved in Dallas. He's about winning and he's about sacrifice. I'm sure he had the same conversation with Doc [Rivers] when he got here."
Terry did acknowledge that there is likely a future with the Mavericks organization after he retires, though he doesn't want that day to come soon. Owner Mark Cuban has gone on the record saying that Terry would be welcome back.
"Dallas is still my home base," Terry said. "I definitely want to be a part of the Mavericks organization. I am a Maverick in my heart."
The main storyline for Wednesday night's game centers around Jason Terry facing his old team, but the emergence of Jeff Green might be more interesting to Celtics fans.
Green has averaged 16 points per game over his last five contests. He's shooting 54 percent in those games (58 percent from 3-point range). The surge follows a pair of clunkers: One point against the Magic Nov. 25, 2 points against Brooklyn Nov. 28.
Green's emergence comes at a good time for both himself and the Celtics. It was barely 20 games into the season, but whispers about Green's play grew into not-so-muffled shouts after those Magic and Nets performances. For a player coming off major heart surgery, Green wasn't getting much slack. The timing is good for the Celtics because they can truly give Paul Pierce the early-season rest he deserves if Green is effective.
The Mavericks are going through some growing pains of their own without Dirk Nowitzki, who has missed the entire season following right knee surgery. Shawn Marion has also missed the last two games. He is questionable. The Mavericks have won four straight games in the series.
Here are the details for tonight's game:
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
Records: Celtics (11-9), Mavericks (11-10)
Broadcast info:CSNNE (Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn), ESPN, WEEI/93.7 FM (Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell)
Celtics: PG: Rajon Rondo SG: Jason Terry SF: Paul Pierce PF: Brandon Bass C: Kevin Garnett
Mavericks: PG: Derek Fisher SG: O.J. Mayo SF: Dahntay Jones PF: Brandan Wright C: Chris Kaman
Defending home court: On paper, the Celtics should win this game. They're 7-4 at home, and the Mavericks are missing their best player. But it never seems to be that easy with this group. The Celtics play to their competition whether the opponent is up or down. Can they break that trend?
What could have been: Guard O.J. Mayo and center Chris Kaman were both rumored to join the Celtics in some capacity over the past year. Mayo is the team's leading scorer at 20.8 points per game, and Kaman is second at 14.3 points per game. Both players would have been good fits for the Celtics (especially Kaman). Mayo presents a matchup problem for the Avery Bradley-less Celtics.
Looking ahead: If the playoffs started today the Celtics would be the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. Right now they're the fourth-best team in the Atlantic Division. What this means for the playoff race is absolutely nothing. What it means on a larger scale is that we know the Celtics are better than their record. More than 1/4 of the way through the season, when will they start to prove it?
End of the game, Celtics 92-79: After the Celtics dropped Friday night's game to the 76ers in overtime, they came back strong, beating a tired-looking Philadelphia team at the Garden. Kevin Garnett led the Celtics with 19 points in 24 minutes, though he had zero rebounds. Jeff Green added 16. The leading rebounders for the Celtics? Jared Sullinger and Rajon Rondo each had nine.
Fourth quarter, 7:24, Celtics 81-65: Rondo, for now: 5 points, 8 rebounds, 10 assists.
End of the third quarter, Celtics 70-57: After that 13-0 run, the Celtics got back five straight points, to finish the quarter still leading by double digits. Kevin Garnett leads Boston with 19 points, though he has no rebounds tonight. The 76ers were 14-for-20 in the quarter after shooting 23.1 percent in the first half.
Third quarter, 1:18, Celtics 65-57: The 76ers have turned things around here in the third quarter, narrowing the Celtics lead to eight points. They're on a 13-0 run since that Courtney Lee three-pointer. Time out, Celtics.
Third quarter, 4:21, Celtics 65-44: Courtney Lee for 3! Lee was 1-for-11 from behind the arc at the Garden before he made that basket.
Third quarter, 5:10, Celtics 62-44: The Celtics have two players with double-double possibilities tonight. Paul Pierce has 13 points and seven assists. Rajon Rondo has three points, five rebounds, and eight assists. Rondo is also the Celtics leading rebounder.
Third quarter, 7:26, Celtics 56-36: The Celtics have two guys (Rondo, Pierce) who each have as many assists than the entire 76ers team. Both have six. The 76ers have six.
End of the second quarter, Celtics 48-28: Ugly first half for the 76ers. Not only are they down by 20 points, but they made just nine field goals and had just three assists before halftime. Paul Pierce leads the Celtics with 13 points. Rajon Rondo has four rebounds and five assists.
Second quarter, 2:29, Celtics 43-24: There are less than three minutes to go in the half, and the 76ers have eight field goals. Seriously.
Second quarter, 4:44, Celtics 39-24: Jason Terry just hit a three to put the C's up by 15. Philadelphia, meanwhile, is looking a step slow on the back-to-back, shooting just 25.8 percent from the field.
Second quarter, 10:34, Celtics 28-16: Emphatic dunk from KG brings on a 12-point lead for the Celtics and a time out from Philadelphia.
End of the first quarter, Celtics 24-16: Jason Terry has bounced back with five points so far on 2-of-4 shooting, including a three-pointer, and the C's lead by eight points after the first quarter. Rondo played just seven minutes in the quarter, and Kevin Garnett six.
First quarter, 1:49, Celtics 22-12: The Celtics have managed to come out strong, even after playing in Philly last night. Jared Sullinger just gave them a 10-point lead on a basket with less than two minutes to play in the quarter. Pierce is leading the team with six points so far.
First quarter, 8:14, Celtics 8-2: Rajon Rondo, who got some effusive praise from Doug Collins before the game, already has two rebounds and three assists. Back-to-back triple-double in the cards for him tonight?
First quarter, 10:20, Celtics 2-0: And, despite all those minutes, Pierce becomes the first to score tonight.
Pregame -- Philadelphia coach Doug Collins reminded his team just how many minutes the Celtics' top players have under their belts -- about 51,000 for Kevin Garnett, 48,000 for Paul Pierce, 38,000 for Jason Terry, Collins said, though he was off on a few of the numbers -- to indicate that the 76ers have no excuse for not being the fresher team tonight. Doc Rivers couldn't really argue with that point. He joked that at least the Celtics could be considered the wiser team. Maybe? We'll see how that shakes out. We're about to tip here at the Garden.
Doc Rivers arrived back from his travels about an hour ago, around 5:30 p.m., after staying Friday night in Philadelphia and then heading Saturday morning to Milwaukee for the funeral of close friend Rick Majerus.
The Celtics played the 76ers in the first of a back-to-back, home-and-home series on Friday, losing in overtime.
"It was just a long day, tough day," Rivers said. "Now we have a game. That's how I look at it.
"Rick had a lot to do with why I'm here. I've been with Rick since fifth grade for the most part. I felt like I had to be there. It was important to me."
Rivers said he never seriously considered not coaching tonight against Philadelphia. As he put it, "If I really want to piss Rick off, don't coach the game."
He added, "Life is involved in what we do every day. You deal with life and then you deal with your job. I always try to separate it when you can. Sometimes you can't."
PHILADELPHIA -- A career 38.5 percent 3-point shooter before this season, Courtney Lee is 7 of 27 from beyond the arc this season and has missed a series of pivotal shots. Friday’s was a crusher in the 95-94 overtime loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, leaving him to ponder his shortcomings after the game.
With the Celtics ahead 1 point with 25.9 seconds left in overtime, Rajon Rondo found an open Lee in the corner, his favorite spot on the floor. Lee gathered the pass and fired a 23-footer that never had a chance, the ball soaring 3 feet over the basket for an embarrassing airball.
“I mean I know Doc (Rivers) talked to the media and probably said it was unfair that I was sitting like 12 minutes (before the shot) but it doesn’t matter,” Lee said. “NBA players we get paid to play this game. At least, I got hit the rim and give us a chance to get the offensive rebound. I didn’t do that so I’m very disappointed in myself.
“I know when I took the shot, I was stiff so I overshot it to try to make sure it got there. But I put a little too much umph in it. I gotta be able to make the shot or hit the rim, at least.”
Lee has been playing well of late, providing defensive spark but his offense has yet to meet expectations. He began the season as the starting shooting guard but lost his job to Jason Terry. He was 4-for-22 shooting from the 3-point line in November and has hit just one 3-pointer in 10 home games.
Friday was an opportunity to seize the moment, seal an important victory with a clutch shot, but it wasn’t even close.
“The confidence is always going to be there because I’ve been playing basketball for a while,” he said. “I can’t count or recall how many times I’ve shot and airball but you’ve just got to continue to work and keep practicing, that’s all.”
Overtime, 3.9, 76ers 95-94/strong> Courtney Lee had a chance for the sealing shot but he airballed a 3-pointer. Meanwhile, Evan Turner drains a 13-footer for the go-ahead score. Celtics ball.
Overtime, 1:06, Celtics 94-93 The Celtics keep missing layups, this time Paul Pierce misses a 3-footer. Jeff Green previously put the Celtics up with a 3-pointer, improving their clip beyond the arc to 6-for-21. Pierce has 27 points but has missed 15 shots.
End of regulation, Tied at 89 Celtics get a steal off Evan Turner bad pass but Rajon Rondo misses a 20-footer at the buzzer and we're headed to OT.
Fourth quarter, 7.7, Tied at 89 Well after missing a chip shot putback that could have tied the game, Kevin Garnett makes the most of his second chance with a 20-footer to tie. 76ers ball.
Fourth quarter, 49.0, 76ers 89-87 The Celtics had a chance to go up 1 point but Kevin Garnett missed the first of two free throws. Evan Turner then gathers the ball after his shot is blocked and make a double-pump layup to put Philadelphia ahead 2. Celtics ball.
Fourth quarter, 2:41, 76ers 85-84: The Celtics are going to point to 3-point shooting if they lose this one. They are 5 of 19 from beyond the arc and keep trying to win the game with home run balls.
Fourth quarter, 5:46, Tied at 80: Paul Pierce has scored the last 4 points as the Celtics are trying to steal one on the road. Pierce has 26 points but has missed six of seven 3-pointers. Rajon Rondo has his first triple-double of the season but he has been slowed by foul trouble. Evan Turner has 21 points for the 76ers, who are shooting 39.2 percent.
Fourth quarter, 8:47, Tied at 74: The Celtics have their chances to take control now that the defense has been increased but they have commit silly turnovers or miss makeable shots. Paul Pierce just missed a free throw that could have out the Celtics up 1 point but he has 22 while Rajon Rondo has 16 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
End of third quarter, 76ers 72-70: The Celtics go on a 9-4 run in the final 2:56 of the quarter to close to within 2. The problem is Rajon Rondo, who collected his first triple double of the season, has four fouls. The Celtics committed eight turnovers in the quarter and have 15 compared to 4 for the 76ers. Philadelphia has attempted 16 more shots.
Third quarter, 2:43, 76ers 68-64: Rajon Rondo just collected a triple double with his assist to Jeff Green, who drained a 3-pointer but it will matter little if the Celtics can't play defense. They have committed six turnovers in the quarter while the 76ers are 8-for-14 shooting in the quarter.
Third quarter, 9:12, 76ers 57-52: Philadelphia is on a 14-2 run that spread from the first half into the third quarter and the Celtics are back to their error-plagued ways. Evan Turner, who was 1 point in the second quarter, already has 5 in the period while Lavoy Allen has added two buckets. The Celtics are 1 of 4 shooting with two turnovers so far in the quarter.
Halftime, Celtics 50-46: The Celtics appeared to be creating some distance with a 7-point lead and the ball towards the end of the half before a turnover and a Jrue Holiday conventional three-point play. Still, the Celtics held Philadelphia to 40 percent shooting and won the rebounding battle 26-22. Rajon Rondo has 14 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists, well on his way to another triple double.
Second quarter, 2:49, Celtics 42-41: The two teams are going back and forth and the 76ers who usually hurt the Celtics are doing the same tonight. Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young have combined for 20 points while Spencer Hawes has 6 off the bench. Rajon Rondo is on a triple-double pace with 12 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists.
End of first quarter, Tied at 28: The bench takes 68 seconds to give up a 6-point lead and doesn't even get off a good shot. The Celtics are still having problems with Evan Turner, who is scoring at will with 11 points.
First quarter, 1:08, Celtics 28-22: Rajon Rondo appears on a mission right now with 10 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assist as the Celtics are playing better defense and pushing the ball at a frantic pace. Paul Pierce already has 11 points for the Celtics.
First quarter, 5:39, 76ers 14-12: The Celtics defense needs to make an appearance because the 76ers are scoring too many easy baskets on fastbreaks and putback layups. Jason Richardson already has 6 points and is going to the free throw line for two shots. Rajon Rondo has 8 for Boston.
PHILADELPHIA -- The Celtics are entering the first game of a back-to-back series with the 76ers in a place they haven't played well of late. The Celtics are 2-1 since Doc Rivers called his team soft but that will be tested against physical and athletic Philadelphia. With Rajon Rondo back, the Celtics have a full lineup available.
BOSTON CELTICS (9-7)
PG Rajon Rondo
SG Jason Terry
SF Paul Pierce
PF Brandon Bass
C Kevin Garnett
PHILADELPHIA 76ers (10-8)
PG Jrue Holiday
SG Jason Richardson
SF Evan Turner
PF Thaddeus Young
C Lavoy Allen
Officials: Tony Brothers, Eric Lewis, Curtis Blair
Game time: 7 p.m.
TV/Radio: Comcast Sportsnet, ESPN / WEEI
• The 76ers will be without Nick Young, who scored 10 points in 18 minutes against the Celtics in the previous meeting, with a hyperextended left big toe. Royal Ivey (groin strain) was also out while Kwame Brown (stomach virus) is a game-time decision. The 76ers are also without Andrew Bynum, who has yet to appear in a 76ers game.
• Leandro Barbosa and Jared Sullinger, both of whom had been battling the flu, were declared healthy and are available Friday.
• Doc Rivers said Avery Bradley, who is traveling with the team, is a "ways away" from returning so he has not put a lot of thought into the impact of his return.
• The two teams meet again Saturday night at TD Garden.
Globe NBA writer Gary Washburn discusses the Celtics' win over the Timberwolves and whether or not the team has responded to the challenge set down by coach Doc Rivers.
End of game, Celtics 104-94: The Celtics survived a shaky first half to come back for a win over the Timberwolves with help from the returning Rajon Rondo (17 points, 11 assists).
Fourth quarter, 2:35, Celtics 102-87 The Celtics have been maintaining their advantage through the fourth quarter, with the lead staying in double digits. Boston has been keeping control of the ball, as the team did in the third, and as it didn't do in the first half.
Fourth quarter, 7:22, Celtics 90-75: Huge Terry three brings the crowd to its feet and gives his team a 15-point lead.
Fourth quarter, 9:23, Celtics 85-75: Jared Sullinger gave the Celtics a 10-point lead with his fifth made free throw in six chances. That accounts for the bulk of his seven points. The Celtics, by the way, are 10-for-14 from the line. The Timberwolves are 9-for-20.
End of third quarter, Celtics 79-72: The Celtics had a much better third quarter, taking a four-point deficit and making it into a seven-point lead. Boston turned the ball over just twice in the quarter after turning it over 10 times in the first half. Rajon Rondo now has a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists. Love, too, with 17 points and 13 rebounds.
Third quarter, 1:48, Celtics 75-69: First it was a slightly ridiculous leaner, then a jumper. Rondo notched two consecutive baskets, and the Celtics moved their lead back to six points (also helped by another Bass bucket and one from Chris Wilcox).
Third quarter, 4:43, Celtics 67-61: Terry just got the crowd loud with a three-pointer that gave the C's a six-point lead. He's up to 14 tonight.
Third quarter, 7:44, Timberwolves 59-58: After going scoreless in the first half, Brandon Bass has six points early in the third quarter to draw the Celtics closer to the Timberwolves.
Halftime, Timberwolves 51-47 The Celtics did not play well in the first half, turning the ball over 10 times on the way to a four-point deficit against Minnesota. Garnett leads the Celtics with 12 points. Rondo has seven assists. Love has 12 points and eight rebounds for Minnesota.
Second quarter, 45.7, Timberwolves 48-47: Kevin Love is having a tough night from the line. He's 3-of-8 through the first half. For the season, he's shooting 67 percent. As a team, Minnesota is shooting 6-for-13.
Second quarter, 2:26, Celtics 45-44: The Celtics have been giving Minnesota far too many chances, especially on the offensive end. The Celtics are trailing 23-18 on the board, with Kevin Love grabbing eight of those.
Second quarter, 4:25, Celtics 41-39: The Celtics had gone a bit cold, allowing the Timberwolves to score the last seven straight points, before a bucket by the Celtics ended that. The C's had started the quarter on a 12-2 run.
Second quarter, 9:43, Celtics 35-32: The Celtics opened the second quarter on an 8-2 run to give them back the lead.
End of the first quarter, Timberwolves 30-27: The Celtics had a pretty good run going there for a while, bolstered by the strong shooting of Jason Terry (seven points), but the Timberwolves have come back with 4-of-5 shooting from behind the arc to retake the lead.
First quarter, 3:17, Timberwolves 21-20: Rondo is making a welcome return to the Celtics tonight, and already has five assists in the quarter. Of course, Kevin Love is doing his part for Minnesota with seven points and six rebounds.
First quarter, 5:30, Celtics 17-14: KG added another basket, from Rajon Rondo, after Jason Terry knocked down a three-pointer. That put the Celtics back on top. And then Terry nearly did it again, with a long two-pointer, giving the C's a three-point lead over Minnesota.
First quarter, 8:29, Celtics 8-6: Perhaps Kevin Garnett heard his coach's pregame words. Doc Rivers said that there's the Hall of Fame, and then there's a table at the Hall of Fame -- which was where he placed Garnett -- with the greats of the greats. Garnett, against his old team, already has six points in the early going.
Greg Stiemsma didn't just return to the Garden tonight with the Minnesota Timberwolves -- he got the star treatment.
Stiemsma received the spot in the visitors' locker room normally reserved for guys like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. And he got a media scrum to rival theirs too.
"I'll take it," he said. Of the media attention, he said, "I believe this is a first."
Stiemsma decided to sign with Minnesota in the offseason on a deal that gave him more money and more security. Plus the Wisconsin native gets to live close to home, which was an attractive part of the package.
"I'm pissed at him," Doc Rivers joked. "I'm not going to talk to him ever again."
Stiemsma struggled with injuries to both at the end of last season, plantar fasciitis in the left and a bone bruise in the right. It was the plantar fasciitis that was the real issue and that seriously limited him on the court.
"The second half of the season, my foot was sore," he said. "Some games it was better than others, but overall it was pretty painful. You guys saw me in the boot. Those nights were pretty sore. Definitely feels good to be healthy again."
While Avery Bradley said he's not big on timelines anymore, as he makes his way through his lengthy rehab for surgeries on both shoulders, there's a chance the guard could see the floor in practice in the near future.
"Right now we're just focusing on me getting stronger every day so I'm able to practice and don't re-injure myself," Bradley said. "When I am able to practice, we're just going to see how I feel every single day, and just going to go from there."
Asked about the possibility of a stint with Maine in the D-League, Bradley said no decisions have been made. It's something he'll worry about when his return date is more certain.
Bradley said he has continued to get stronger through the rehab process, feeling even a lot stronger than he did a week ago and "night and day" from two weeks ago. That has also helped with his ability to bounce back day-to-day as he goes through workouts.
He said he goes through tests with the trainers every day to see how much progress he has been making, often using resistance to measure. Other than that, he's been shooting, conditioning, and lifting every day, and swimming a couple of times a week.
The tests, Bradley said, are even more important because "I lie to them sometimes because I want to get back."
WALTHAM -- You figured Rajon Rondo wouldn't return from his two-game suspension contrite or apologetic, and he didn't. Rondo spoke to the media Tuesday for the first time since being suspended for fighting with Brooklyn's Kris Humphries last Wednesday, and he offered little remorse.
Rondo is eligible to return Wednesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, The Celtics went 1-1 in his absence.
"I wanted to be out there with my teammates but, obviously, a two-game suspension ... like I said, I was glued in front of the TV," said Rondo, who told reporters he went to Mexico during the break. "Hopefully I don't feel too winded tomorrow. I think I've been off for about a week now. We'll see tomorrow."
In their first game without Rondo, the Celtics beat the Portland Trail Blazers handily, 96-78, Friday, but then they lost, 91-88, Saturday to the Milwaukee Bucks in a game in which they scored the first 17 points.
"We moved the ball very well without me," said Rondo. "Guys played great. Guys stepped up. Courtney [Lee] played well. We got off to a great start in Milwaukee but our defense slipped as far as pick-and-roll defense. But other than that, the guys did a great job."
When asked if there was a lesson to be learned from his third suspension in nine months, he flatly said: "No."
Rondo did say he missed being around his teammates.
"It was difficult," he said, "I love being around the guys. I love coming into practice and being around them on the team plane, but I had to miss that for a couple of days. But other than that, everything is back to normal."
When asked if he was more motivated than before, he said, "No. I want to get better. I want to run off eight or nine games straight. It starts in practice and it starts with staying in the game. So I just want to go out there and give it all for my teammates and get some wins.
"We've got to get this show on the road. We've got to have a great December. November is behind us and we didn't play well. It's a new month and I'm ready to go."
Rondo's ejection late in the first half of that game also meant the end of his streak of games with 10 or more assists at 37 straight -- tied for second in NBA history with John Stockton.
"It's over with," he said. "It may be [a big deal] once I get 40 or 50, but right now it's a record. Records are meant to be broken. I think I was second, tied with John Stockton, so that's a great accomplishment but it's about wins and losses."
Fourth quarter, 24.0, Bucks 90-88: Well just like that the lead is gone. Brandon Jennings took advantage of a defensive switch and drained a 3-pointer for a 2-point lead. Celtics ball.
Fourth quarter, 55.3, Celtics 88-87: The Celtics seemingly had control after two 3-pointers gave them a 3-point lead and they had the ball with 1:20 left. But Kevin Garnett committed an offensive foul on a screen, his first foul of the game, and Larry Sanders just dunked a pass from Monta Ellis. Celtics ball.
Fourth quarter, 4:35, Bucks 83-82: The Celtics went on a 9-2 run to briefly take a 1-point lead but scoring has been a struggle tonight. Kevin Garnett missed a point-blank jumper out of a time out and as the Celtics are shooting 43.8 percent for the evening.
Fourth quarter, 8:43, Bucks 77-73: Milwaukee began the quarter on a 6-0 run as the Celtics missed a couple of chip shots. So now they are scraping to get back. Jason Terry has 15 points for Boston.
End of third quarter, Tied at 69: The Celtics let a 7-point lead slip away in the final two minutes of the quarter and the fourth will be a dogfight. Jason Terry and Jeff Green lead the Celtics with 15 points each but Paul Pierce has scored a quiet 9 points while Brandon Bass has 4 in 18 minutes.
Third quarter, 2:54, Celtics 67-61: Boston on a 7-0 run as it tries to create distance as Courtney Lee continues to impress with 13 points. Jeff Green has 13 off the bench.
Third quarter, 5:14, Celtics 63-60: The third quarter has been just as ugly as the second but the Celtics are battling and playing better defense. Jason Terry just hit his second 3-pointer of the game and leads the Celtics with 15 points and nine assists.
Halftime, Celtics 48-47: The Celtics allow the Bucks to score 36 points in the second quarter on 14-for-22 shooting and they are back in the game. Larry Sanders is killing the Celtics on the pick-and-roll because the Celtics can't stop dribble penetration. Sanders has 9 points and 9 rebounds while Ersan Ilyasova has 11. Jeff Green leads Boston with 11, all in the second quarter.
Second quarter, 2:19, Celtics 44-38: This is a game again as the Bucks closed to within 4 points a few moments ago and are now at the free throw line for two shots. The Celtics are 6-for-16 shooting in the quarter with four turnovers. Jeff Green has been sparkling with 9 of Boston's 17 points in the quarter.
Second quarter, 5:41, Celtics 37-26: The Bucks make the runs and the Celtics stave them. Milwaukee began the quarter with a 9-1 run and the Celtics have come back with a 9-6 run with 7 of those points from Jeff Green. The Celtics are shooting 47 percent and have hit three 3-pointers.
Second quarter, 8:41, Celtics 28-20: The Bucks begin the second quarter on a 9-1 run, helped by a 3-pointer from Brandon Jennings and three jumpers from Ersan Ilyasova and suddenly its a game again. The Celtics are 0-for-4 shooting in the quarter with a missed free throw.
End of first quarter, Celtics 27-11: One of the more impressive quarters of the year for the Celtics, especially on the second game of a back-to-back. They are playing with more passion and energy and have nine assists to Milwaukee's three. Courtney Lee has 9 points.
First quarter, 1:58, Celtics 25-9: Courtney Lee's improvement continues as he has exceeded his season average in the first 10 minutes with 9 points on 4-for-4 shooting. Jason Terry has added 7 as the Celtics are shooting 53 percent from the field while the Bucks are 4 of 14 and look shell-shocked.
First quarter, 8:06, Celtics 11-0: The Celtics are playing with fire and the Bucks are playing like they are still in Minneapolis. Kevin Garnett just drained a jumper for an 11-point lead while the Bucks are 0-for-4 shooting with three turnovers. It's a better crowd than the last time the Celtics were here, but not by much.
MILWAUKEE -- The Rondo-less Celtics will try to get a second consecutive win tonight against the Bucks as the two teams face each other for the third time in a month. The Celtics lost to Milwaukee in their opener in a game the Bucks totally dominated on Nov. 2. Eight days later, the Celtics came to Bradley Center and eked out a 96-92 win behind some key free throws from Kevin Garnett.
BOSTON CELTICS (9-7)
PG Courtney Lee
SG Jason Terry
SF Paul Pierce
PF Brandon Bass
C Kevin Garnett
MILWAUKEE BUCKS (7-7)
PG Brandon Jennings
SG Monta Ellis
SF Marquis Daniels
PF John Henson
C Ekpe Udoh
Officials: Marc Davis, Bennie Adams, Haywoode Workman
Game time: 8:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: Comcast Sportsnet / WEEI
• Rookie John Henson from North Carolina did not play in the first two meetings but now he is in Milwaukee's starting lineup, averaging 6.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1 blocked shot.
• Ersan Ilyasova has been relegated to the bench after signing a five-year deal in the offseason. He did not play in Friday's loss to Minnesota
• Courtney Lee will start for Rondo, who is eligible to return to the club for Wednesday's home game with Minnnesota.
• (UPDATE) Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles pulled Samuel Dalembert and Tobias Harris out of the starting lineup and replaced them with former Celtic Marquis Daniels and Ekpe Udoh.