The Celtics had a tough past week. Their losing streak extended to six games and on Sunday received news that Rajon Rondo suffered a torn ACL and would be out for the rest of the season. Things started off on a sour note in their losses to Detroit and Cleveland yet Sully put together solid performances, particularly at the Cavs as he finished with a double-double. The Maine Red Claws also had a tough week going 1-2. Previous to last week they held the top spot in the D-League with a record of 16-8. They gave up the top spot to the Bakersfield Jam yet still sit on top in the Eastern division.
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 25: Jeff Teague #0 of the Atlanta Hawks shoots against Jared Sullinger #7 of the Boston Celtics at Philips Arena on January 25, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Jared Sullinger - New week, similar story for the Celtics top overall pick. Jared Sullinger has continued to be a difference maker off the bench and carve out a solid role in the Celtics rotation. His role on the team has shifted throughout the year as we've seen Sully get extended minutes and move into the starting line-up early on until moving back to a reserve role. Once again Jared has challenged the ranks and got another chance to start this past week.
On Sunday the Celtics had one of their worst losses of the year in a bad overall team effort against the Pistons. Both the starters and bench struggled looking disinterested and defeated. The recent losing streak has taken its toll on the players who were clearly frustrated. Jared was able to tally 22 minutes in Detroit and finished with 7 points, 7 rebounds. In bad games Jared has been about the only consistent player. He really seems to approach each game with a passion and hunger to go out and execute his role. This could be a large reason why the youngster gets such praise from KG and the rest of the team.
He continued his solid play in another bad loss to Cleveland getting in foul trouble again and fouling out after 26 minutes. Before doing so Sully shot 5-11 on the night good for 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, 5 of which came on the offensive end. We've seen Jared fall victim to foul trouble all year, nevertheless this was a very physical game that resulted in Cleveland's top rookie Tyler Zeller to foul out, and nearly Kyrie Irving as well.
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 27: Jared Sullinger #7 of the Boston Celtics shoots against Rashard Lewis #9 of the Miami Heat on January 27, 2013 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
The Celtics returned home on Thursday to face the Knicks in a nationally televised game filled with storylines. It was their second game of the year after KG reportedly "crossed the line" with trash talk sparking Carmelo Anthony to wait for KG after the game. The Knicks were able to come into the TD Garden and get revenge with their first win in Boston since 2006. Sully had a decent game finishing with 7 points and 3 rebounds. His minutes were limited to just 15 as the Knicks like to play small ball and put Melo at the power forward spot. Because of this Doc looked to play Pierce and Jeff Green as they clearly match-up better against the lights out scorer in Melo.
After falling just short at home against the Knicks the C's looked to bounce back and end their losing streak in Atlanta. After the first half it looked like the Celtics would do just that jumping out to a 27 point lead until the second half as the team lost the lead and allowed the Hawks to send the game into two overtimes. Jared had one of his worst games in recent memory shooting 0-3 for zero points and just 5 rebounds. He also managed to foul out of the game claiming the top spot fouling out in the NBA. This also marked the game Rondo tore his ACL although it was originally diagnosed as a hyper extended knee.
Finally on Sunday the Celtics had a matinee game at home against the Miami Heat. The Celtics looked to avoid extending their losing streak to seven games and faced a tall task against the East's top seed. Rondo was scrapped last minute as his knee was more bothersome after their pregame walk through. This forced Doc to insert Courtney Lee into the starting line-up while Sully was inserted at the four replacing the struggling Brandon Bass.
Playing Sully at the four spot with Courtney Lee taking over as Rondo's replacement going forward; the Celtics should be able to play stiffing defense. Jared has really been able to develop chemistry with KG on the floor. This is great to see as he is making clear contributions every night but also is getting great experience to develop and mature going forward. Garnett even had an impressive comparison for the young player:
"He reminds me of Perk," said Boston's Kevin Garnett. "He's not obviously the defensive player that Perk was, but as far as IQ, moving the ball and being unselfish, he's a great teammate." (A. Sherrod Blakely - Full Story)
Going forward it'll be interesting to see if Doc will continue to start Sullinger for the remainder of the year. Brandon Bass has been very open with his disappointment in overall playing time, usage, and performance. If Jared continues to execute his role rebounding and playing quality defense Bass will remain in a reserve role down the road. I'm sure Doc will look to diminish Bass' frustration by implementing more sets for Bass in the offense off the bench. Only time will tell if this change will help or hurt the team as a whole.
Fab Melo - Fab Melo and the Maine Red Claws looked to extend their D-League best record of 16-8 this past week. They had an off week going 1-2 facing the Springfield Armour twice and the Santa Cruz Warriors Friday at home to close out the week. Throughout the year we've seen Melo have flashes of greatness. He's achieved a triple-double, exploded for 32 points with 9 rebounds and 9 blocks, and set a D-League record with 14 blocks in a game.
So far this year in 27 games Fab Melo is averaging 27.7 MPG, 11.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG, and 3.6 BPG. Pretty impressive overall numbers for any D-League player, never mind one who has played just six full years of basketball his entire life. As far as his chances to helping the Celtics in the short term, not likely. Danny Ainge, Doc, and the Celtics organization have been adamant that they want to keep Melo in the D-League and let him mature and progress as a player.
In their first game on Monday the Red Claws faced the Springfield Armour at home. In the matinee game the Red Claws jumped out to a early first half lead 56-41. The team wouldn't look back as they cruised to a 106-92 lead over the Armour. Similar to Sullinger, Fab Melo has struggled with foul trouble and adjusting to NBA officiating. Fab played 25 minutes in the game finishing 4-7 from the field, good for 9 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 5 personal fouls.
The team then had a short trip as they traveled to Springfield to face the Armour again, this time on the road. Once again Fab played 25 minutes in the game, this time shooting 6-12 for 13 points, 9 rebounds, and again 5 personal fouls. Maine as a whole struggled, especially on the defensive end allowing the Armour to shoot 55.6% for the game and taking the win 123-115.
Finally on Friday the Red Claws looked to finish their week on a positive note with a win at home. Unfortunately this was certainly not the case with the Santa Cruz Warriors stealing the victory 120-101. Melo had his worst game in a while, even potentially his worst game this year. This may be due to exterior circumstances as he played just 19 minutes finishing with just 4 points, 1 rebound, and 3 blocks.
Melo's numbers have certainly decreased since his "coming out" games in mid December. He did face a minor set back with the concussion issue yet the last thing the Celtics was to see is inconstancy. Currently the Celtics team is filled with talent that simply can't seem to put it together every night. If Fab Melo aspires to join the Celtics and become a solid player in the future he'll have to find a way to become more consistent and produce both offensively and defensively.
The Celtics have a light schedule this week with only one game Wednesday verse the Kings until the weekend series. This is certainly much needed as the team will need to shift their line-ups and establish a new rotation without Rajon Rondo. Be sure to watch to see if Sullinger remains in the starting line-up and if his minutes will remain around the 25 minute mark. The Red Claws also have a light schedule, playing just Thursday and Saturday. We'll have a recap from those games next week or in the meantime checkout the full game video from the Red Claw's website.