BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics can thank their bench for keeping the team close in Friday's loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. While Boston's first unit labored (the starters were a combined 14-of-42 shooting -- including 0-for-7 beyond the 3-point arc -- for a total of 39 points), the primary five-man reserve group headlined by Jared Sullinger combined to put up 57 points on 23-of-39 shooting (finishing 7-of-11 shooting beyond the arc).
Courtney Lee chipped in nine points for that second unit along with two assists, two blocks and a rebound over 17:20. Lee isn't playing big minutes this season, but he's making the most of his floor time. He remains one of Boston's most efficient offensive players, averaging 1.104 points per play, according to Synergy Sports data, and that ranks him in the 92nd percentile among all league players.
"I feel I’m just getting to the right spots and my teammates are finding me," said Lee. "The shots I’m getting, the ball is falling for the majority of them. For the most part, I think [I'm more consistent]. That’s one thing, the more individually that everybody on the team is consistent with what they do, the more our team will be."
A handful of leftovers after Friday's loss to the Blazers:
ICE ICE BABY: After scoring a career-high 26 points while logging a season-high 36 minutes, Sullinger was asked if he was concerned his bruised right knee might swell on the team's flight to Minnesota. Quipped Sullinger, "That's why God created ice. Ice ice baby, according to that [Vanilla Ice] song. That's what I'm going to do right now." Sullinger was 11-for-18 shooting on the night and led the team in rebounding. Ice would be the only thing that could cool him off.
OLD C'S REUNION IN LA: The Staples Center -- of all places -- will play host to a bit of a Celtics reunion Saturday night as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett of the Brooklyn Nets visit Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers. Boston players have steadfastly maintained that they've moved on from the Big Three era and, apprised of the looming matchup on Friday, Jeff Green dismissed it all when asked who he thought would prevail. Said Green: "I could care less."
WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK: Celtics rookie Kelly Olynyk committed four personal fouls in 16 minutes of floor time during Friday's game. It just wasn't his night as he turned the ball over two minutes in, then picked up two fouls 25 seconds apart soon after. He returned in the second quarter and got whistled for his third foul two minutes after checking in, forcing him back to the bench. It took 29 seconds into the third quarter for Olynyk to earn his fourth foul, but coach Brad Stevens stuck with him. Joked Sullinger, "Unfortunately, Kelly got the Sully treatment tonight." Sullinger was no stranger to whistles during his rookie campaign.
ENJOY THE RIDE: It's been a streaky season for the Celtics, who lost four straight out of the gates, won four straight, and now have lost two in a row. Asked if it's been hard to endure the roller coaster, Stevens said, "It’s more topsy-turvy for everybody else than it is for me. I hate losing, I don’t stomach it well, I don’t deal with it well. But I’ll be back at work tonight." Asked how he braces his players for the team struggles, Stevens noted, "They’ve got to handle that. And we’ll talk about it. But it’s a long season. It’s a long season for everybody. Everybody is going to have ups and downs, and round and around. You’re going to just manage it and be as good as you can [Saturday]. It’s just like we talked before, there’s no time to sulk. This stretch we’re about to go on is as tough as it gets."