What a great weekend for Boston sports fans. Pats win, Peyton loses, and the Celtics extend their win streak to 5 games with a win over Houston, 103-91, on Friday night. For now, let’s just focus on the C’s. When I wrote this article a little over a week ago, we were on a 4 game losing streak and playing some of the toughest teams in the league. Now the Green and White are riding the hot hand going into a game against a 9-27 Charlotte Bobcats team on Monday night.
On Friday, the Celtics were ready to play. Garnett scored 17 points and grabbed 8 boards. Pierce shot lights out for 23 points while Courtney Lee dropped 14 of his own. Once again, Jared Sullinger came up huge, scoring 14 points but grabbing 11 boards off the bench. He only missed 1 shot and is developing into an amazing role player. Sullinger is leading all rookies in +/-.
Rajon Rondo has been a little off recently. I mean he is playing great basketball for anyone else, but according to his high standards that we have come to know, he isn’t that great. He only had 8 assists last game and 8 the game before, bringing his league-leading average down to 11.1. Once he gets going again we should be able to put up some serious points. The return of Avery Bradley on the defensive end has been huge as well, as he covers the opposing teams best player in every game.
For those of you who decided to look at other channels after the blowout in the National Championship Game last night, may have caught a glimpse of a Celtics team that we have learned to love. The C’s won their third straight, and this one was against the division leader, the Knicks. The Green and White traveled to Madison Square Garden and came out on top 101-96, with 5 players scoring in double digits.
With Rondo suspended for a game for bumping into a ref, like an idiot, the Celts had to play with Avery Bradley at the point. Bradley, Garnett, Sullinger, Pierce, and Green all scored in double digits. Pierce led the way with 23 points. The Celtics held Carmelo to only 20 points, which was huge.
The scary part for me is that Terry only had 2 points on 1-7 shooting. He has failed to reach double digits in the 4 games that we have played in 2013, after doing it for most of the season prior to the last four games. Although the Celtics were outrebounded as usual, most of our players still finished in the + column. Boston is 3-1 since the return of Avery Bradley
The Celtics won both games that they played this weekend, topping the Pacers 94-75 and the Hawks 89-81. The C’s are currently sitting at one game below .500 (16-17) and take on the Knicks, who are second place in the East.
On Friday, against the 19-14 Pacers, Kevin Garnett scored 18 points and grabbed 7 boards before being ejected for scuffling with Tyler Hansbrough. Rondo added 18 while Pierce and Courtney Lee both scored 13. Jared Sullinger had 10 rebounds (4 offensive).
On Saturday, against the 20-12 Hawks, the C’s had a tougher task. After being down most of the game, they came back on Rondo’s back. Rajon had a triple-double with 14 Points, 10 Assists, and 11 Rebounds. Paul Pierce scored 26 points while grabbing 9 boards and Sullinger added 8 Points, 9 Rebounds.
Last week, we took a poll about who you guys think has been the biggest star of the pre-season for newcomers, and I included Jeff Green because he was injured last season. Jared Sullinger won with over 50% of the votes, and Jeff Green was tied for second with Courtney Lee and Jason Terry, all with roughly 12% of the votes. Everyone keeps going on about how good our team is going to be because of our depth but here are some reasons why each player will succeed in our system.
Jared Sullinger: Rookie that fell to us in the draft, should have been a high lottery pick if not for an injured back last season. Not too many rookies get minutes in our system, but Jared could be starting some nights. KG and Doc Rivers have both said that he has a very high basketball IQ and does not play like a rookie typically does. He has adapted to the Celtics’ system real quick, and is not timid out on the court. He rebounds consistently and shoots right when he gets the open look, rather than hesitate and up fake 15 times like a lot of smaller big men like himself. And good news for C’s fans: Garnett said he is “giving him the book, teaching him everything I know”.
It was a great night for the C’s as their starters played a good amount of time and beat the revamped Brooklyn Nets with ease, 115-85. Even Nets Coach Avery Johnson said it looked like our starts went out there to send a message. That message was received. First off, we out-rebounded a team, which rarely happens. It also helped that we shout 11-19 from 3-point range.
Paul Pierce led the way with 18 points on 4-4 from behind the arc. He left briefly in the 2nd quarter after coming down awkwardly on his ankle on a made 3-pointer. He seems to be alright now, thankfully. Newcomer Courtney Lee also chipped in 18 points. Lee only missed 4 shots the whole night, 3 of which were 3-pointers. He also had a game-high 4 steals, which is a big step up from what Ray Allen could do on the defensive end for us last year.
Jason Terry added 15 points on a perfect 5-5 from 3-point land, Rondo put in 14 points of his own while narrowly missing out on a double-double with 9 assists, and Garnett couldn’t miss with 14 points of his own. Even rookies Kris Joseph (11 points, 5 rebounds) and Jared Sullinger (12 points, 6 rebounds) played great for the Celts. Sullinger recorded a team-high +23 while on the floor in 28 minutes of play.
It is great to see a team that is so deep this season. However, Bass went out in the first half with a bruised right knee and did not return. Remember, he was out last season for a bit with right knee inflammation, so we are waiting to hear more on that.
Which newbie do you think has been the brightest beam of light this pre-season?
As of yesterday before the Celtics 97-96 loss to the Nets (without the Net’s 6 best players), the Ainge and Doc decided to cut ties with training camp guards Dionte Christmas and Jamar Smith. Most expected Christmas to make the team, because of his half guaranteed deal worth over $236k. Also, because the Celtics lack a back up point guard. In the rare instance when Rondo does leave the floor, Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, and Avery Bradley (when healthy) can all handle the ball, but are not natural point guards.
It is possible that the C’s will look for a veteran ball handler with playoff experience to help the young guys and handle the ball for a few minutes a game, but if not, Rivers says they will be fine. Rivers joked in an interview with ESPN:
“Maybe the Heat will cut LeBron [James] or whoever,” he said. “We’re always looking. Every team is always looking. If nothing comes, does that bother us? No.”
The Celtics don’t have the money to spend on a big name, so we would need to find someone who wants to play for a contender and who can buy into the system that Doc Rivers has put in place that has attracted so many veterans over the years.