[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n the second half of Saturday night’s tilt with the Bobcats, the Celtics (36-29) exacted a measure of revenge after their 26-point loss in Charlotte earlier this week. Jeff Green didn’t mince words after the game when he told reporters that the C’s wanted to send a message by thoroughly dominating a weaker Bobcats team.
As they shot 66 percent from the field and nailed all four three-point attempts in the third quarter, the C’s delivered a knockout punch that the ‘Cats couldn’t recover from, and their message has been received. They’ve now won 11 straight at the TD Garden, and are primed to host the Miami Heat (who are currently on an historic 21-game winning streak) this Monday night.
Although the Celtics are jockeying for playoff position as the season winds down, the coaching staff seems very concerned with the health of some of their older players down the stretch. Unsurprisingly, Doc Rivers informed the media that Kevin Garnett- who was “not moving well” during pre-game warmups- would be given the night off against the Bobcats (14-52). Garnett’s injury is an apparent abductor strain in the groin area, but he was also listed as DNP (thigh), and was seen sporting a brace on his wrist. Regardless of what malady kept K.G. out on Saturday, it’s clear that having several days off prior to a big clash with the Heat will serve him well.
When Boston rested Paul Pierce in Charlotte on Tuesday it didn’t turn out well, but on this night, the reserves were able to step up for their injured leader. The Celtics are an entirely different team at home (where they’re 24-9), then they are on the road. Away from the Garden they sport a record of 12-20, which ties them with the Lakers (13-21 road record) for worst amongst playoff teams.
There’s something about the energy that pulsates through the intimate, yet loud arena in Boston, and that fervor seemed to compel Shavlik Randolph, Chris Wilcox, and D.J. White as they played more minutes in Garnett’s absence. It also seemed to positively affect Courtney Lee, who racked up 12 points, five rebounds, four assists, and three blocks in a team-high 32 minutes. And then there was Jason Terry (a man that’s never shy in front of the home crowd), who spearheaded the Celtics impressive shooting display by going 3-3 from downtown and scoring a team-high 15 points.
As a team the C’s shot an incredible 10-15 from deep in this game. That’s not simply the product of concentration, balance and follow through, it’s a testament to their commitment to moving the ball in halfcourt sets. Once again, Pierce started the game by distributing four assists in the first 5 minutes, and the trend continued from there. Then, as Jeff Green (who started at power forward for K.G) drew extra attention because of his ability to blow by slower 4s, he simply reset the offense and found the open man.
It was a clinic composed of drives and dishes, hi-lo passing, and unselfish play in transition. That type of play is infectious, and it nearly got to the point where the Celts made too many passes in some possessions. However just when you thought they would pass their way into a shot clock violation, the extra dish found the open man for another clean look, and they continued to roll.
Eventually the C’s second unit had a little lapse in concentration and allowed the Bobcats to climb back within 14, but there was never really any doubt about the outcome of this game after half of the third quarter. The only questions that we have about the Celtics, is whether they can play at this level consistently.
It seems fitting that the Celts defeated one of the worst teams in the NBA by 17 in the same week that they lost to that team by over 20. On the one hand, it proves that Boston can lose to anyone because of their age and their inconsistencies on the offensive end. Yet at the same time, their ability to crush bad teams and compete with the league’s best at home makes you believe that they can potentially beat anyone.
In any case, the Boston Celtics are a proud franchise, led by veteran warriors, who are an extremely dangerous matchup in the playoffs. As Miami knows all too well, coming into the Garden with a win-streak on the line is one thing, coming out of there with that streak in tact is another.