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After going 4-0 last week, the Boston Celtics were already potentially poised to put up some straight A’s. They had their revenge (93-90 over the Cleveland Cavaliers), wiped out the dinosaurs (a 36-point drubbing of the Toronto Raptors), got gritty in MSG (beating the New York Knicks 91-89), and proved themselves against a younger, more athletic opponent (topping the Memphis Grizzlies 98-80). That left the Celtics at 13-10, the first time Boston has seen the right side of .500 since they were 4-3.
Then Super Bowl XLVI happened.
(Excuse me while I go drown my pain in unintelligible Kurt Cobain lyrics and grungy power chords.)
Without rehashing the gory details, let’s just move ahead with this week’s grades, with the important caveat that I am clinically depressed from Sunday night’s devastating loss. Just know I will be assigning massive grade inflation simply to assuage my severely bruised and battered ego. I need something to hold onto, both literally (to support myself) and emotionally (my tear ducts no longer function properly).
Avery Bradley was reasonably solid in his two starts, even managing to contribute 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting (albeit against the Raptors, who really give their Jurassic Park counterparts a bad name).
Not exactly the kind of efficient production Celtics fans hope to get from Ray Allen, but he did manage to contribute a consistent dozen points per game.
Of course, the big story of the week was Rajon Rondo suiting up to play. Coming off an eight game layoff due to a nagging wrist injury, Rondo’s return Friday against the Knicks was predictably sluggish (7 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 5 turnovers). Rondo only mustered five points in his second game back, but dished out 14 dimes and led the Celtics to 26 fast-break points (more than the previous three games combined). He appeared to have a much better sense of timing and rhythm (as evidenced by this gorgeous feed to Jermaine O’Neal for the flush). Just his mere presence is enough to bump the backcourt up to a B+ for this week (or so I tell myself).
I can’t say enough about Paul Pierce, who has absolutely elevated his play recently and took home the Offensive Player of the Week award for filling up the stat sheet night in and night out. His masterpiece, of course, was a vintage Pierce appearance against the Knicks, when he went off for 30 points, including a couple of absurd three-pointers to barely beat the shot clock in the game’s final minutes (one of which was waved off, but no less insane – just listen to the Garden roar).
Kevin Garnett has been draining some threes of his own, which he will incessantly remind you is within his range. Much to my preference, though, it was nice to see Garnett down on the block in the second half against the Grizzlies en route to 24 points (tying his season-high).
Meanwhile, O’Neal has been doing all the dirty work on the defensive end, drawing charge after charge at the cost of his already creaky knees. Hopefully they hold up and he continues to (pun alert!) take charge defensively (I warned you).
Altogether, I’d say that merits the first A of the season.
Bradley continues to struggle when not hidden among the starting five (you mean not playing with perennial All-Stars hurts his stats? A revelation, I know); E’Twaun Moore remains lightning in a bottle (still waiting for him to strike twice); and Sasha Pavlovic has officially leapfrogged Marquis Daniels in the Celtics rotation (I’m pretty sure that was what the Mayans were talking about).
The second unit of bigs gets our second A of the season! Doc Rivers is singing Chris Wilcox’s praises (following my lead from last week), while Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus are doing their thing (shooting, shooting, and more shooting for Bass; for Pietrus, that means being French).
In the surprise of the week, JaJuan Johnson showed a lot of promise for the future with some impressive garbage time performances (insert grain of salt here). In 32 total minutes of playing time, Johnson poured in 21 points on 10-of-13 shooting, with six rebounds and a couple of blocks. Johnson should be an exciting young player to watch develop as this year goes on. He has a chance to be the greatest Boston athlete to ever wear #12 (shhhhhh!).