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When I tuned in at the end of the first quarter in Atlanta to find the Boston Celtics down 15-12, I thought for a second I was having flashbacks to the week before, when I went to see my alma mater’s girls’ basketball team in the state championship.
Imagine my pleasant surprise when I begrudgingly returned to find the Celtics winning 75-63! Of course, they barely hung on for a 79-76 win over the Hawks, but still: Progress! And a good sign of things to come, as the C’s managed to go 3-1 for the week, beating the upstart Milwaukee Bucks and down-finished Washington Wizards.
Is it really too much for me to hope for an Atlantic Division title when the Philadelphia 76ers (who beat the Celtics again this week) are just a mere half game ahead of Boston? Don’t answer that. Instead, let’s just get straight to this week’s marks.
After beating the Hawks, Rajon Rondo all but stopped shooting. He has attempted nine, five, and five field goals respectively in his last three games. Rondo did pile up double-digit assists in all three, but what good are 17 assists when a team knows you aren’t a threat to score? I beg you, Rondo, please erase the image seared onto my prefrontal cortex of Kobe Bryant sagging to the free throw line to defend you.
Ray Allen was phenomenal in Atlanta, draining 4-of-6 three-pointers and scoring 19. Then he went just 1-for-8 in Milwaukee before sitting out the next two games due to a lingering ankle injury reportedly suffered on March 12. Get well soon, Ray-Ray. No, seriously, get well soon – I don’t want to rely on our bench beyond Avery Bradley.
Paul Pierce started off the week with a poor 4-for-14 shooting performance in Atlanta (no wonder the C’s scored just 12 first quarter points), but then rebounded with three straight 20-point games, starting with a sensational 10-of-15 shooting night against the Bucks. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: the Truth shall set you free. Unless you’re in Philly.
Brandon Bass confounds me. One night he’ll take seven shots and grab 10 rebounds. Another night he’ll jack up eighteen (!) jumpers with only four ‘bounds. How am I supposed to calculate averages from that?
Kevin Garnett continues to fill the Celtics’ void at center but still insists on consistently hoisting 18-footers. When he’s hitting those shots, Garnett is nearly unguardable for a fellow big man. When he’s not, well, allow Captain Obvious to intervene: he’s pretty easy to defend. The Celtics won’t always have disjointed delinquents like the Wizards to hide Garnett’s 3-for-10 shooting.
It’s pretty safe to say the bench starts and ends with Bradley, who had a career night filling in for Allen on Sunday (against Washington, but still): 23 points, 15 of them in the first. I don’t expect that to start trending on Twitter, but hopefully that gives him some confidence for the stretch run.
Keyon Dooling managed to play above replacement level this week (what an improvement!), haunting his former Bucks team with eight points and filling out the stat sheet a bit against the Wizards (not a novel concept, I know).
Mickael Pietrus recently went down with a concussion, but he had been playing pretty well: nine and 13 points in two games off the bench before the unfortunate injury. Hopefully he can get back on the court soon.
For once, I’ve been able to hear Greg Stiemsma’s nickname without simultaneously laughing and holding my nose. The Steamer needs to cut down on his fouls, but lines like six points, four rebounds, three assists, four steals, and five blocks?! Sign me up!
Ryan Hollins, on the other hand? Not great returns in limited action so far. I’ll give him (and the bench frontcourt grade) the benefit of the doubt for joining a new system with no practices to help himself get acquainted, but please give us more than one rebound for every 15 minutes of playing time.
I know Doc Rivers was shorthanded against the Sixers – no Allen and essentially no Pietrus – but he has to come up with some sort of game plan to counteract Philly’s superior athleticism and up-and-down pace. Still, I like what he’s doing with minutes and rotations. I mean, you can’t be called “Doc” for no reason.
Wait, he got his nickname just for wearing a “Dr. J” t-shirt at a summer basketball camp? Never mind.