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I’m just going to go ahead and say it: 2-2 looks a whole lot better than 0-3.
Maybe it isn’t fair to compare the Boston Celtics’ week, as they round into end-of-season form, to that of the Boston Red Sox, but after witnessing the debacle in Detroit, somehow I find myself forgiving Boston’s basketball darlings a mere .500 week during this tough stretch of four playoff teams in a row.
They blew a chance to make a big statement with a last-second win over the San Antonio Spurs at home, and they laid an egg in the second half against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center. But the Celtics responded with two impressive wins over the young, deep, and athletic Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers.
Boston now has a three-game lead in the Atlantic division with just 10 games left. Praying Boston’s basketball team doesn’t take after its baseball compatriots for the final stretch, let’s get into this week’s grades:
Rajon Rondo upped his string of double-digit assist games to 17, but he returned to refusing to shoot outside of the Spurs game, including the TNT-broadcasted Bulls game. He must have been disappointed because Derrick Rose didn’t play.
Other than the one game Ray Allen started in his first return to action, Avery Bradley has assumed control of the starting shooting guard position and made it his, um, pet. Bradley is playing roughly 30 minutes per game and poured in 19 off the bench against San Antonio and 18 points against Philly.
I would’ve liked to see Paul Pierce get off a slightly better final against the Spurs, although he can make that fallback jumper. It would’ve been nice for Pierce to shoot better than 8-of-21 against the Bulls, or to hold Luol Deng in check in the second half (when he scored 18 of his 26 points). But Pierce turned in two solid scoring efforts with 24 and 17 on better than 50 percent shooting against both the Pacers and Sixers. I’ll accept it, albeit very begrudgingly.
Brandon Bass continues to alternate between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, putting up an oh-fer in Indiana before shooting 8-for-10 against Philadelphia. I guess I just need to accept that’s what happens when he exclusively shoots fifteen-footers.
Other than lighting up a decaying Elton Brand, Kevin Garnett didn’t have his best shooting week (a combined 36% against SA, CHI, and IND). At least he managed to pound his head against the basket support with his usual fervor.
It’s going to take an adjustment period to see Allen, the most prolific three-point shooter in NBA history, bound for the Hall of Fame, come off the bench for a second-year player who can only score on backdoor cuts. But since it was apparently his idea (and since Bradley is routinely putting up impressive scoring numbers), I guess I can live with it. Hopefully Doc Rivers can continue to utilize him as the focal point of the offense off the bench; he’s dropped 14, 19, and 10 points respectively to give the punchless second unit some firepower.
Sasha Pavlovic has played shockingly well recently, averaging four points on 61.5 percent shooting and three rebounds in just over 13 minutes per game for the month of April. Looks like the Mayans were right about 2012 after all.
Greg Stiemsma continues to anchor the defense in Garnett’s stead for the second unit, piling up a handful of blocks, rebounds, and personal fouls almost every single game. Sadly, he’s all there is until Mickael Pietrus gets cleared to play or until Ryan Hollins proves to be more than just seven feet of muscle. Luckily, the Steamer has been all the Celtics need so far.
Doc Rivers was willing to roll the dice by bringing Allen off the bench, somehow getting it to work despite hardly any practice time to pull it together. He also lit into his team after they refused to take the Bull by its horns in the second half, even though it was the second night of a back-to-back during a stretch of tough opponents and they had been playing their best basketball of the season. The Celtics responded with two straight emphatic wins.
Just what the Doc ordered.