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Celtics Report Card: Even a Raptors Loss Can’t Faze Me

Even a stumbling loss against the Toronto Raptors can't bring down expectations (or this week's grades) for Kevin Garnett and the Celtics. (Yahoo Sports/AP Photo/The Canadian Press/Frank Gunn)

Normally a loss to the lowly Toronto Raptors (missing Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani, no less) would have me in fits. But this is no normal season, and this wasn’t a normal week.

The Boston Celtics took two of three in their one and only back-to-back-to-back of the season, including a win without any members of the Big Three. Granted, the Celtics beat the New Jersey Nets and the Charlotte Bobcats – the same teams who thought Gerald Wallace might entice Dwight Howard to move to Brooklyn and who the Kentucky Wildcats supposedly could have beaten this year.

Of course, the Celtics also put it to the Miami Heat for the second time – this time on the road – then squeaked out an overtime victory against the Atlanta Hawks, who could be the C’s first-round playoff opponent. So as the Celtics’ postseason expectations continue to climb, let’s see how high their grades climbed as well:

Starting Backcourt: A+

Yeah, I went there. A-plus.

Rajon Rondo continues to play out of his mind, upping his streak of double-digit assist games to 22 and notching another triple-double (10 points, 10 rebounds, and a “meager” 20 assists against Atlanta). Then, without any of his Big Three teammates, Rondo carried the Celtics over the Bobcats with 20 points, 16 assists and six boards in a heroic 43 (which he told Doc Rivers could be a full 48) minutes. With the Celtics’ next four games on national television, I fully expect Rondo to replicate Michael Jordan’s Space Jam dunk at least once.

Ray Who? Avery Bradley has apparently learned how to shoot three-pointers (5-for-7 in NJ and CHA), averaging just over 18 points during the triple-back. I guess that’s what happens when you haven’t logged 17,532 combined miles on your knees, keeping you from even traveling to an away game.

Starting Frontcourt: A-

Paul Pierce wasn’t outstanding, shooting poorly outside of Miami, including a ghastly 1-of-8 from deep in Atlanta. I’d like to see a little more classic, slow-motion, herky-jerky Pierce, pulling up at the elbow or driving for a layup or a foul. Did I say “slow-motion, herky-jerky”? I meant “patient” and “savvy.”

How Brandon Bass manages to look as if he’s doing double-dutch while sinking outside jumpers is beyond me. I like him racking up at least nine rebounds in every win last week, though, that’s for sure.

Kevin Garnett took home Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors at age 34 when he looked like a fish out of water earlier this season. (To be fair, though, that fish probably could’ve outflopped out-jumped KG in January.) And that was after sitting out the game in Charlotte. Anything is possiblllllllleeeee!

Bench Backcourt: B-

Ray Allen (ohhh, that’s his last name) played only one game last week with his right ankle swelling up again. This makes me frightened for the Celtics bench, since the only other guy Rivers could count on against Miami was Sasha Pavlovic. (Though to be fair to KG’s fish Pavlovic, he has been an able body coming off the bench. By which I mean he doesn’t really have a stat line – except for a random seven-rebound outburst in Charlotte – but manages to seem half-respectable on the court.)

Bench Frontcourt: B+

Mickael Pietrus is finally back on the floor after his frightening concussion kept him bedridden for a couple weeks. He hasn’t played particularly well (understandably so), but Pietrus gives the Celtics much-needed depth at shooting guard and small forward.

Greg Stiemsma still astounds me, even though he’s been consistently solid for a couple of weeks now. I’m just waiting for his Lin-like demise with some terrible knee injury. And yes, I absolutely just compared Stiemsma’s eight points, five rebounds, one assist, four steals, and six blocks in his first start to the phenomenon known as Linsanity.

Coaching: A

I’d like to be the 10,000th person to point out that Doc Rivers took a page out of Greg Popovich’s book by leaving his aging stars at home in a brutal back-to-back-to-back against the league’s crappiest team ironically owned by the best player in NBA history. I approve – almost as much as I approve of Doc’s shortened rotation in big games (eight players versus the Heat). That Rivers has the Celtics on top of the Atlantic Division and poised for a playoff run (frantically knocking on wood) should have him on the short list for Coach of the Year. You’re welcome, the one person out there who cares about that award.

About Nick Bohlen - @ndbohlen

Nick is an editor and regular contributor for the Patriots, Celtics, and Red Sox sections of SoB. (Despite growing up in Vermont, just a short drive from Canada, hockey never really caught on with him.) Follow him on twitter: @ndbohlen

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