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The first quarter of the year has come and gone, and the Boston Celtics started this week well on their way to a pretty good grade. They mustered a dominant defensive performance and a massive comeback in a home-and-home against the Orlando Magic, then managed a quality win over a playoff-caliber Indiana Pacers squad that had already beaten them twice this season.
Then the C’s soured it all Sunday by giving up 12 unanswered points over the final 4:24 to gift a win to the Cleveland Kyrie Irvings Cavaliers, squandering a chance to get over the .500 mark.
The NBA: Where the opposite of amazing also happens.
In other words, so much for the honor roll. Let’s jump right in and see how much that one loss brought down the grades for this past week’s progress report.
Bradley left his mark harassing Jameer Nelson up and down the court in the 87-56 win over the Magic, then all but disappeared until an injury against Cleveland officially pulled him off the court. Pietrus neither dazzled nor disappointed, although it would be nice for him to make more than 37 percent of his shots. As for Pavlovic, I’m making the executive decision that the starting backcourt gets an automatic “F” if I ever have to see him play 34 minutes in a starting role again.
On the bright side, the Celtics did manage to sprinkle in a pinch of Ray Allen, who went 9-for-14 – including 4-for-6 from downtown – for 22 points in the loss to the Cavaliers. All things considered, with no Rajon Rondo and just one game for Allen, I have to say the starting backcourt was solid. Or at least solid-ish.
Now THAT is what I’m talking about, Paul Pierce: 22.2 ppg, 8.8 apg, 6.8 rpg, all while running the offense as a point forward (Carmelo Anthony could learn a thing or two from The Truth). He does need to hold on to the rock, giving the ball away seven times against the Cavs and costing them a W.
I’d like to see a little more scoring from Kevin Garnett, but he (along with Jermaine O’Neal and his pointing prowess) frustrated Dwight Howard to no end. Between his defense and better consistency on the boards, KG looked a little better this week.
With O’Neal’s knees balking again, Brandon Bass filled out the starting lineup for the last three games this week. He really likes his nickname “No-Pass Bass,” doesn’t he (12 FGA, 1.5 AST per game)?
I would like to take this time to personally apologize to E’Twaun Moore (I’m assuming he reads my opinion of him and the Celtics religiously, or at least has Google alert). First of all, he has a sweet name. Bonus points. Second, though he didn’t do a whole lot in the other three games (especially since the point guard position is essentially nonexistent with Pierce running the offense), his 16-point outburst to spark the comeback in Orlando was extremely encouraging. And a positive +/- in every game is always, well, positive. Just for that, I’ll throw a plus sign on that letter grade.
The return of Chris Wilcox has been a big lift, namely because the Celtics wouldn’t have a big man to come off the bench otherwise (let’s just say those Greg Stiemsma-Bill Russell comparisons faded pretty quickly, along with the Steamer’s playing time). Wilcox has grabbed six boards in each of the last two games while only playing 23 minutes a game. Against the Pacers, he even poured in 14 points to give the Celtics a lift offensively. It’s always good to see the only major offseason acquisition finally make a difference a quarter of the way through the season.