By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
Every Win Without The Ticket Is Big
BOSTON — At the time of this submission, the Boston Celtics have a record of four wins and two losses since all-star Kevin Garnett went down with an abdominal muscle strain on January 25th against his former team.
And on a cold Friday night, the Cs were able to exit Minnesota with an 88-86 win, improving their record to a NBA best 30-9. Several players have stepped up since KG’s absence, and Friday night it was Leon Powe.
The Powe Man hustled to collect a missed layup by Ray Allen, and converted a buzzer beating basket to edge Boston past the struggling Timberwolves, who feature six former Celtics on their roster.
Seconds earlier, former Celtic Sebastian Telfair (two points, six assists, five rebounds, and a turnover) seemed to surprise former Celtic Al Jefferson (18 points, nine rebounds, two blocks, six turnovers) with a bounce pass 15-feet from the basket on the left side of the court.
Jefferson was quickly surrounded by Allen and Powe, and kicked the ball out to a wide open Marco Jaric, who was waiting in three-point territory. Jaric missed the attempt, but former Boston College great Craig Smith (16 points, seven rebounds) was there to grab the offensive rebound.
Smith threw the ball toward the top of the key before landing out of bounds, and Ray Allen was there to pick up the steal with five seconds remaining in the game. Mr.”He Got Game” dribbled the length of the court and was clearly hacked in the head by Jaric as he attempted a layup from the right side of the court.
But none of the refs blew their whistles. Fortunately, Pierce, Powe, James Posey, and Rajon Rondo were hustling back on offense and trailing Allen.
Minnesota’s backcourt, the only players who bothered running back on defense, were focused on stopping the ball.
Allen’s carom went right in the hands of the Powe Man, who was able to put the ball through the basket with only three tenths of a second remaining in the game. Powe finished the game with 16 points on eight-for-10 shooting and a team-high eight rebounds in 27 minutes.
Rajon Rondo, who has also stepped up his game in Garnett’s absence, added seven rebounds, three assists, and 12 points in the win against the Timberwolves, including a 15-foot pull-up jumper from the right elbow to tie the score at 86 with 29 seconds remaining in the final frame.
Rondo was the one who played the hero in the 96-90 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on January 31 when he recorded 14 points, 12 rebounds (six offensive), four assists, and made a play that earned him the biggest Tommy Point until Powe’s recent heroics.
The Celtics and Mavericks were tied at 90 with a little over 40 seconds left in the game. Pierce had just missed a jumper, and Dirk Nowitzki was underneath the basket – probably thinking he had a clear rebound.
But Rondo snuck underneath the seven-footer, hustled the ball out of the grips of Dirk, quickly put the ball back up, and scored before Dirk could even react. “One huge offensive rebound,” told the Truth after the game. “He’s playing an excellent all-around game.”
Rajon also scored 20 points and hauled down seven rebounds against Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in a 113-114 loss last Wednesday, including a jumper and two free throws with 1:48 remaining to pull Boston within two points (108-110). In a 111-100 victory against the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday, Rondo not only scored a career-high 24 points, dished out eight assists, hauled in five rebounds, and collected four steals, but his play frustrated Sam Cassell so bad that the veteran, who is rumored to want the Clippers to buy out his contract so he can sign with the Cs, eventually got himself ejected from the Garden after Rondo scored 12 second quarter points on him.
With the exception of Daniel Gibson stripping the ball from him in the closing seconds of the game against Cleveland, Rondo’s steady play since the beginning of the season is the reason why the former Kentucky Wildcat has been invited to participate in the Freshmen/Sophomore Challenge during this year’s All-Star Weekend in New Orleans.
Paul Pierce, who was recently voted to his sixth All-Star Game appearance in 10 seasons, has more than lived up to expectations in the last six games. Now that Pierce has finally got to play alongside Hall of Fame talent, Celtics Nation finally get to see the repertoire of his extraordinary talent.
The Truth recorded 15 points on 7-for-9 shooting against the Clippers, and 18 points, six assists, and two steals against Minnesota the very next game. He had a 22 point second half explosion against the Mavs. And had 19 points in the loss to Cleveland as he struggled with that 24-hour flu that seems to be going around the League.
The Celtics captain has also risen more than a few eyebrows by displaying his nifty passing abilities, and has dished out six or more assists on 17 occasions to date.
Ray Allen, who got snubbed in the elite game on February 17, scored 19 points, including 3-for-6 from three-point territory, in the win against the Clippers, and 17 points (3-for-7 from deep waters), five rebounds, and four assists against Minny. In addition, if Pierce carried the Cs in the second half of the victory against the Mavs then Sugar Ray carried the Cs throughout the first half as he scored half of the Celtics 44 halftime points.
But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the rest of the Celtics players who have contributed. The bench is the real reason why the Cs are the best team in the NBA. “They are mentally tough,” answered Celtics coach Doc Rivers when asked about the second unit. “They may not be the best, but they get the job done.”
Glen Davis has been the biggest surprise off the bench all season. Big Baby had his coming out party against the Detroit Pistons on January 5th when he scored 20 points on eight-for-10 shooting, as Paul Pierce spoon fed the Baby in the closing minutes of a tight game.
Eddie House has also been a major contributor, and played very well when Rondo went down with an injury. Apparently, Minnesota didn’t read the scouting report. If they did, they would have known that you can’t leave the House. House scored 14 points on five-for-eight shooting, including two-for-three from the deep end, in 16 minutes against the Wolves. He also added four assists. Tony Allen is starting to show confidence in the knee that kept him out of the second half of last season. The Celtic reserve contributed 17 points in the win against the Clippers, including a one-handed tomahawk down the lane to give Boston a 101-91 cushion with 6:48 remaining in regulation.
But the biggest reason why the Celtics bench is arguably the best in the business is because of James Posey. Posey does all the garbage work. He’s played great defense, he dives on the floor to come up with steals, he’ll hit big shots from way downtown, he gets the ball to the right people at the right time, and he’ll come up with the big rebound.
To sum it up, Posey does everything that needs to be done to win a basketball game. “Posey does that dirty work,” is how Celtics coach Doc Rivers describes it.
The Celtics are now 15-0 against Western Conference teams. That streak will be challenged when Tim Duncan visits the Bean on Sunday afternoon.