The bounce back game
April 11, 2012
Q. Who leads the Celtics in 4th quarter scoring this season with 5.1 ppg? (answer below)
24-3. That’s what the Miami Heat’s home record was before last night’s game vs. the Celtics. It was the best home record in the entire NBA. Plus, they wanted payback for the thrashing they got in Boston on national TV on April Fool’s Day.
Instead, the Celtics won decisively again, 115-107, beating Miami for the second time in 10 days. Last night’s win officially makes them the league’s hottest team since the All-Star Break, with 18 wins. No other team has more than 16.
But after last night’s big win in Miami, the Celts have no time to rest on their laurels, as they have to bounce back with another big game tonight. The well-rested Atlanta Hawks are in Boston to play the Celtics. The Hawks haven’t played since Saturday – an eternity of rest in this condensed season. And after losing 3 of 4 to teams in the playoff hunt, Atlanta has won their last 3 in a row against lottery teams.
Tonight’s game is important because Atlanta is 34-23, while Boston is 33-24. If the Celtics win tonight, they’ll be tied with Atlanta and will clinch the tiebreaker since Boston won the first game between the two and there’s only one game left in Boston after tonight. A loss and the Celtics will be 2 games behind with only 8 to play.
What’s keyed the Celtics 18-7 post All-Star run is great defense, which has been enhanced by added minutes for defensive stalwarts Avery Bradley and Greg Stiemsma (to go with NBA All-Defensive First Teamers Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo). In fact, Stiemsma has done a great job filling in for Jermaine O’Neal, matching JO’s points and rebounds on a Per 36 minute basis, while getting more blocks and steals. O’Neal did a better job at taking charges and has more experience directing the defense, but for a free agent signed out of the D League, that’s outstanding production. Plus, when Stiemsma is on the floor with KG, KG directs the defense.
Now that Mickael Pietrus has returned to the lineup tonight, that gives Doc Rivers another solid shooting guard defender (who’s bigger than Avery Bradley) and 3-point shooter. If he plays with Ray on the second unit when Ray returns from his ankle woes, MP can take the tougher defensive wing matchup, freeing up Ray Allen to focus more on shooting. A lot. Pietrus has been out since suffering a concussion on March 23.
If the Celts can pull off a win tonight, that’ll improve their record in games they have no rest to 9-9. So when they embark on their dreaded back-to-back-to-back games, they’ll have the opportunity to push their record over .500.
A. No. And no. It’s Kevin Garnett. Surprise!