Sixteen Thoughts on a 16-Point Win

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Sixteen Thoughts on a 16-Point Win

Well, they did it again.

Here are 16 thoughts on the Celtics 16-point victory:

1. A performance like last night justifies all the anger and frustration that we felt on Monday.

Know what I mean?

Getting bent out of shape when losers play like losers is unhealthy and dysfunctional, but when a team with the ability to play like the Celtics did in Game 3, plays like they did in Game 2, its only natural to blow a gasket. And thanks to last night, we know that gasket wasnt blown in vain. Were reminded, once again, that the Celtics are worthy of our high, sometimes-silly standards. Its a gift and a curse, but theyve earned it.

2. Early in last nights broadcast, TNT cut to an interview with Paul Pierce, where he admitted that this is the Big Threes last stand (as Rajon Rondo somewhat symbolically clanged a jumper in the split screen).

When they cut back, Chris Webber who looks like a senior at Detroit Country Day again while sitting next to Dick Stockton made a point that Ill now paraphrase: You know, Dick. These guys clearly know that this it, and theyre more motivated than ever!

In Webbers defense, hes not the first one to say this. Commentators and analysts spew this junk all the time. So while Im not hating on C-Webb (I love C-Webb!), Ill still ask the question: Are we actually supposed to believe that the Celtics are more motivated to win a title this year than they have in the past?

That might actually be a funny thing to ask Kevin Garnett at his next press conference (if you find public decapitation funny): Hey, Kevin. I cant help but notice that you guys care a little more this season. Your thoughts?

Listen, theres no question that the Last Stand is a motivating factor for the Celtics, but motivating factors exist every season. No matter what the situation, guy like Garnett, Pierce and Ray Allen will always find a reason to convince themselves that theres nothing in the world more important than bringing home a title. Its part of the game. Its part of being a champion.

3. I tweeted this last night, but for you carpetbaggers who dont follow me, Ill repeat it again: Last two games: Rajon Rondo's played 80 minutes, with 27 assists and two turnovers.

Thats robotic. Rajonny 5 is Alive! (Or should it be Rajonny 9? Eh, lets just move on.)

But even more impressive and refreshing than those numbers (if thats possible), is the determination Rondo showed in getting to the hoop. As we learned in Game 2, high assists and low turnovers dont always result in a cohesive offense or a Celtics victory, but when Rondos attacking the way he did last night, the Cs are hard to beat.

Naturally, the one night Rondo attacks the way we want, he ends up sitting at the post game podium with his wrist wrapped (an earlier injury that popped back up in Game 2 and was re-aggravated last night). Thats the biggest drawback to a guy of his still-somewhat fragile physical make up constantly taking it to the trees. But thats a risk that Rondo and the Celtics need to take it.

4. If theres one knock on Rondo in these playoffs, its that his perimeter defense stinks worse than the bathroom in Shaqs TNT dressing room. In Round 1, Jeff Teague drove the lane at will (and it would have been worse if not for Atlantas insistence on letting Joe Johnson squeeze the life out of the offense). In Round 2, Ive already lost count of how many times Jrue Holidays blown by while Rondo futilely flails at his patented back door tap.

Maybe those are chances you can take when one of the best defenders of all time has your back, but it wouldnt hurt for Rondo to take a little more time and effort to stay in front of his man.

5. ESPNs John Hollinger has a formula called Game Score, which provides a rough measure of a players productivity for a single game. (You can check out the details here.) By Hollingers mathematical standards, 10s considered an average Game Score, 40 is out of this world and everything in between can be judged accordingly.

Anyway, in 60 starts this past regular season, Kevin Garnett produced only six Game Scores of 20 or higher, with his best 22.5 coming against Utah on March 28.

In the playoffs, Garnetts already bested that 22.5 on three different occasions, including last night, when he posted a 24.5. Hes now shooting 63 for the Philly series. Hes shooting 55 for the playoffs. His defense is far and away better than its been at any point since his injury.

What else can we say? Hes absolutely unbelievable.

Let this serves an inspiration to all the 7-foot, soon-to-be 36-year-old mega-millionaires out there. Its never too late, fellas.

6. Brandon Bass jumper is still a mess. You hope that it will bounce back, but with every passing game, that hope fades a little more. At this point, someone might need to go back in time and make sure Bass parents kiss at the Enchantment Under the Sea before his whole game disappears.

However, if theres one play to build on, its that early drive and dunk on Spencer Hawes.

Its clear that Hawes cant hang with KG, and moving forward, the Sixers will likely lean on Elton Brand to deal with Garnett. That leaves Hawes to cover Bass, and as we saw on that one explosive slam, Hawes has no shot in that match-up either. So now, when Bass gets the ball on the wing, in a position where he usually sizes up his man and pulls up for a cool J, he needs to drive. Best case scenario: He booms it on Hawes head. Worst case: Bass gets to the line.

7. Brandon Bass hasnt missed a foul shot in the playoffs (Hes 20 for 20).

8. Take away Paul Pierces two early dunks, and the Captain was 4-15 from the field. Not his best work; hes still not right. But, when Rondo and KG and play their games and allow Pierce to serve more of a complimentary role, the Truth (in all his gimpy glory) will be enough. He might not give the game everything that it needs, but hell be able to conserve energy, pick his spots and play an essential role down the stretch.

9. In Bostons six playoff wins, Pierce is averaging 9.67 free throw attempts per game. In Bostons three losses, hes averaging 1.67.

10. In 46 regular season games, Ray Allen missed nine of 106 free throws attempts. In seven playoff games, hes missed eight of 20 attempts.

11. Avery Bradleys line was somewhat troubling last night. 20 minutes, two shots (three if you count whatever he got before the game) and zero points.

Am I concerned? Sure, but no more than I was before Game 3. At this point, we know that Averys shoulder is going to be an issue. As the long as the Celtics are alive, hes going to be playing through pain, and wont be able to contribute as much as any of us would like. But at the same time, his jumper doesnt look any different, his defense is still tenacious (remember that early block on Evan Turner?) and you cant touch his toughness.

Even if he was healthy, Bradley wasnt going to be a big part of the Celtics crunch time strategy, so lets just be happy with what he can give, while keeping an optimistic eye on everything hell bring to the table next year and beyond. Deal?

12. Streaky shooters are amazing, arent they? For the first seven games of the playoffs, Mickael Pietrus was not only a non-factor, he was a detriment to the Celtics cause. Not even a shadow of a shadow of himself. Next thing you know, something clicks and hes draining shots like Bob Cousy in Blue Chips.

Of course, the terrifying thing is that, at some point, the streak will come to an end, but for now, Pietrus re-emergence is a thing of beauty (and a major factor in tempering our concerns over Bradley)

13. I nearly threw up when Pietrus was undercut on that late-game fast break and found his body temporarily parallel to the ground. And by the look on Pietrus face, he felt it too. In that split second, the world stopped and his worst fears were realized on the same court where it almost all came to an end a few months back. Frankly, one of the most amazing things about that entire game was that Pietrus bounced back from that scare and hit both free throws.

If it was me, Id have airballed both and burst into tears.

14. If there was bright spot in Phillys otherwise awful night, its that Thaddeus Young finally arrived. The 23-year-old slasher has played through shin and ankle injuries for the entirety of the playoffs, which has resulted in some pretty putrid play he scored a total of 17 points in Philly previous four playoff games.

But last night, Young Thad exploded for 23, and showed glimpses of a guy who could give the Celtics a lot of trouble.

15. As great as Young was, and might continue to be, it wont mean a thing unless Andre Iguodala lays off the pre-game hippo tranquilizer.

Gross effort by Iggy Hop last night.

16. And finally, every good playoff run needs a goofy gimmick. And this year, weve got flexing. And you know what the best part of flexing is?

You don't need to an professional athlete. You don't need any special skills. You don't need to possess any particular level of rhythm. Flexing is easy, and fun for the whole family. Anyone can flex! Shabba Ranks would be proud.

And after last night, we're all proud of the Celtics. They've restored our faith, wrestled back control of the series and will take the court tomorrow night looking to deliver a death blow.

I'll see you then.

(But also much sooner than that.)

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Thomas shines again in fourth quarter, Celtics beat Hornets, 108-98

Thomas shines again in fourth quarter, Celtics beat Hornets, 108-98

BOSTON –  Late in the fourth quarter, the TD Garden was rockin' when the fans charted chanting, 'M-V-P, M-V-P' which is become a nightly serenade of sorts for Isaiah Thomas. 

It's extremely wishful thinking on Celtics Nation's part, but there is no denying his status as one of the game's best players this season. 

He delivered yet another work of art on Monday, scoring 17 of his game-high 35 points in the fourth quarter in leading Boston to a 108-98 win against Charlotte. 

And he did the way he always seems to do it, mixing in 3-pointers with drives to the baskets and an occasional assist to keep the collapsing defenses that surround him relatively honest. 

But the numbers he's consistently posting only tell part of the narrative to what has been a fairy tale of a season for the 5-foot-9 guard who continues to defy odds on a nightly basis. 

Not only is he producing at a high level, but he's elevating the play of those around him which is reflected in the team's overall success.

Boston (26-15) hits the halfway point with its best record under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens and best by the franchise since a 32-9 start to the 2010-2011 season.

The Celtics have now won eight of their last 10 games, and 13 of 16 as they steadily pull away and establish themselves at worst being the third-best team in the East.

And against the Hornets, they got the victory with a nice blending of what they do best – shoot three-pointers and play solid, physical defense.

The game could not have gotten off to a better start for the Boston Celtics, opening with a 10-2 run that put the Hornets on their heels quickly.

Not surprisingly, the Hornets rallied to take the lead in the first quarter before Boston’s second unit stepped up.

Leading the way in the final minute of the first quarter was Jaylen Brown, just minutes removed from a moving pre-game speech honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on MLK Day.

With Boston trailing 30-29, Brown scored the final five points of the quarter to give Boston a 34-30 lead.

The second quarter saw both teams pull ahead by slim margins, neither showing an ability to pull away and take full control of the game.

But again it was the Celtics making all the necessary plays at both ends of the floor in the closing moments.

Trailing 50-48, Boston would close out the half with an 11-3 run to lead 59-53 at the half.

In the third quarter, Boston began to give itself a little more breathing room fueled in large part by their defense which not only limited the Hornets scoring but took advantage of great spacing to get open jumpers or baskets in the paint with little resistance or help-side defense.

A back-to-the-basket hook shot by Al Horford gave Boston a 77-67 lead, the game’s first double-digit margin.

The Celtics increased their lead to 12 points following a pull-up jumper along the baseline by Avery Bradley who was back in the lineup after missing the previous four games with an Achilles injury.

Going into the fourth, the Celtics were ahead 80-71.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics get a boost from their bench

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics get a boost from their bench

BOSTON –  Questions about Boston’s second unit have lingered all season.

But in the first half of Monday’s game against Charlotte, the Celtics got a major boost from the second unit which paved the way for Boston’s 59-53 lead at the half.

They outscored their Charlotte brethren 21-10 which was instrumental in them fending off an always-tough Charlotte team despite the Hornets (20-20) coming in having lost four in a row – all on the road.

Boston opened with a 10-2 run, the kind of spurt that you knew would likely be followed at some point by a comparable run by the Hornets.

On cue, Charlotte began to chip away at Boston’s lead and eventually went ahead following a pair of Kemba Walker free throws with 3:39 to play.

The teams went back and forth until Boston’s Jaylen Brown, who delivered a moving pre-game speech in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, took over the game with less than a minute to play in the first.

Trailing 30-29, Brown scored the quarter’s final five points to lift Boston to a 34-30 lead going into the second quarter.

In the second quarter, it was Kelly Olynyk – another Celtics reserve - taking over with a slew of baskets and hustle plays including saving a ball from going out of bounds in front of the Charlotte bench and tossing it up court with the Celtics ultimately getting a lay-up from Brown.

With 7:24 to play in the half, Charlotte called a time-out with the Celtics leading 45-40.

The Hornets responded with an 8-3 spurt to tie the game at 48 following a dunk by Spencer Hawes which led to Brad Stevens looking for answers during a Celtics time-out with 5:18 to play in the half.

Boston’s starters eventually returned to the floor in the second quarter and seemingly picked up where their backups left off.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Monday’s game.

 

STARS

Kemba Walker

There was a definite sense of urgency on Walker’s part to do what he could to lead the Hornets out of their four-game funk. He did his part in the first half, scoring 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting from the field.

Al Horford

This was one of the better first halves offensively we’ve seen from Al Horford this season. He led the Celtics with 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting from the field.

 

STUDS

Isaiah Thomas

With what looked like an increased emphasis to get the ball to Horford, Thomas played the role of the other scorer and didn’t disappoint. He had 13 points in the first half along with three assists.

Kelly Olynyk

For the second time in as many games, Olynyk was assertive both on the perimeter and around the basket. And the results by and large, were positive. At the half, he had nine points off the bench to go with five rebounds and three assists.

Jaylen Brown

He provided a major lift at the end of the first quarter, which is when he scored five of his seven first-half points.

Marvin Williams

He gave Boston problems both inside the paint as well as on the perimeter as he tallied 12 points which included a pair of 3-pointers.

 

DUDS

Cody Zeller

His job is to roll to the rim, defend and rebound. He seemed to struggle in all three phases in the first half. He had three points and three rebounds, but when he was on the floor the Hornets had a plus/minus of -7.