|Pierce led the charge on Saturday as Boston emerged victorious (boston.com)|
The Green welcomed Avery Bradley back from shoulder surgery in their first game of the new year but lost anyways--their fourth in a row--when the fearsome Memphis Grizzlies strolled into the Garden on Wednesday and beat Boston 93-83. More of the same for the Celtics, who got hammered on the boards and came up short despite making Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol non-factors on offense.
Boston snapped its losing streak with a blowout win in front of an anxious home crowd on Friday night. The Green Machine rolled over the Indiana Pacers in a 94-75 rout. The Celtics defense clamped down on the Pacers, forcing 18 turnovers and limiting them to just 27 made field goals on 31.8 percent shooting. David West and Paul George both shot 4-of-18 from the floor and Tyler Hansbrough was the only Pacer to score more than ten points. The romp allowed Doc Rivers to provide some much needed rest to his aging squad; a dozen Celtics received court time and nobody played more than 30 minutes.
Then the C's traveled down to Atlanta and beat the Hawks, 89-81 on the tail end of a back-to-back. Boston started slow and fell behind early, going down 13 at the end of the first and losing by 15 heading into the second half. The Celts regrouped during intermission and came out of the locker room guns blazing. Looking like a totally different team, they turned the game around with a lopsided third quarter in which they outscored the Hawks 33-to-9. Atlanta didn't make much of a counterattack in the fourth quarter, probably because four of Larry Drew's starters exceeded 40 minutes of PT.
Once again Boston played great defense, forcing 18 turnovers and holding the Hawks to 28 converted field goal attempts. Rajon Rondo led the way with his second triple-double of the season in a stat-stuffing performance highlighted by 14 points, 11 boards, 10 dimes and 3 steals. Paul Pierce poured in 26 points, grabbed nine rebounds and handed out five assists. The dynamic duo have carried Boston's mediocre offense all season long, and at some point Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Jeff Green need to step up. Bradley isn't going to add much in this regard, at least not right away. It's going to take some time for him to get back into game shape and find his rhythm.
At least the C's dominated the glass for a nice change of pace, hauling in 44 rebounds including 16 of the offensive variety. Keep in mind that Atlanta is also a poor rebounding team, so don't expect this fluke to become a trend. Nevertheless, it was nice to see Jared Sullinger active on the boards, hauling in 19 missed shots in the two games combined. He's limited offensively but plays good D and is a solid source of rebounds when Kevin Garnett and/or Brandon Bass need a breather. Danny Ainge still needs to acquire another big man to bolster the bench, but Sully is looking more comfortable and seems to have found his niche.
The Celtics look to get their record back to .500 Monday evening when they take on Carmelo Anthony's New York Knicks in the Madison Square Garden. The Knicks pose a formidable challenge. for they have the second best record in the Eastern Conference and just got Amare Stoudemire back last week. The two teams have yet to face each other this season.