Celtics 100, Wizards 92: Stiemsma, Allen lead third straight Celtics win against another miserable team
The Boston Celtics have returned to .500. Greg Stiemsma looks like a legitimate backup center (although he started this affair). The Washington Wizards are not good. Boston spent three quarters treading water but applied a finishing kick that left the Wizards in their wake, giving way to a 100-92 victory.
Including work, I’ve been writing more or less consecutively since 9 a.m. Because I’m now running on fumes (and three separate Five Hour Energies), it’s best that I avoid a legitimate game recap and instead write game notes. If I sound like someone who’s close to either A) suffering a heart attack from too much laboratory-generated caffeine, or B) five seconds away from falling asleep, that’s probably because I am both of those things.
– If you told me this summer that Greg Stiemsma would be Boston’s starting center in Game 6 of the regular season, I would have slapped you across the face, called you a filthy liar, Googled “Greg Stiemsma,” slapped you again, and then pondered whether you could possibly be telling the truth because nobody in the world would make that shit up.
But there Stiemsma was, starting in place of the injured Jermaine O’Neal (sore hamstring). It took him less than five minutes to block two shots, score four points, draw the ejection of Wizards coach Flip Saunders and elicit one comparison to Bill Russell (made by Tommy Heinsohn, who I hope apologized profusely to his former teammate immediately after the half ended). Stiemsma could have stopped then and left the game with a growing legacy and thousands of fans who, surprisingly, not only know who Stiemsma is but also adore him. Instead, he emerged from halftime, displayed an outside shot that bordered on feathery and finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and the aforementioned two blocks in 21 minutes.
During the 2007-08 season, while the Celtics were busy winning an NBA title, Stiemsma established career highs as a senior at Wisconsin with 11.5 minutes and 3.5 points per game. Now he’s starting for the Celtics and drawing (admittedly insane) comparisons to The Greatest Winner Ever. Go figure. In the process, he might be turning Boston’s biggest question mark (center depth) into a considerably less drastic situation.
– The aforementioned center depth is not helped by Jermaine O’Neal getting injured in his fifth game (what a cliche) and Chris Wilcox showing very little life tonight in a return from an injury of his own.
– Ray Allen was six for seven tonight from behind the arc, as a 36-year old playing in the second night of a back-to-back. He’s 22 for 36 on the season. That’s 61.1 percent, for those wondering. It’s easy to take Ray for granted. Let’s not. Enjoy this.
– Paul Pierce changes everything. On one play, Pierce scooted around a screen, took a pass from Rajon Rondo and drilled a three-pointer. I couldn’t help wondering what would have happened if Sasha Pavlovic had received the same pass. In my imagination, Pavlovic caught the pass, tripped on the three-point arc, blew his nose into his own uniform while falling down and somehow managed to re-aggravate O’Neal’s injury despite being nowhere close to O’Neal. That scenario sounds somewhat plausible, am-I-right?
– On one possession, Jordan Crawford spent 20 seconds trying to find enough separation from Avery Bradley to run the offense, then finally realized he couldn’t escape Bradley’s defensive pressure and launched a 25-footer to beat the shot clock. That’s the good Bradley. The bad Bradley comes whenever he touches the basketball.
– Needless to say, I would love to see E’Twaun Moore get Bradley’s minutes.
– Another note on Boston’s backup shooting guard position: Pavlovic played very well against Detroit. I’m not even being sarcastic. And then Doc Rivers took him out of the rotation entirely. It’s weird.
– Kevin Garnett looked considerably slower today than he did last night. He might really struggle on the second night of back-to-backs this season. Good thing there’s more of them than ever. Gulp.
– Garnett still made a number of crucial plays down the stretch. Two or three huge dimes to three-point shooters (one to Pierce on the right wing was especially nice and essential to Boston’s fourth-quarter surge), a strong take to the paint that drew a foul and a putback of an ugly Pierce miss. When the Celtics needed him, he was there.
– Rajon Rondo was in game manager mode. He didn’t always attack, like he did last night. He didn’t score very many buckets. He threw seven turnovers. I can’t kill Rondo for his effort tonight — he had 13 assists and seven rebounds — but I’d love for him to attack more often, even if it’s just probing the middle of the defense so he can find open looks for his teammates. I feel like I will say that a lot this season.
– When the bench plays as a single unit, Keyon Dooling is the second-best scorer on the floor. I like Dooling. He’s played well. I don’t like him as a second option. At all. Playing at least one starter with that crew should be Doc’s golden rule this season.
– In the fourth quarter, Brandon Bass made two nice passes, perhaps just to show that he could. The first nice pass led to an open Chris Wilcox look (he got fouled on an attempted dunk and, I believe, missed both free throws). The second pass came when Bass penetrated, drew a crowd, found an open Garnett, and Garnett quickly swung it to Allen for three. I know Bass won’t pass very often. I’m completely fine with that — the Celtics need him to score and he’s an efficient scorer. But tonight, he showed he can pass. When he wants to. Which might come once or twice a week. Again, I’m okay with that. Seriously.
– Bass on his offensive game: “Somebody told me one of my nicknames is No Pass Bass.” Again, I’m entirely cool with this.
– Not cool with: Bass allowing Blatche to drive to the hoop unmolested for a dunk late in the game. Bass is a willing defender, but there will be a drop-off from Glen Davis to Bass on the defensive end. Bass just makes up for it (in spades) whenever the Celtics get the ball.
The Celtics are back to .500. They still haven’t beaten a halfway-decent team, but I assume that will come at some point.