Well that was better, I guess. The Celtics survived a nail-biter against the Washington Wizards (WITHOUT John Wall and Nene) after they blew a sizable lead. But I’ll TRY to be positive and accept our first win of the season on the second night of a back-to-back, and chalk it up to the Celtics playing down to inferior competition. Let’s get to the recap:
- Sullinger got the start tonight and finished with four points and seven rebounds, but his contributions go beyond the stat sheet. One of the reasons I like Sullinger in the starting lineup is he has the size to absorb some of the beating down low that Garnett usually takes. The other is it makes Doc’s job easier when Sullinger inevitably ends up in foul trouble. If Sullinger is coming off the bench and picks up a quick foul when he’s supposed to be spelling Bass or Garnett, Doc either has to cut short one of his starters rest or reach deeper into his rotation. Sullinger starting gives him a little bit more flexibility with his rotation until Sully gets all those rookie fouls out of his system. Also worth noting: Sullinger’s minutes have steadily increased from eight, to 18, to 30 tonight where he played more than all but two Celtics (Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo). I’m not saying we should expect Sullinger to continue to start or play that many minutes, but he’s definitely going to be a contributor for this team as long as he continues to play defense. Sullinger’s rotations looked to be coming along nicely tonight, likely part of the reason he was given so much run.
- The bench was pretty bad. I’m not one to give too much credence to +/- stats but one thing from the box score tonight jumps out at me: the entire starting lineup was in the positive, and the entire bench was in the negative. The Celtics’ bench was outscored 62-27 and generally looked out of sync. Chris Wilcox was a boon for the bench tonight however, if only because his appearance seems to signal the end of the horrific Bass-Green frontcourt.
- Jeff Green can’t get through a game without me mentioning him in the recap! Jeff Green advanced from ’2011 Jeff Green’ to ‘reasonable expectations Jeff Green.’ While he certainly wasn’t the Jeff Green we were promised in the preseason, Green managed 11 points on 5-10 shooting in a modest 16 minutes, and doubled his rebounding output from last night with two whole boards. Green’s decision making is continuing to improve on the offensive end, and he continues to be a non-factor defensively (along with the rest of the bench). Hard to ask for more than steady improvement.
- Jason Terry looks lost in the half-court offense. Terry finished with eight points and three assists, but did most of his damage on the break. I really want to see Green and Terry become more involved in the offense and develop some chemistry, with the majority of bench possessions being run through those two. Terry is the Celtics’ best offensive weapon off the bench, and they’ll need to better utilize him if this team is going to succeed. He’s certainly not going to make a difference as a lock-down defender.
- The closing lineup is in complete flux. The Celtics had eight different players on the floor during the final two minutes by my count. Just something to keep an eye on while this team continues to try and figure it out.
The more I dwell on this game the uglier it feels. The Celtics beat a Wizards team by three points that was missing its two best players and the Celtics only turned the ball over 9 times. The Celtics were out-rebounded by 11 and shot under 43% for the game, so this was a pretty terrible showing. In a game where you can’t say any of the Big 3 played poorly, the Celtics continue to struggle to make the supporting pieces fit. Thankfully the Celtics have three days off (to practice) before they face off against the Wizards again on Wednesday, when hopefully they’ll thump them by 40 or so.
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