Wow. After Rondo’s suspension this afternoon expectations were low for tonight, but the Celtics came together and won what turned out to be a thrilling game. There wasn’t a single Celtic that didn’t contribute tonight, and the C’s emerged victorious in a game where toughness and composure proved to be the difference. Lets get to the bullet points:
- Paul Pierce found himself in foul trouble multiple times in tonight, but the Truth was in rare form down the stretch. He finished with 23 points (10-18 shooting) and six assists. Pierce was a willing passer in the final period, but it was his fade-away dagger over Tyson Chandler that sealed the game in the waning moments of the quarter (here’s Pierce blowing a kiss to the MSG crowd following that play). And he did all this in just 28 foul ridden minutes.
- This win wouldn’t have been possible without Jeff Green. With Pierce in foul trouble Green was forced into action early and often, and he responded with 16 points and six rebounds. Green simply did what he needed to do, attacking mismatches like Steve Novak and getting to the line. It wasn’t an amazing game but it certainly was encouraging.
- Avery Bradley played his signature antagonistic defense tonight and his shot finally started falling as he went 6-11 from the floor for 13 points. Bradley also added five assists, and the amount of headaches he caused the Knicks can’t be quantified in a box score. Whether he was guarding Carmelo Anthony or snatching rebounds away from Tyson Chandler, Bradley was fearless.
- Like Bradley, the box score can’t accurately express how incredible a game Jared Sullinger played tonight. Sullinger battled down low tonight, and his intensity in the paint was unmatched as he fought an absolute war against Chandler. He finished with 10 points and five rebounds while playing solid defense, including an amazing defensive play on Melo in isolation. I can’t accurately express my adoration for the grit and heart Sullinger played with tonight. He leads the Celtics in cumulative +/- following this game.
- Kevin Garnett finished with 19 points (6-11 shooting) and nine rebounds but his biggest contribution may have been the way he got in Caremlo Anthony’s head. Garnett and Anthony went at each other all night, at one point they received double technicals and had to be separated. Anthony hammered Garnett every time he attempted to post up, but Garnett kept his head while Anthony went 6-26. Anthony apparently had to be restrained after the game as he screamed outside the Celtics locker room. Garnett played 38 minutes tonight, so it’s probably safe to say that Rondo owes him one.
- Jason Terry‘s shot was still MIA (1-7 from the floor) but he found other ways to contribute, chipping in with four rebounds and five assists. Terry also played some solid defense down the stretch, after suffering lapses on that end earlier in the game.
The Celtics have now tied their longest win streak of the season with three straight wins against quality teams (with a combined 63-37 record). The C’s have been vastly improved on the defensive end since Bradleys return, as they continue to show the heart and hustle this team seemed to lack earlier in the season. Tonight this team played with an edge and emerged with what might be their best win yet, and they did it without Rajon Rondo. The Celtics will have a chance to extend their win streak against the Phoenix Suns this Wednesday.
Follow Jordan on Twitter: @OffensiveG