When Kevin Garnett is sitting out, the Celtics need to score a lot of points to win. Despite good individual defenders like Jeff Green, Avery Bradley and (in very limited minutes tonight) Courtney Lee, the team defense takes a massive hit whenever Garnett isn’t on the floor. Rotations get missed, easy layups happen and open 3-pointers are much too common.
The good news: Boston’s offense is starting find its rhythm, largely thanks to Jeff Green, and the Celtics scored more than enough to win against Atlanta.
We have a lot of positive things to talk about, so let’s get straight into the bullet points.
- Shavlik Randolph sparked a Twitter explosion the likes of which we haven’t seen since…well, since the last Twitter explosion. Twitter tends to explode a lot. Still, Randolph’s rebounding, particularly on the offensive end, was such a revelation for Celtics’ fans used to seeing the entire team sprint backwards as soon as a shot goes up on the offensive end. Randolph finished with 13 rebounds, 7 offensive, and roughly 800 million new fans.
- Paul Pierce was fantastic, scoring 20 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists. His shooting wasn’t particularly efficient (8-18 from the floor), but he does so many little things on the floor that the Celtics so desperately need. He might be Boston’s best point guard not because he’s their best ball-handler or passer, but simply because he is such a calming influence whenever he is on the floor. Related (and worth noting): Pierce was a staggering +28 from the floor this evening.
- Another night, another very productive, efficient game for Jeff Green, who scored 27 points on 11-20 shooting. One play in particular made me extremely happy: Green got the ball about 20 feet from the basket, looked up at the hoop, took a step back and drilled the 3-pointer. Green’s mid-range attempts are few and far between, and it’s growing increasingly obvious that he knows EXACTLY how he is best utilized. He’s playing to those strengths as intentionally as we could wish for.
- The Celtics were so good offensively, it took me four bullet points to get to Jason Terry, who scored 24 points including 5-7 shooting from 3-point range. Several times, Paul Pierce made a move into the lane only to turn and throw the ball without looking to Terry, which would indicate that both players are starting to get used to where the other is going to be at any given moment. This kind of offensive awareness has the potential to be huge, because collapsing defenses tend to set Terry up with the kind of looks he’s more accustomed to hitting.
- Terrence Williams threw down two MONSTROUS dunks in the first half. We will make sure to pass on the video tomorrow when YouTube catches up to our posting needs.
- Has Brandon Bass found his shot? He was 5-7 tonight for 13 points, and he has been hitting his mid-range jumpers fairly consistently. Over the past seven games, he has shot 60% from the field.
- There were a lot of things to like about tonight’s game, but it really does need to be emphasized that the Celtics fall to pieces defensively without Kevin Garnett. Boston won because they shot very well, and because the entire offense was clicking. They easily could have lost because the Hawks got just about whatever they wanted inside.
- Josh Smith, the rumored object of Danny Ainge’s desires (even at the expense of Paul Pierce), scored 18 points on 23 field goal attempts. He grabbed just six rebounds, shot just 1-5 from 3-point range and turned the ball over four times. Pierce, as previously mentioned, had a 20-10-10 night and turned it over just once. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty pleased with how that trade rumor turned out.
- Tommy Heinsohn was in rare-homer form tonight. I get that Celtics fans (and GMs, for that matter) as a whole dislike LeBron James and the Heat, but when Boston’s color announcer is railing against LeBron’s candidacy as one of the best defenders in the NBA, things may have gone a little too far. And honestly, at this point, do the C’s REALLY want to egg Miami on any more than they already have?
That’s going to have to do it for this evening. The Celtics improved to 38-34 and moved 1.5 games behind the Hawks for the 6th seed in the East, and two games behind Chicago for 5th. Next up: A potential first-round preview against the Knicks at MSG on Sunday.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.