Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce returned tonight, the Celtics moved Jeff Green into the starting lineup for good (and Courtney Lee to the bench, sorry Courtney), and the Celtics put together a quality win over John Wall and the Washington Wizards. A 19-3 run put the Celtics up big in the third quarter and the C’s cruised to an easy victory aside from a collective brain-fart by the bench in the 4th quarter that forced the starters back in to close the game. Let’s get to the bullet points:
- Kevin Garnett made his return tonight after an eight game absence. Garnett played just 24 minutes (and if the Celtics bench hadn’t forgotten how to play basketball halfway through the 4th quarter it would have been just 20) and looked fresh. After shaking off the rust (two of his early misses were horrendous) KG finished with 12 points on 6-9 shooting, six rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and a steal. Garnett didn’t set the world on fire, but after the past two weeks having anything remotely resembling a competent big-man protecting the rim has me giddy. Expect his minutes to stay low for a few more games as Doc eases him back for injury while keeping him fresh for the playoffs.
- Paul Pierce looked like his typical self, going 5-13 from the floor for 15 points after missing Friday’s game against the Cavs with a swollen ankle. Pierce didn’t grab as many boards as we’ve become accustomed to (probably) because Shavlik Randolph is a rebounding machine but he added five assists and just one turnover.
- Brandon Bass had a fantastic night, bombing away from midrange and scoring 20 points on 9-12 shooting while adding six rebounds. Bass has actually been playing well for a few weeks now, looking more like 2012 Brandon Bass instead of the inconsistent mess he’s been for most of this season.
- Jordan Crawford had an epic revenge game against the team he doesn’t remember playing for with six points (2-3 shooting) in 16 minutes. It’s worth keeping an eye on the minutes distribution for Celtics guards (outside of Bradley and Pierce who is now starting at the two). Williams appears to already be out of contention for playoff minutes (I am very sad about this) while Terry, Crawford, and Lee all received somewhere between 16 and 23 as Doc looks to tighten up his playoff rotation.
- And since we’re on the topic of playoff minutes lets talk about Shavlik Randolph and Chris Wilcox. Randolph was the first big off the bench for the Celtics and finished with eight points and seven rebounds in 15 minutes of play. Wilcox played 20 minutes and had 13 points and five rebounds. Looking toward the postseason I’m going to give the edge to Randolph. Wilcox is great when he gets going, but relies on a healthy diet of lobs and fast breaks to do so. Randolph is the better rebounder and defender which should help him contribute more on a nightly basis.
I’m afraid people will dismiss this win so let me make something clear: The Wizards are not bad. At the beginning of the season when the Celtics were struggling their first two wins were ugly affairs over an abysmal Wizards squad. This is a completely different team. With John Wall (and Nene to a lesser extent) back in the lineup the Wizards have been a playoff caliber team (at least in the East). If you’re going to dismiss this game, dismiss it because the Wizards are on the second night of a back-to-back after throttling the Pacers last night. Not because the Wizards are bad. This was a solid win for a Celtics team working to integrate a new starting lineup and finalize it’s playoff rotation.
The Celtics will take on the Nets Wednesday night in Boston.
Follow Jordan on Twitter: @HiggsOnHoops