You’ve probably heard a million times that close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades, but in the Celtics 105-103 loss to the Miami Heat last night, close counted. The Celtics are an aging team with their “stars” closer to retirement than their prime. The Miami Heat are in their prime much proven by their current 23 games win streak. The Celtics proved last night though that even down Rondo and KG, that isn’t going to be a cake walk in the road through the East for the Heat.
We all know there is no shortness of hatred between these two teams. Since the Heat have adapted their own version of the “Big 3″ they have been the bad guys of the NBA. While they are slowly getting rid of that reputation and becoming a fun team to watch around the NBA, the Celtics are not going to change their views so easily. Without even having to bring about the Ray Allen abandonment, it goes without saying that the C’s have all the reason in the world to dislike the Heat, serious competition.
Yes we know all about the stars of the Heat and their freak of nature abilities, if you’ve watched ESPN at all in the last two weeks it’s likely all you’ve heard. Much like the Tebow phenomenon the Heat are stealing the spotlight. I was hoping the C’s would derail that last night, but I was content enough without what we got. Like I said before Rondo is out for the season thanks to an ACL tear, and last night Kevin Garnett sat out citing an illness. They weren’t without superstars in their game last night though.
Of course Paul Pierce is always a vital figure in the Celtics’ success and he was important last night too. Pierce is getting old though and is not as explosive as he once was, although just as deadly a jump shooter as ever. We saw a rise from two growing stars last night though that give the future of this team a lot of promise, and boy am I glad we didn’t deal either of them. Jeff Green was the MVP of the games for the Celtics dropping 43 points and 7 rebounds playing as a PF on the court with Pierce, and of course our defender extraordinaire Avery Bradley.
Without Garnett the C’s were playing small and it actually worked out pretty well forcing the Heat to matchup against them and not even be able to exploit a possible height advantage. Green made a name for himself though in this game, which is exactly what he needed. The way Green joined this roster was in a less than favorable trade of Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and he wasn’t too liked in Boston for some time, his sitting out last season with a heart condition didn’t help. But Green has earned his fan’s love in a city that bleeds green. He also showed that his shoulders work too, and can carry more weight than we give credit for. This season Jeff has really come out of his shell and been a great player to have in the lineup, he’s averaging 11.7 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 1.3 APG. His growing role is beyond important in the future success of this Boston team.
Another star who is making headlines of his own is hard nosed defender Avery Bradley. In case you missed the game last night this is what this kid is capable of.
This coming after a demoralizing Lebron dunk that I you can find on our side bar. It’s not like this is something new to him either, he did something very similar to Dwayne Wade last season. He is a menace on defense and provides the Celtics a flair they haven’t really had. Nothing gets momentum of a game like a block in the open court that leads to a Pierce three pointer. Again this young star is crucial to the Celtics going forward and it’s plays like this that make it so. If there is one thing I can say is a positive to the Rondo injury it’s that players like Bradley get some extra time on the court to develop.
I have to give some props to Courtney Lee who has stepped up in Rondo’s absence as well. Last night he put up 13 points and was great defensively. He had 3 steals which helped fire the C’s up. Lee is another guy that if he can be given a role and incorporated into this lineup successfully, would be a great asset. He has both a great scoring ability and is more than an average defender.
The Celtics showed a lot of fight in this game and were even very close to winning this. They had a horrible final 3 minutes of the game with countless bad possessions in combination with a ferocious Heat team that will capitalize on that to come back. Even against a super athletic team like the Heat, they looked capable of running with them. I mean this game came down to a clutch Lebron James shot, and a missed Pierce. Sure they’ve been hot and cold all season long, but generally speaking they have played great in big games. Something to think about when it comes playoffs time.
While we are counting this as a moral victory to the team Paul Pierce is not content, which we have to love. They could have won this game and “The Truth” isn’t content with close enough. Which can only mean that come the next matchup we aren’t going to let the game slip away. Unfortunately he couldn’t start the Heat on that quest to losing every game of the rest of the season.
The Celtics are fighting the Bulls and the Hawks for a tightly contested 5-7 seed in the East. They have a somewhat decently challenging schedule for the remainder of March with games @ Dallas, Memphis, New York, and home games against Atlanta and New York. They play the Miami Heat one more time this season on April 12th and we can expect another fantastic game there.
The Celtics have their eyes on the playoffs and cannot lose sight of that, even injured they are contenders in the East and will always battle in the playoffs, never a fun matchup. They have figured a lot out since the Rondo injury and with KG in the lineup could give teams a run for their money down the stretch. Be sure to watch closely and keep an eye on the C’s come playoffs (if they’re still in the running). We’ll surely keep you updated.
*Stats provided by NBA.com
(Photo 1 source) http://www.jmthebest.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/celtics_vs_heat.jpg
(Photo 2 source) http://www.bostonglobe.com/rf/image_r/Boston/2011-2020/2013/03/19/BostonGlobe.com/Sports/Images/green.r.jpg
(Photo 3 source) http://espn.go.com/photo/2013/0318/bos_a_paulp_cr_400.jpg