Wet Paint. There had to be a sign somewhere, because the way the Boston Celtics were avoiding taking the ball into the lane, they had to be afraid of getting their sneakers all messy.
Occasionally Jeff Green or Kevin Garnett would sneak in like mischievous imps, with little damage done. But by the 4th quarter, Brandon Bass decided the paint was dry enough and went to the hoop…
…followed by Avery Bradley, then Jason Terry, then Green with a thunderous reverse dunk that finally got the crowd off their hands and on their feet – and all of a sudden the Celtics were rebounding, diving on the floor for loose balls and finally putting some points on the board.
But it took a Jason Terry blocked shot on Chicago’s Marco Belinelli with 2.2 seconds remaining for the Celtics to seal an ugly 71-69 win over the Bulls on Wednesday night at TD Garden in Boston…
Right. Terry, who gives up 3 inches to the Bull’s shooting guard, swooped in from Belinelli’s right as he rose to attempt a shot from behind the arc, getting full ball and sending the ball to the floor from where Chicago’s Raj Gibson heaved up a desperation three at the buzzer that had no chance as the Celtics entered the All Star break still one of the hottest teams in basketball despite their recent injury woes…
How the game progressed to the point where the Terry block became the clutch play of the game was marked by a brickfest that was so pronounced that the Celtics scored just 19 points in the 2nd and 3rd quarters – combined.
Heading into the 2nd quarter the Celtics held a 9 point lead at 24-15, then a Courtney Lee trey gave Boston a 10 point lead at 11:16 of the period, then Chicago went on a 20-8 run, going almost 10 minutes allowing only one Paul Pierce bucket from beyond the arc…
…and it got even worse in the 3rd quarter – for both teams. The Celtics were tossing up bricks like they were building a chimney, settling for jump shot after jump shot and hitting on only 4 buckets for 8 points. Fortunately for Boston, the Bulls weren’t much better, scoring only 13 points and clinging to a tenuous 6 point lead.
Entering the 4th quarter and down by a score of 49-43, Bass and Garnett starting warming up, hitting bucket after bucket, holding the Bulls without points for a stretch of 6 minutes and taking the lead for good on a Bradley finger roll with 7 1/2 minutes left in the game – building the lead to as many as five, but then the Bulls started connecting.
Luol Deng nailed a hook shot in the lane and Belinelli hit a driving layup and the lead was down to one with 44 seconds left. Boston took the 24 second clock all the way down before Bass fed Garnett on the left wing for a three point lead. A Carlos Boozer tip in, a Robinson free throw and a pair of Pierce free throws ended the scoring and set the stage for Terry’s improbable block to end the game.
Bass had his game of the season, leading all scorers with 14 and hauling down 9 rebounds while Garnett went for 12 and 11, eight of his total points in the final frame including the clutch jumper with 19 seconds left. Terry and Green scored 12 and 8 respectively off the bench and Bradley had 10 points before fouling out with seconds to play.
Pierce struggled from the floor again, hitting on just 2 of 12 shots, both from the parking lot, but also hit the two vital free throws down the stretch to provide the final margin. He did contribute on the boards with 6 and matched that number in assists.
The stat line was just as horrid for the Bulls, led by Belinelli’s 12 points. Carlos Boozer tallied 11 points and an equal number of rebounds while Joakim Noah collected 16 boards to go with his 10 points.Nate Robinson was a pest all evening, but ended up with a modest 6 points to go along with 6 helpers.
The timing of the All Star break could not have been scripted any better for the wounded Boston Celtics…they got to measure where they are at as far as personnel goes against the Bulls on Wednesday night, now have until next Tuesday to do something about it.
They enter the break at 28-24, having won 8 of their last 9 – but come out of the break for a five-games-in seven-nights, west coast roadie starting Tuesday night in Denver for a rematch of their epic triple overtime win, and ending in Salt Lake City for a tip off with the Jazz.
By the time they return to Boston, it will be March and we will know everything we need to know about the character of this team…because the past three games have been erratic performances, with the Celtics pulling out last second win in two while losing a close one in Charlotte.
And it’s not like they were facing the best of the Bulls. Derek Rose claims that he’s still far away from returning and Noah played with a painful nagging foot issue that will probably keep him from participating in the All Star game.
If the last 3 games have told us anything about the Celtics, it’s that teams are sending whoever KG is guarding out to the three point line, then running him all over the court from the point, and the loss of Leandro Barbosa took away another ball handler from the Celtics, as evidenced by Pierce’s struggles as the offense is relying more and more heavily on him in the pivot role…
…which makes it clear that the Celtics at the very least need to address the lack of beef underneath, and another playmaking guard option wouldn’t hurt. But whatever they decide to do, the Celtics can’t afford to stand around and settle for jump shots, they need to create some shots by driving the lane.
Aggressiveness is what’s going to keep Boston in playoff contention, but many more of these jump shot-happy brickfests where everything goes through the Captain and Garnett being left out on an island to fend for himself is a recipe for disaster.