Monday, January 7, 2013

Rondo Suspended, Winning Streak Isn't: Celtics Take Manhattan 102-96

If you tuned in to see tonight's big Atlantic matchup between the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks, here is one thing you definitely did NOT see...

You didn't see it, of course, because the NBA suspended Rajon Rondo one game for brushing up against NBA Referee Rodney Mott during Saturday's game against the Atlanta Hawks. I won't waste too much space on this topic but to say that, while making any contact whatsoever with a league official is a definite no-no for any player, I believe that if said player were not Rondo and were, say, LeBron James or Derrick Rose we might not be talking about a suspension as much as a fine. Suffice it to say that Rondo had better be on his best behavior -- at least from a physical standpoint -- from here on in because he is now officially (pun somewhat intended) a marked man.

But, what's that you say? "No Rondo against the team with the best record in the Atlantic Division and second best in the Eastern Conference, fourth best in the entire League?" You say "no Rondo" and I say, "No matter." He may have been missing in action tonight, but the Knicks and Carmelo Anthony still wound up looking about as disturbed as he did in the opening picture.

Keeping it short and sweet (honestly...I have a long day tomorrow!), the Celtics continued to show that they are turning, if not screeching past, the corner at the end of the ugly block of basketball that they've played more often than not this season.

Avery Bradley, AKA "The Honey Badger," upon his return to this team four games ago has brought with him the defensive mojo that the Celtics had heretofore seemed to have left in last season's sock drawer.

How else to explain the mass hysteria that has overtaken the entire team, which now believes that their very lives depend on bending their knees and shuffling their feet side to side in an attempt to immobilize each and every opponent that dares to take the floor with them?

Okay...perhaps that was just a tad thickly laid, or maybe The Honey Badger is now even affecting my writing. But, the fact remains: These Celtics are playing some seriously inspired basketball. Whether it was Jeff Green's shadow job on Carmelo or Jared Sullinger's rugged interactions with center Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire, which frustrated the New York players into physical overreactions, this is a completely different team than the one we saw on the West Coast just after Christmas.

Despite the fact that the Knicks were an amazing 43.8% on an astounding 32 attempts from Threeland, the Celtics hung in by rallying around their defense and also shooting 52.7% from 22-feet and in against New York's 40.8%, not to mention the thrashing that Boston gave the Knicks with respect to points in the paint,  40-28.

As I mentioned earlier, Jeff Green was phenomenal off the bench with 16 points on 5-10 shooting to go along with 6 rebounds and 3 assists; Sully was large on the defensive end and also put up 10 points, 5 boards and a block; Kevin Garnett was damn near dominant with great defense on almost the entire New York team and great scoring (19 points) and great rebounding (10 boards); and Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa were productive on both ends of the floor in Rondo's absence.

But, as it has almost since the day he first came into League, the night belonged to Paul "The Truth" Pierce. Pierce scored 23 points on 10-18 shooting -- and it felt like just about all of them were taken at critical junctures. He also played tight "D" against Carmelo for most of the night and picked up the distribution execution in Rondo's absence, racking up 6 assists for the team high (next to Jason Terry and Avery Bradley's 5 dimes apiece).

And, speaking of Bradley, he began finding his stroke against the Bigtown Apples, scoring 13 points on 6-11 shooting.

Now, do I think this team has reached its potential and that we're the new Beasts of the East? Certainly not. But, I DO think that it's making strides every day and will soon have teams saying (to paraphrase Coach Mark Jackson in his broadcaster days) "Mama, There Goes That Team Again!"

Next Up?: The Phoenix Suns.

Box Score

Tale Of The Tape

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