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...
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.
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.
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).
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.
Tale Of The Tape