The following column is a guest post written by Tracy Clements
For a third time this year the Celtics beat Washington, completing a season sweep of the upstart Wizards. This season the Celtics have struggled to beat weaker teams (think: the Cavs, the Bobcats and the Hornets) but Sunday’s game was different. This team is banged up, and, what some might say are limping to the finish, but they chalked up another ‘W’ and continue to avoid slipping to eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
With the return of both KG and Paul Pierce who took home the Red Auerbach award for the second time last night, the lineup was as complete as possible for the first time in a long time. Despite missing eight games, Garnett wasn’t rusty at all. He actually played pretty well finishing with 12 points and six rebounds in 24 minutes. After the game he said, “I felt okay, I felt strong enough to play.” And even with a sore ankle, Pierce added 15 points, five assists and four rebounds in 30 minutes.
But the other story here is how the rest of the team is pulling together and playing with confidence. After the game Pierce said, “It’s good to be playing the best basketball at the right time, and right now is the right time going into the playoffs for some guys to get their confidence going and start having some big games”
Speaking of big games, Brandon Bass had a game-high 20 points, just 2 short of his season high. Off the bench, they got 42 points, led by Chris Wilcox with 13 points, (Sunday was the first time he’s been in double digits since Feb. 22), Jason Terry racked up 9, and Shavlik Randolph had 8 points and seven rebounds. Former Wizard Jordan Crawford put up 6 in his first game since being traded to Boston in February.
After the game, Pierce also acknowledged that “…when we play the right way, when we defend we score 107 points, score in the paint and we can limit the other team.” And they did just that, the Celtics separated themselves at the beginning of the third quarter with a 16-3 run, building a double-digit lead they never gave up (thankfully). In their 31 point 3rd quarter, they shot 75 percent (12-for-16) from the field.
With only a handful of games left in the regular season, and the playoffs in sight, the team is finally passing the chemistry test. Sunday night’s new-look starting lineup of KG, Pierce, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, and Brandon Bass seemed to play with more of a familiarity of one another for a lineup that had just played 13 minutes together all season prior to last night.
Teams often start ‘resting’ their stars ahead of the playoffs (ah hem, Miami) and try to build chemistry from the bench, but thanks to all the injuries this year, the C’s don’t have to do that. In fact, injuries have forced the bench to come together. And, with all of their pieces together, Garnett feels better about heading into the playoffs, “I know what I have in here. I know who’s willing to fight, who’s not going to lay down. I’d take a bunch of fighters over some skill people any day.”
And with a tough schedule ahead of them, that’s exactly what they’re going to need to do, fight.
Tracy Clements is guest contributor for CelticsHub and producer at 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston. You can follow her on twitter @Clementine_12