The Boston Celtics just beat the New York Knicks. Let me start again: The Boston Celtics, whose starters have a combined zero All-Star appearances and whose entire roster is a mish-mash of random talents and unlikely contributors, obliterated the New York Knicks, who employ the third best small forward in the world and last year played in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, by 41 points.
Before the season, there were justifiably very few reasons to have confidence in this team. But before the season, we hadn’t seen how well everyone would work together under Brad Stevens. Jordan Crawford wasn’t playing the best basketball of his career and blossoming into a legitimate starting point guard. Avery Bradley wasn’t stepping into jumpers with confidence. Brandon Bass wasn’t making smart rotations defensively. Jared Sullinger wasn’t putting up efficient 20-point outings offensively on a frequent basis.
Now? All of that is happening, and the “Could the Celtics make the playoffs?” crowd is looking smarter and smarter.
Nothing is decided. Danny Ainge could move several players to contenders and get this team back into the cellar. The Celtics could hit a much rougher patch of their schedule and lose several consecutive games — it hasn’t exactly been murderer’s row, although the Denver win was certainly nice.
But right now, we are getting a glimpse into how good Brad Stevens is at coaching basketball. We are seeing several players playing to the absolute pinnacle of their potential. If you can’t sit back and enjoy that, whether you are pro- or anti-tanking, you are missing out. It’s a beautiful thing.
Today’s grades. Spoiler alert: Nobody failed.
|Brandon Bass, PF 32 MIN | 4-8 FG | 8-9 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 16 PTS | +31Big, strong and bruising, Bass once again took Carmelo Anthony out of his comfort zone early, and banged around inside with Metta World Peace late. 16 efficient points is starting to feel commonplace for him.|
|Jared Sullinger, PF 27 MIN | 9-13 FG | 1-1 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 21 PTS | +43If Crawford was the 1A MVP of the game (he was), Sully was MVP 1B. Not a ton of boards, but Sullinger used his body in the post to score 21 extremely efficient points. When the Knicks began adjusting to his bully-ball, Sully took his game to the perimeter and was 2-for-3 from 3-point range. All around, it was exactly the kind of game we like to see from him.|
|Avery Bradley, PG 28 MIN | 4-11 FG | 3-3 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 13 PTS | +40Corner 3-pointers? Check. Defensively tough and annoying at the same time? Check. Providing rebounds as a perimeter player? Check check check. Bradley’s shooting was a little off (4-for-11), but everything else more than made up for it.|
|Jeff Green, SG 25 MIN | 6-9 FG | 3-3 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 16 PTS | +42Green did exactly what he needed to do: 16 points on nine shots and six rebounds in 25 minutes is excellent. He was also the victim of a couple of questionable no-calls and one awful charge in the first half, but picking nits with the officiating in a 40+ point win is just silly.|
|Jordan Crawford, SG 31 MIN | 8-14 FG | 1-1 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 23 PTS | +38All hail Steez, the king of New York. Crawford shot the lights out, got his teammates involved, didn’t turn the ball over at all and even made some nice defensive plays.|
|Kris Humphries, PF 25 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | +5Dear Kris: I humbly apologize for everything I may have said about you regarding your relationship with K** K******** and I thank you for your professional approach to every game and the positive impact you have on both sides of the ball. I also commend you for being ready to play every night, and I am grateful for the impact this kind of attitude has on younger, more impressionable players.|
|Gerald Wallace, SF 21 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-2 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 0 PTS | +5Why Gerald Wallace refuses to shoot ever is beyond me, but he played well this afternoon.|
|Vitor Faverani, C 7 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 0 PTS | -5Fav didn’t do much, but I’m in a good mood.|
|Phil Pressey, PG 17 MIN | 0-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 1 PTS | +3Out of control at times, inaccurate shooting at other times, but Pressey still did some nice things on the floor, including a couple of excellent dimes. Still, given the other performances, someone has to get hurt on the grading curve.|
|MarShon Brooks, SG 6 MIN | 2-2 FG | 3-4 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | +2Brooks gets a solid bump for his late crossover which sent a defender flying, another bump for knocking down the shot after the move, and a final bump for hitting the 3-pointer which pushed this game over 40. He didn’t do much to contribute to the win, but he made the final five minutes fun, which was definitely worthwhile for those of us still tuned in.|
|Courtney Lee, SG 20 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | +1Courtney Lee: Still knocking down shots, still playing excellent perimeter defense, still playing well overall, still probably not a part of this team long-term. But he looks so much better this year.|
You are a wizard, sir. A genuine wizard.
Five Things We Saw
- This stat was passed around Twitter by several people after the game: Boston’s starters outscored New York’s 86-26, and no, I did not type that wrong. Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton, two players who KILLED Boston last year in the playoffs, were a combined -78 in plus/minus.
- More fun with plus/minus: Boston’s starting lineup was a combined +192 for the game, with no starter finishing lower than 31 (Brandon Bass).
- Avery Bradley continues to knock down virtually impossible shots. In today’s episode, he knocked down a 15-footer plus the foul, shooting with T-Rex arms as multiple Knicks tried to prevent him from getting the shot off.
- The Celtics obliterated New York 42-22 in points in the paint, which makes a lot of sense considering New York’s style of offense. The Knicks place an enormous amount of emphasis on 3-pointers, and Boston has been defending the 3-point line extremely well. Before today’s game, opponents were shooting just 32 percent from behind the arc, which put the Celtics second in the NBA. New York shot 6-for-16 Sunday.
- A quick caution: Tempered enthusiasm is appropriate here. The Celtics looked incredible, but as the Knicks showed over their past two games (blowouts over Brooklyn and Orlando), looking incredible against bad teams isn’t that hard to do. That being said, the Celtics — as currently constructed and with Brad Stevens at the helm — are shockingly good. We’ll see if it continues, but it’s been unpredictably fun so far this season.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.
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