“There is no greater sorrow than to recall a happy time when miserable.”
– Dante Alighieri
“I love those guys. They’re going to continue to fight. That’s that Celtics pride.”
– Paul Pierce
To do Dante’s quote full justice, it should be noted that Celtics fans are not, at the moment, miserable. “Miserable” would be 3-19, slogging through an awful season while discovering that Brad Stevens, Jared Sullinger, Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk are all busts and learning that Rondo’s injury was worse than we thought. “Miserable” would be having a 5-15 record, no draft pick and an owner determined to control things he doesn’t understand (looking at you, New York). “Miserable” would be old Jordan Crawford running the point as opposed to the current Crawford.
The Celtics are not miserable.
But it’s impossible not to get nostalgic seeing Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in different uniforms, and I got the impression it wasn’t easy for them to suit up opposite the Celtics either. How could it be? For the past few years, they have played alongside the majority of the players on Boston’s roster with a combative us-against-the-world mentality. Now, Garnett has to muster the energy to yell at Jared Sullinger, his protege and front-court mate last year. Paul Pierce has to try to beat and defend Jeff Green one-on-one. Garnett and Sullinger would have had a fair amount of practice battles, as would Pierce and Green, but that’s not the same for obvious reasons.
Pierce says he remembers Celtic pride, and that makes sense since he embodied it for most of his career. 2008 was a happy time. 2009-2013 was a happy, if bittersweet, time. Recalling that while suffering through a start like Brooklyn’s may be truly miserable for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and the Brooklyn draft pick notwithstanding (or the Atlanta pick, however that shakes out), it has been sad to see this team get decimated night in and night out.
All that said, Brooklyn looked a lot better tonight, and Nets players not named Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett played well. It made a big difference for Brooklyn having Deron Williams and Brook Lopez together and back in the lineup, which should come as a surprise to exactly nobody. Lopez dominated Boston’s small front line, scoring 24 points on 10-for-13 shooting, while Williams put together an efficient line of his own, scoring 25 points on 10-for-16 shooting. We can probably hold off writing Brooklyn’s final eulogy until we see them consistently at full health — the Nets team we saw tonight was completely different than the one that got eaten up by the Knicks less than a week ago. As it turns out, having talented players sometimes makes a team better.
Current Celtics players also played tonight as well, and we should probably grade them. But before we do, we should note that if tonight’s game represents a turning point for the Nets, it wouldn’t necessarily be a surprise. Pierce and Garnett aren’t Brooklyn’s best players, but they may be the most instrumental in the locker room, and getting tonight out of the way and off their backs may have been big. If tonight’s win makes Brooklyn’s (and by extension, Pierce’s and Garnett’s) season a little less miserable, it’s a loss I personally am more than happy to take.
|Brandon Bass, PF 29 MIN | 4-12 FG | 5-8 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 13 PTS | -13
Bass was more inefficient than usual, and he was overmatched defensively. These nights are going to happen sometimes without a true center on the roster.
|Jared Sullinger, PF 35 MIN | 6-16 FG | 1-1 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 15 PTS | +4
Sully hit a couple of 3-pointers when he was in rhythm, but — like Bass — he struggled badly against Brooklyn’s (and most notably Lopez’s) length on both ends of the floor.
|Avery Bradley, PG 37 MIN | 8-16 FG | 3-3 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 22 PTS | +3
He may not score 22 points on 50 percent shooting every night, but he has scored 13+ in six of his last seven and is looking more and more comfortable in the shooting guard role.
|Jeff Green, SG 37 MIN | 6-13 FG | 3-4 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 19 PTS | -12
Green’s last three points were on a 40-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer, so his numbers are a little inflated. But 4-for-4 3-point shooting and six rebounds from Green is a good stat line.
|Jordan Crawford, SG 34 MIN | 6-14 FG | 1-3 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 15 PTS | -14
The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week had one Kyrie Irving-esque spin move which resulted in an and-one layup, and he knocked down a couple of 3-pointers. He also took a couple of bad shots and committed a bad shot clock violation out of a timeout that resulted in a disbelieving Brad Stevens yelling “NO!” on camera. Not a great night overall for Steez.
|Kris Humphries, PF 17 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -1
Hump did very little offensively and was one of Lopez’s victims defensively.
|Gerald Wallace, SF 23 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 2 PTS | +4
Six rebounds and two field goal attempts in what is starting to feel like a very Gerald Wallace line. I don’t know, maybe it will grow on me.
|Vitor Faverani, C 4 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -12
I vaguely remember Vitor running up and down the court a few times.
|Phil Pressey, PG 3 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -2
Phil Pressey got put in at the end of the first quarter, hit his only shot and was yanked at the beginning of the second, which is also known as the “Tom Westerholm in High School Basketball” special.
Stevens gets a big bump for essentially taking Lopez out of the game in the fourth quarter with his double-teaming defensive strategy, but why didn’t he go to it before? Sorry Brad, you’ll be back up at A+ soon. Hopefully this doesn’t ruin your 4.0.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.