Fast Break: Celtics cruise to fourth straight
|02.05.12 at 2:26 pm ET|
The Celtics won their fourth straight game — and eighth out of the last nine — Sunday against the Grizzlies, 98-80. There was a lot to like about the performance. The Celtics had five players score in double figures and maintained the lead throughout most of the game. Kevin Garnett had 24 points (9-of-12 shooting) and nine rebounds. Paul Pierce added 21 points (5-of-12 shooting).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Stepping up big: With Brandon Bass out of the lineup, the Celtics needed one of their big men to contribute off the bench. Chris Wilcox came in and did just that, scoring 12 points (5-of-5 shooting). Of Wilcox’s 12 points, 10 came in the first quarter in a variety of ways. He had a few nice finishes down low, a textbook bank shot and a hustle putback on a fast break. Rookie JaJuan Johnson also contributed 10 points (5-of-8 shooting) in his first real action (i.e., not in the fourth quarter of a blowout) of the season.
Running against the wind: It seems as though earlier in the season, the Celtics weren’t taking advantage of possible fast break opportunities. Rajon Rondo would push the ball forward with no support, which would often lead to turnovers. Now that Boston is finally healthy, the Celtics are more adept at converting on odd-man rushes. On Sunday Boston outscored a younger and more athletic Grizzles team 26-10 on fast break points.
The General is back: Rondo said he was tough on himself in his return to action in Friday night’s victory. And although he only produced five points, Rondo had 14 assists. He pushed the ball effectively on the break, and was fluent in his command of the offense, which helped create easy chances for others.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Second Quarter Blues: This is a bit picky, but the Grizzles opened the second quarter on a 16-3 run in the first 6 minutes of action. Subsequently, Boston’s eight-point first quarter lead evaporated. The Celtics regained their composure en route to a blowout victory, but these frequent lulls in their offense are still concerning.
Long Distance Woes: After shooting 22-of-44 (50 percent) from 3-point land the last two games, the Celtics started the game missing their first eight attempts. Many of these shots were set plays and wide open looks that simply weren’t falling for Boston. Once Ray Allen knocked down the first 3-pointer late in the second quarter, the Celtics found their groove and ended the game 7-of-20 from downtown. Still, the uneven performance was a reminder that the shooting from behind the arc lends itself to unpredictable outcomes.