|Fast Break: Celtics call curtains on Wizards of loss||03.25.12 at 8:19 pm ET|
Who needs Ray Allen when the Celtics have Avery Bradley?
Starting in place of the injured Allen (ankle), Bradley emerged as the unlikely offensive hero in a lopsided 88-76 victory against the lowly Wizards (11-37), tallying a career-high 23 points to help the C’s (26-22) climb back to within a game of the 76ers (27-21) for first place in the Atlantic Division (depending on how Philadelphia fared against the Spurs later Sunday night).
Held scoreless for the first quarter, Paul Pierce added 21 points and eight rebounds.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Avery Shuttlesworth: Bradley outscored the Wizards 15-12 all by himself in the first quarter. The same Avery Bradley who had only reached double digits six times all year and entered the game shooting 47 percent from the field. He set a season-high in scoring, and did it by totaling 13 points just 5:15 into the game. By first quarter’s end, Bradley had totaled 15 points on perfect 7-for-7 shooting.
Stieming up: Like Bradley, Greg Stiemsma also started perfect from the floor (4-for-4), totaling 10 points and seven boards by halftime — seemingly on his way to his first career double-double (although he recorded neither a point nor a board after the break). Raise your hand if you had Bradley and Stiemsma as the leading scorers for the Celtics at halftime of a game they led 53-34 through the first 24 minutes.
Stoppable: Whether it was good defense or bad offense — or more likely a combination of the two — the Wizards started an atrocious 3-for-25 from the field, as the Celtics built a 33-12 advantage only 3:20 into the second quarter. The team’s leading scorer, John Wall, missed his first five shots and didn’t score until the final minute of the first half. In fact, Washington didn’t match Bradley’s 15 first-quarter points for the game’s first 16 minutes.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Halftime nap time: As was their custom the last two seasons, the Celtics got a little too comfortable and let a seemingly insurmountable lead evaporate in the first portion of the third quarter. Led by Wall (12 points, 9 assists) and Jordan Crawford (20 points), the Wizards outscored the C’s 13-2 to start the second half, turning a 19-point deficit into a more manageable eight-point margin. Thankfully, the Celtics didn’t sweat too much, scoring eight straight to swell the lead back to 16.
Foul play: About 10 seconds into his home debut, Ryan Hollins picked up a foul. That came two nights after earning a technical foul 20 seconds into his Celtics debut in Philadelphia. Either way, the start of the Hollins era hasn’t exactly been pretty. In two appearances, he has registered one rebound — needless to say, not good for a 7-footer. Not to mention the fact a pair of his mental lapses led to two Wizards dunks, at least partly understandable considering he just joined the team.
Scoreless Rondo: Sure, Rajon Rondo (4 points, 11 assists) recorded double-digit assists for the ninth straight game, but he also has 10 combined points in his last two contests. Particularly with Allen, Mickael Pietrus and a host of other injuries, the Celtics are going to have to rely on Rondo for more than a few attempts at and around the basket per night, because we all know they can’t depend on Bradley and Stiemsma to carry the load on a regular basis. To be fair, Rondo scored a pair of big buckets once the Wizards cut the lead to 10 in the final minutes of the game.
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