Against the Washington Wizards tonight, Doc Rivers went with a lineup consisting of Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass, Jeff Green, Paul Pierce, and Avery Bradley which worked to perfection as the Boston Celtics got the victory. While Rivers liked having Green and Pierce on the court at the same time, keeping Bass in the starting lineup was a bit of a shock, but gives Boston another dimension on both ends of the court which reaped benefits not only for Bass, but for the team. Let’s take a more in depth look about what I’m talking about.
Starting with Brandon Bass, the Celtics offense was much more effective, and it gave Bass the opportunity to have a good night. He finished with 20 points and 6 rebounds in 36 minutes of play. Playing consistently has become a trend for Bass as of late, making it four straight games finishing in double figures. Tonight however was the type of performance Celtics fans witnessed from him last season, as he was knocking down mid-range jump shots and taking the ball aggressively to the hoop. For most of this season, Bass has tried hard to find a rhythm, and in the last few weeks he’s finally gotten into a groove, stepping up at the right time for Boston.
Brandon Bass isn’t the only player benefitting with this semi-new starting lineup that Doc Rivers is going with. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett got great looks at the basket because the players who were on the court for Boston spread Washington’s defense which allowed either open lanes to the basket or good looks from the perimeter. Garnett didn’t have to work hard for his 12 points tonight and was given space to operate inside the arc. Pierce had clear cuts to the basket which allowed him to penetrate the Wizards defense to finish with the layup. This lineup alone, whether it means that one or two players for the Celtics won’t have big games, gives them the chance to win every night and opens the door for any starter on the floor to have a major impact.
Jeff Green only finished with 8 points tonight as he struggled to find a flow to his game. Foul trouble didn’t help as it limited his time on the floor. Green wasn’t aggressive when he should have been, but had lanes to the basket which gave him opportunities to drive to the hoop. The Wizards played great defense on him throughout the game, double teaming him when he’d try posting up. This has happened before as teams are now afraid of what Green can do, but tonight was a good example that Boston has other options on the floor. Tonight it happened to be Brandon Bass and Paul Pierce.
Avery Bradley is one player whose game will profit from this lineup. Just like everyone else, Bradley was given the space and time to knock down the mid-range jump shot which he’s developed throughout the season. Bradley has been struggling from the three point line the last few games, but if he can consistently make his money shot he’s going to be a very effective player on the offensive end. But also, he was given lanes to the basket because the spacing on the floor allowed him to make cuts to get behind the defense and finish with the easy layup.
For the Celtics, this is their best defensive unit as well. Any lineup that Garnett plays in will result in better defense, but this group of players also adds height into the mix. Having Pierce playing at the shooting guard position will cause headaches for opponents as he’s larger than a majority of guards in the NBA. Green is lengthy, and can keep up with small forwards who will have a hard time shooting over him. Bass supplies post defense and strength down in the paint. Avery Bradley is the pesky guard who was keeping John Wall in check tonight, and has been doing that to a variety of point guards throughout the season. And lastly, Kevin Garnett brings intensity and is the field general when it comes to defense. With that “Fantastic Five” they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.
Kevin Garnett returned at the right time. With five games remaining this gives the team the chance to get into a rhythm heading into the postseason. This is Boston’s last option when it comes to a formula to going deep into the playoffs. The starting five that was on the floor tonight can get the Celtics past the first round, but health is the main factor. if Garnett can stay close to 100%, Boston has a fighting chance against the best teams in the Eastern Conference.