The final scoreboard reads 93-86, resulting in a Celtics loss for the books. But if you ask me, this one is an 86-84 win for the Celtics. That’s right, I say the Celts won tonight. After Chris Johnson (!!!) fired the ball upcourt for a Kris Humphries slam to put the Celtics up two, I say the game is over. Sure, the Heat get another check in their win column, but they were trailing to the Celtics with under three minutes to play. OUCH.
In one of the more pleasant surprises of the season, Chris Johnson provided a stellar spark off the bench as he scored 11 points, 6 of which came from behind the arc. The 6’6″ small forward from Dayton is currently playing on a ten day contract. With more performances like tonight, Johnson should expect to be balling in green for the rest of the year.
Other kudos can be given to Brandon Bass and Kris Humphries. Humphries tallied 14 points and and 13 rebounds for his second straight double-double. Bass led all Celtic scorers with 15 points off the bench, but came up short in the fourth quarter when we needed him. Any time a team erases an 18 point deficit against the defending champions, bench contributions are key. From Joel Anthony’s 7 minutes (a season high!) to Gerald Wallace’s 27 (yuck), Boston’s 44 bench points were great to see.
So what went wrong tonight? Avery Bradley’s injury may be the biggest reason for tonight’s shortcoming. After playing just seven minutes, Bradley went down with a sprained ankle. Had Bradley been able to make it through the entire game tonight, the scoreboard could’ve looked very different. On numerous different occasions, Rajon Rondo whipped the ball to the corner for an open look. But rather than a knockdown shooter waiting to catch it, poor shooters like Wallace or Jeff Green (12 points on 15 shots, 2/7 3PM-A) were on the receiving end. Had Bradley been there to catch those passes, we could be looking at least another 6 or 9 points. But at the end of the day, I say the most blame has to go on Rondo’s shoulders. Let’s not forget that I am the biggest Rondo homer around, but he did not look great tonight. I am CERTAINLY not in the camp that says “trade him he sucks!” but the rust is clearly thick. Those shooting numbers will definitely improve with more playing time (0-8 tonight, 1-4 FTA-M). The final nail in the coffin tonight for the Celtics loss was the pair of free throws Rondo missed with less than two minutes to play. While I may blame him for tonight’s loss, I am certainly all understanding of the rust that comes with 12 months off.
So to wrap it all up, I say great game! The fight we saw tonight was reminiscent of those early season days, when playoff aspirations blossomed. With Rondo back, this team looks more focused and appears to try harder. The Bradley injury certainly hurts, but I’d say tonight was a solid moral victory for our Celtics.