The Boston Celtics opened the month of February by doing something they haven’t done very much of in a while: winning an NBA game.
With starting shooting guard Avery Bradley back in the lineup, and with starting point guard Rajon Rondo playing much more like, well, the Rajon Rondo we know and love, the Boston Celtics scored 27 points in each of the first two quarters and survived a late Orlando rally to win the only game on the NBA calendar today, 96-89.
For a team that has already stated that it wants to use the month of February to begin a serious push to re-enter the playoff race, the victory was a good step in the right direction, for a few different reasons:
1. All five starters are finally healthy.
The starting lineup of Green-Sullinger-Bass-Bradley-Rondo was the 14th different starting line up the Cs have used in their 49 games this season. Barring an unfortunate injury, or a major trade, Boston finally has the five players it wants to use at the beginnings of games healthy. There will be slight changes, and there are still some chemistry issues that need to be ironed out, but having a stable starting five will go a long way toward helping this squad maintain consistency over the second half of the season.
And really, this is a starting five that has potential. Jared Sullinger led all scorers today with 21 points, and he pulled down 12 rebounds, too. He continues to impress, as does Brandon Bass, who contributed 19 and 9. Avery Bradley scored 17 in his return and instantly resumed applying the in-your-face ball pressure I have come to expect. And Rondo – more about him in a sec. Honestly, the only member of the starting five who didn’t impress today was – surprise! – Jeff Green, who scored 8 points on 2-13 shooting and turned the ball over 4 times. Sorry, but I am actually looking forward to Green being traded by the deadline . . . unless he continues to play this way, in case the Cs will have to hold onto him, since he will have virtually no trade value whatsoever.
2. Rajon Rondo is back. For real.
Relax: I’m not going to make this a bigger deal than it really is. Still, watching some of the passes that he made, and they way he performed down the stretch, you have to admit that the Rondo we saw out on the floor today looked like a potential All-Star. 19 points. 10 dimes. 6 rebounds. 4 steals. More importantly, veteran leadership at the end of a tight game. Rondo accounted for 7 of the 25 points Boston scored in the fourth quarter, including six assists in that final quarter, three of which came on the final three Boston buckets on the day. I remember watching some of Boston’s late-game possessions early this season, wondering why Brandon Bass or Gerald Wallace were getting the ball in the closing minutes. With Rondo on the floor, I’m not going to find myself cringing as the seconds wind down. He alone cannot win the remaining 33 games for the Boston Celtics, but at least we all know that the right guy to make those crunch-time decisions WILL be getting the ball from here on out.
You have no idea how good that makes me feel!