Fortunately, their opponent was the NBA-worst Milwaukee Bucks, who came out hot but eventually succumbed to the Celtics, 102-86.
The Celtics stumbled out of the gate, but still managed to lead after one, 26-24, thanks to Brandon Bass‘ 12 points in the quarter. Bass was feeling it early, which prompted me to make this prediction close to the end of the first:
Bass is going to score 24+ tonight. Called it first.
— Hardwood Houdini (@HoudiniCeltics) February 11, 2014
For those of you keeping score at home, Bass finished the game with . . . 12 points. Errr, sorry ’bout that! Still, the Celtics needed every one of those twelve points to stay alive in the first, since no one else could do jack squat for the first twelve minutes of the game.
Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger both got off to quiet starts, but came alive during the second half to help Boston secure the W. Green really started to feel it in the fourth, scoring 7 points during a 12-4 Boston run to help break the game open. Green wound up scoring 11 in the final quarter, finishing with 29 on the evening, while Sully continued his double-double streak by scoring 13 and grabbing 10 rebounds.
Without a doubt, the players I found the most enjoyable to watch tonight were the two rookies, Phil Pressey and Kelly Olynyk. Olynyk came off the bench to grab a team-high 11 boards, and he dropped in 10 of his 14 points during the fourth quarter, helping Boston outscore Milwaukee 32-18. He also displayed some nice chemistry with the speedy Pressey, who started in place of Rondo and chipped in 13 points and 6 assists. I know I probably sound like a homer, but I’m excited to see what kind of career these two rooks are going to have with this franchise. They, along with Rondo, Bradley, and Sullinger, are going to be the core of this team for the next 3-4 years, so it was great to see them step up big tonight. It’s especially impressive to see Pressey go from playing five minutes against Dallas yesterday to starting tonight, and filling in admirably.
Yes, I know: the Celtics were playing the Bucks. I’ll keep my expectations in check!
Overall, this was a game the Celtics had to win, and gives the young players something to feel good about as they near the All-Star break. Can they build on this as they gear up for their first meeting of the year with the Phoenix Suns this Wednesday? Let me know what you think, in the comments below or @HoudiniCeltics!