Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Once Again, Celtics Are Tied With 76ers Atop The Atlantic Division
This season that looked so bleak at the beginning is very slowly getting more enjoyable with each passing game.
The Boston Celtics (28-22, 18-8 home) beat the Utah Jazz (27-24, 8-18 road) 94-82 tonight at TD Garden.
Utah had come in as one of the NBA's hottest teams, having won seven out of their last eight but they were completely smothered by Boston's outstanding defensive effort. The Celts won their fifth game out of their last six and as a reward, they're tied with Philadelphia again for first place in the Atlantic.
Kevin Garnett (23 points, 10 rebounds) and Paul Pierce (20 points) were the best players on the parquet while Brandon Bass added a quiet but effective 19 points. Rajon Rondo had double-digit assists (14) for the 11th consecutive game. Avery Bradley scored nine points as he started with Ray Allen missing his fourth game in a row because of an ankle problem.
Gordon Hayward (19 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) had one of his best games as a pro but Al Jefferson (18 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks) struggled in his return to Boston as he shot 7 for 19 from the floor. Paul Millsap was the only other Jazz player in double figures with 16 points.
This was a true team win for the C's since the four bench guys that played all did something positive. Keyon Dooling had seven points (including a big 3-pointer) and three assists, Sasha Pavlovic had five points (including a 3-pointer), Ryan Hollins threw down two nice alley-oops from Rondo and Greg Stiemsma blocked four shots. You can't ask much more from those four in a relatively close contest.
Boston shot way better than Utah (46.8%-39.0%). That made up for another pitiful night on the glass (49-38 advantage for the Jazz, 16-4 offensive rebounds).
The Celtics close out March on Friday as they travel to KG's old stomping grounds: Minnesota or as he calls it "Sota." Nobody in the NBA is currently playing better than Kevin Love (three 40-point games in March including one 51-point game) so Boston will have their hands full with a young and energized squad that's playing decent even though Ricky Rubio is out for the season.
It's the only meeting of the season between the Celtics and Timberwolves. Minnesota has been awful since Garnett has been in Boston but I feel like they always give the C's a tough game every year.