BOSTON -- What storyline do you want to talk about? The return of Kevin Garnett? Garnett played 25 minutes and scored 12 points while grabbing six rebounds. How about Paul Pierce getting back in the lineup? The Boston Celtics captain's presence was calming but he didn't shoot particularly well, going 5-13 from the field. Jordan Crawford -- even if he needed reminding -- played the Washington Wizards for the first time since the mid-season trade that brought him to Boston. The revenge factor was only good for six points.
Truth be told, no one story really stood out for the Celtics on Sunday night. At the end of the day, however, another win is in the books and that’s the only thing that matters right now.
It was fitting that Boston’s unsung hero and most under-appreciated starter, Brandon Bass, led the team in scoring on the night. Bass had an efficient night from the floor, hitting nine of 12 shots (and both free throws) for 20 points and was second on the team with six rebounds. Tommy Heinsohn summed up his night after he dunked with 5:00 left in the third quarter. “In your face!” exclaimed the passionate CSNNE color commentator.
All ten Celtics who played scored -- by the end of the first half no less -- and Boston’s offense rolled over the Wizards, 107-96 as the home team improved to 40-37 on the season.
The Celtics beat Washington (29-48) in all three meetings this season.
Avery Bradley’s suffocating defense held John Wall in check. Coming off a 37-point performance against the Pacers at the Verizon Center in D.C. Wall (team-high16 points, 10 assists) was unable to get into a shooting rhythm against Bradley who aggressively shadowed the star point guard 94 feet.
The Celtics exploded for 31 points in the third quarter to open up a two-touchdown lead (with the extra points) after leading by just four at the half, 56-52. Their lead ballooned to 17 points at one point after Pierce stepped into a three-pointer to give Boston a 77-60 lead.
It’s been awhile since the Celtics were completely healthy and I for one, almost forgot how well they can play as a unit. The Wizards might not be a playoff team in the standings, but since Wall came back, they’ve been playing like one. A 24-20 record over the course of an 82-game season would translate into a 44-win season and would’ve place them in the the 6-seed this season.
Washington is a top-five team defensively going by John Hollinger’s defensive efficiency ratings. The Celtics offense shot 55.8% from the field. Because of that proficiency, Boston wasn’t truly threatened in the fourth quarter when Washington closed the gap to just 10 with just under four minutes left after a Martell Webster three-ball.
Pierce and Garnett did have to re-enter the game to close it out after that. Pierce nailed a clutch shot from distance at the 2:38 mark and Bass’ jumper with 1:58 to put Boston up 103-88 iced the game for good.
KG still has a little ways to go before he has his legs back under him after missing the last eight game due to an ankle injury. Fortunately, there are five more games to go and the Celtics are all but assured the 7-seed in the Eastern Conference...and will likely face the New York Knicks -- only the hottest team in the NBA right now, winners of 12 straight -- in the first round.
Note via @CLNSRadio: Paul Pierce has passed Charles Oakley for sole possession of 25th all time in #NBA history in minutes with 40,281.
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