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Tommy Points All Around

Hello World!

What has gotten into the Boston Celtics of late?

It was but a week ago that the ailing veteran ball club lost to an even more dire Suns’ group at home while scoring a total of just 71 points.

That shocking home defeat, incredibly, was there sixth in seven games and it only furthered a surging, yet understandable sentiment around the Association that the once-dominant Celtics had the look of an aging giant in need of a serious reality check.

But what a difference a week makes.  And what a difference an angry seemingly desperate Paul Pierce makes as well.

The Celtics have dusted off their early season cobwebs and, subsequently, those growing doubts by winning four straight games all of the sudden resembling the defensively-stingy Celtics of the past five -plus seasons.

So what has gotten into these Celtics you ask?

Well for one you could hand out a well-deserved Tommy point for a bulk of the guys starting and coming off the bench over their impressive 4-game winning stretch.

That’s right Tommy points all around.

But on a more specific note there are a few guys that deserve immediate acknowledgement.

Pierce gets the first nod for returning to his pick-and-roll manipulating best against the Pacers, Magic and Wizards this week.

Pierce has been on fire since that loss to Phoenix last Friday night putting in an impressive 26.3 points,  7.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists in 36.8 minutes per game.

He appears a little offended by all the ‘too old’ talk as his aggressive attack of the rim has been paramount to the Celtics recent success.

Avery Bradley, although he still can’t throw it in the ocean, has changed the dynamic of opponent’s offensive strategy since being inserted into the starting lineup for Rajon Rondo by continually pressuring the other team’s primary ball handler.

We won’t delve into his numbers as they just don’t do the second-year guard out of Texas fine defensive work justice, but Bradley is picking up the opposition’s point guard sometimes full court and the majority of the time once he crosses the halfcourt mark.

In Friday night’s mathcup against the visiting Pacers, Bradley repeatedly forced Indiana to play with a shortened 24-second shot clock by picking up Darren Collison and hounding him up high.

Consequently, Collison had trouble getting Indiana into their offensive sets before a good 10-12 seconds were run off the shot clock resulting in not the best selection of shots, naturally.

But Bradley’s not the only youngster coming through for the C’s in this recent 4-game winning streak.

Rookie combo guard E’Twaun Moore has gotten extended court time with Ray Allen and Rondo out and has done a tremendous job with those minutes when called upon.

More specifically Moore’s ability to hit long spot up jumpers has been a huge key in helping create space for Pierce to make plays in the halfcourt.

He has knocked down 4-of-10 threes in the last four games while connecting on 9-of-19 shots from the field overall.

Teams are starting to take note of Moore’s ability from deep and therefore have extended their defense out to the three-point line.

Ultimately this allows for wider lanes for the Celtics offense to run through.

Pierce can now more easily manipulate the pick-and-roll with Moore, Mickael Pietrus, Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett on the court as they can all knock down wide-open spot up shots with regularity.

The aforementioned Mickael Pietrus has been a tremendous find in free agency.

Although he may not provide the bulk and athleticism of a Jeff Green at small forward, what Pietrus does provide is another proven floor spacer and competitive defender.

He’s apt to throw up a few ill-advised three-pointers here and there, but that is all the more reason for NBA defenses to stay attached to him.

And there is no doubt that the Celtics are benefiting, by way of Phoenix and Orlando, from Pietrus’ 3-point shot-happy tendencies.

Suiting up in three of the team’s last four wins, Pietrus has taken 30 total shots and 17 of those attempts have come from 3-point territory.

In that stretch the 29 year-old French-born small forward is shooting 41.2% from deep and 46.6% from the floor in 33.3 minutes of action per game.

Moore and Pietrus are a combined 11-of-27 from deep during the last four games.  A number which at 40.7% may not sound stellar, but is an indication of the Celtics’ understanding of the importance of the 3-point shot to their offense.

But ultimately the Celtics’ all deserve credit for simply getting down in a defensive stance and guarding their man.

If there is one thing Doc Rivers’ and his great Celtics’ teams hang their hats on it’s defense.

The multiple defensive rotations, constant communication and player accountability will always be priority No. 1 as long as Rivers’ is around and during their recent 4-game winning stretch that primary philosophy has indeed returned in impressive fashion.

The C’s are holding opponents to the third fewest points per game this season at 87.9 points per contest.

During their last four wins that number has dropped to an incredibly low 80 points per game.

Although as a unit they do not boast a consistent post defender or shot blocker, the C’s have consistently forced the ball out to the three-point line resulting in contested spot up shots late in the shot clock.

Indiana fell victim to that aforementioned Celtics’ defensive strategy in their loss from T.D. Garden Friday evening as they were forced, I repeat forced, into 19 three-point bombs knocking down just one of those attempts on the night.

Boston has held teams to just 17.9% shooting  from deep on just 12-of-67 over their last four.

None of this should surprise us, however after a poor start and injuries to their starting backcourt; the Celtics honest outlook in a condensed NBA season did not look good.

But as pointed out an in earlier piece, fortunately the team dwells in the mediocre Atlantic Division.  A division that is currently under new management as the up-and-coming Philadelphia 76ers have taken over top honors.

Boston now sits confidently in 2nd place in the sub-par Atlantic with a 9-9 record.

With that being said a .500 record in the Eastern Conference, sadly, is easily sound enough to get you into the playoffs and with 48 games remaining the story is obviously yet to be completely told.

But for now that rolling herd of doubt that preceded the week in Boston has been quickly replaced by an altogether different sound…the defiantly thunderous footsteps of a team known for surviving the struggle.

Lest we forget they are still without Ray Ray and Rondo.

Check out the current NBA Standings here.

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