The Boston Celtics were able to come away with a win in Charlotte Monday night, 96-86, and improve their record to 6-10. The Celtics remain in the thick of the playoff race in the early season as teams like the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets continue to struggle. It was one of the Celtics’ best all-around performances of the season. The way Boston was able to win was impressive and revealed how much this team has improved in the last few games. There were a few factors that influenced how the Celtics beat the Charlotte Bobcats.
Bench Players Rise to the Occasion
Until last night’s game the bench had lacked efficiency and were not very consistent. In Charlotte, the Celtics received strong contributions out of Gerald Wallace, Phil Pressey, Courtney Lee, and even Kris Humphries. Wallace was the obvious catalyst off the bench. His aggressiveness and defensive intensity became pivotal in order to earn a victory. He scored a season-high 17 points, and added four rebounds, three assists, and two steals. It seemed like he was involved in every single play. Wallace has implemented a drive to win within this young Celtic squad. Courtney Lee also proved his worth to the team. Lee has had trouble finding an offensive groove since joining the Celtics a summer ago. This year he has improved his shooting percentage, and he was able to showcase his improvements in last night’s win. He scored 11 points in only 15 minutes of play. Rookie Phil Pressey was a spark plug and led the team to victory as he stepped up big time when Avery Bradley was unable to perform well. In 20 minutes he dished out eight assists and was energetic on defense with three steals. He filled in as the facilitator very nicely. For an undrafted free agent his future looks bright, and with the lack of point guards on this team he plays a steadily important role.
Defense of the Big Men
It’s funny how inaccurate the term “big man” is to describe Celtics’ forwards Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger. Neither are taller than 6-foot-9, but they were able to slow down Bobcats center Al Jefferson. One of the keys to the game I stated in my last article was to keep Big Al out of the paint. Sullinger and Bass did a tremendous job on Jefferson. They did not allow him to establish a post-game and forced him to take outside shots. Big Al was boxed out effectively and was kept of the glass. Sullinger finished with nine rebounds while Bass added five. On a side note, Brandon Bass was also efficient offensively, scoring 16 points, but the defense was the real story. After dominating the last time Charlotte and Boston faced each other, Jefferson was held to 14 points and a dismal three rebounds. Bass and Sullinger’s ability to guard taller centers and forwards is essential going forward.
Wow, am I really writing about Jordan Crawford again? I figured after writing an article that basically praised him he’d come back down to earth, but this guy continued his spectacular play instead. Crawford led the Celtics with 21 points on 5-of-11 from the field while also adding five assists. He was simply on fire from beyond the arc, hitting 4-of-6 attempts. He has proven to be a team player who is effective passing the ball and putting the ball in the hoop. It amazes me how important Crawford is to this team this season. Before the season I had trouble projecting what kind of playing time he would receive, but now he’s the focal point of the offense.
The Celtics’ well balanced effort and team oriented style of play in last night’s win is a great step going forward. There’s still much more improvement to do and the playoff tested Memphis Grizzlies are coming to town to give Boston an imperative test of what kind of a team they can be.