After weeks of non-stop rumors that Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge was actively shopping All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo and that the “ New Big Three” would be torn apart and sent to distance cities all over the Association’s map; when the smoke cleared as the NBA trading deadline took effect on March 15, the Celtics roster was still intact.
At that point it looked like it was just going to be a classy way for Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce to end their time together; as most likely the team would not be bringing all three players back next year and stuck in the seventh slot in the NBA Eastern Conference; they were not expected to do too much damage in the Playoffs. That is if they were able to hold off the New York Knicks and the Milwaukee Bucks.
Boston has rewarded Ainge and head coach Doc Rivers in their confidence in them as they have a record of 18-7 since the All-Star break and 10-5 after the NBA trading deadline went into effect. After defeating the Miami Heat for the second time this month on Tuesday night 115-107 at the American Airlines Arena; the Celtics now lead the Atlantic Division holding a three game edge over the Sixers who held the position for most of the campaign. Boston is now the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference Playoff chase and if things stay that way they will hold home court advantage in the first round of the Playoffs.
The club has been plagued by injuries all season long; as they lost forward Jeff Green before the season even started as he needed heart surgery and then they went through the experience again later in the season as big man Chris Wilcox was done for the year after detecting heart problems. Things looked even bleaker when the club announced that center Jermaine O’Neal’s season had come to an end as he needed wrist surgery.
The fun did not end there as reserve forward Mickael Pietrus suffered a concussion in a contest against Philadelphia and is still waiting medical clearance before he can play again. Then Allen suffered an ankle injury and the Celtics had to put second-year guard Avery Bradley in his place. Garnett was pushed into the center slot out of need and Brandon Bass who came over in a sign and trade with Orlando for Glen Davis is playing at the four-spot. Except for back to back losses to the San Antonio Spurs and the Chicago Bulls; the second game they got blasted by Rivers for playing what he called “Cool Basketball” have played far beyond expectations over the last few weeks.
Allen came back to the team and is playing off the bench for the first time since he was a young player with the Milwaukee Bucks. There have been reports that Allen himself came to management with keeping Bradley in the starting lineup and that he would be a reserve. That shows a lot about Allen’s character and his wish to put the team’s needs before his own to win. Rondo as always is the”X-Factor” for Boston and hit double figures in assists in 18 games in a row with the win over Miami.
A lesser team would have crumbled and made excuses why they could not win when all the injuries and medical problems occurred this season. However the Celtics gathered the wagons in a circle and are now playing their best ball all season long with a record of 33-24. They maybe eliminated in the first round of the Post Season or make it back to the Finals. Either way, they will end their regular campaign on an up-note, which could give them momentum at the start of the Playoffs.