Celtics 99, Raptors 95
Earlier this week Kevin Garnett responded to rumors that the Celtics core players may be traded with a simple, defiant phrase. He told reporters, “I bleed green” and in Boston’s fifth consecutive win at Toronto on Wednesday night, he proved it. Garnett posted a vintage line with 27 points and 10 rebounds in 32 minutes, while shooting an efficient 11-18 from the field and a perfect 5-5 at the line, yet he never tried to do anything outside the offense.
The C’s (25-23) have been playing efficient basketball lately, and Grantland’s Zach Lowe broke down why their egalitarian side-to-side approach has helped this team make the jump from a 24th ranked offense to 12th in the league in points per 100 possessions. In their first road game since Rondo’s injury, that efficiency was on full display down the stretch. Boston’s wing players overloaded one side while Paul Pierce and Garnett ran pick and rolls on several possessions, with the end result being a wide open look for K.G. It was poetry in motion.
After winning in gritty fashion on the road against a revamped Raptors’ squad, it appears that the Celtics, and their core contributors, are here to stay. Garnett and Pierce clearly aren’t willing to scrap this season and move on to western pastures. Doc Rivers has even dismissed these trade rumors as silly, and completely generated by the media, so there is really no reason to speculate on any fundamental changes to this roster.
This is especially unlikely to occur as long as the C’s continue to win, and they are winning as creatively as they managed to lose during their previous six-game losing streak. Down 79-69 at the start of the fourth quarter, Boston went on a key 11-2 run and wrestled control away from the Raptors. While they struggled to score for the first time during the streak, Jeff Green and Jason Terry both forced key turnovers in the final three minutes and allowed Pierce and Garnett to run the aforementioned set plays that sealed the deal.
It was a total team effort and an example of how this team can in fact win against an opponent that is playing with intensity, even if that opponent may not have the talent that most playoff teams are working with. Now maybe we can finally stop debating whether Rondo was part of the problems that plagued the Celtics during their 20-23 start, and just appreciate how this current roster is gelling. There is no reason to believe that Rondo could not have been part of this miraculous turnaround, and as Lowe eloquently points out in his column, they may miss his play making ability before too long.
All five of the wins on this current streak can be downplayed due to circumstances, but coming up on Thursday is an indisputably gigantic regular season game. The Lakers, albeit the struggling and injury-ridden Lakers, make their annual trip to the TD Garden for a showdown on national TV in what will most likely emulate a playoff atmosphere. If Boston’s system continues to flourish with the two veterans anchoring the offense down the stretch, then perhaps they can quiet these unfounded trade rumors.