Remember when the Celtics were on a four game losing streak at the start of the new year, losing three of four by more than fifteen points? And when Avery Bradley’s return against Memphis meant little to the final score?
The Celtics have rattled off 6 straight wins, and they are 6-1 with Avery Bradley back in the starting lineup. They started the streak with a manhandling of Indiana, an epic comeback against Atlanta, and a signature win against the Knicks in New York without star point guard Rajon Rondo (I can still smell those Honey Nut Cheerios). Avery Bradley has brought a new dimension to this ball club, and while starting, has allowed the bench to be what Danny Ainge envisioned when he signed guys like Jason Terry and Courtney Lee (who are playing much better now that the second unit is complete).
Not only has Bradley picked up where he left off last season, but rookie Jared Sullinger has been nothing but extraordinary these past few weeks, and has some talking rookie of the year (maybe a stretch, but still). Sullinger has grabbed at least five boards the past 13 games, and is averaging close to 8 boards in that span.
Not only is Sullinger grabbing boards (something the Celtics desperately need), but he’s also led the team in +/- numerous times in that 13 game stretch. Sullinger is finally learning how to play team defense in the Celtics system, and although he can’t stay on the court at times (I haven’t seen someone get so many touch fouls in half a season), he is still making a huge impact off the bench, and has leap-frogged Brandon Bass as our number two big man. If Sullinger can keep progressing like he has, we could be looking at the steal of the 2012 NBA Draft. He is that smart and has that type of potential.
In the Celtics 100-89 win over Charlotte Monday, Bradley had his best game of the season, putting up 16 points on 6-10 shooting (4-7 from 3 point land) as well as chipping in two blocks and absolutely tenacious defense. Bradley looks to be fully healthy, and if he can start to regain the chemistry with Rondo that we saw last year (and got a great glimpse of Monday night) this team could have another deep playoff run in them.
Two weeks ago, the Celtics were on the verge of a lost season with a record of 14-17, fresh off three west coast games where they didn’t even look like they belonged on the court. Now, the Celtics are just four games back of New York, and after beating the Knicks without Rondo in New York, still look to be the team to beat in the Atlantic. Hopefully Bradley, Sullinger, and the rest of this grind it out team can keep progressing as we get closer to the playoffs. The Celtics host number one overall pick Anthony Davis (as well as head coach Doc Rivers’ son Austin) and the Hornets Wednesday night in the Garden.