The NBA: Green-Minded

Paul Pierce and the Celtics have won 8 of their last 10 and
are now within sight of the top teams in the East.

*All images are by the Associated Press. 

"Defense is the key the last three weeks. Our guys have bought into it."
- Doc Rivers after the Celtics held the Grizzlies to just 36.8 percent FG shooting.

I’m pretty sure if the Celtics continue buying into whatever defense Doc Rivers is preaching, they’ll have a legitimate shot at not just going deep into the playoffs, but maybe even the NBA Championship.

Many are expecting Chicago and Miami to have a round 2 of their East Finals match-up from last season, but these Cs will be all too happy to crash that party.

After going 5-8 in their first 13 games, the Cs are 8-2 in their last 10. That puts them at a manageable 3.5 games behind Philly for top spot in the Atlantic, and a full 3 games ahead of the 8th seeded Bucks.

The way they’re playing, the Big Green will probably leapfrog most of the other teams ahead of them, so don’t be surprised if a late season run punches them into the home court edge at least for the first round of the postseason.

Boston is second overall in team defense, if one uses their opponents’ average points-per-game. Using their opponents’ average FG%, Boston is still near the top at 4th. And they are the best at stopping the three-ball, as their foes have been successful only on 29% of their tries. Rivers’s boys are also tops in asists-differential – they average nearly 6 more assists per game than the opposition.

Add to that the fact that the Cs are top 10 in terms of bpg, apg, FG%, and in taking care of the ball, plus their #1 status in terms of 3pt accuracy, and, well, we’ve got a legitimate contender indeed.

After their win over the Grizz, Boston now owns a 4-game winning streak that is currently the longest in their conference. Two of their next three games are also against below .500 teams, so that should serve them well as they take on the Lakers this Friday (Manila time) and the Bulls twice next week (Monday and Friday Manila time).

It’s pretty clear that, after their shaky start, these Celtics have their faithful green-minded again.

After the JUMP, key stat-stuffers for today’s games:

BOS over MEM, 98-80 – There used to be a time KG scored 24 easy on any team in the league. Now he can only do it maybe a handful of times in a season. This one against Memphis is game #2. The former Timberwolf scored 24 points and grabbed 9 rebounds as Boston streaked to its 4th victory in a row. KG was successful on 75% of his FGs, which included only his third trey of the season.
MIA over TOR, 95-89 – The Raptors looked pumped up and ready to hand the Heat an upset, but when LBJ and D-Wade combine for 55 points, they’re next to impossible to stop. Now Miami has won 10 of its last 12 and they’re just a game behind the Bulls for the East’s best slate. Third wheel Chris Bosh tossed in a dozen markers against his Ex.

Super Scorers (Top scorers of the night!)
LeBron James (MIA) – 30
Dwyane Wade (MIA) & DeMar DeRozan (TOR) – 25

LeBron James dropped 30 on the Raptors as the Heat
move within a game of the Chicago Bulls.
Ragin’ Rebounders (Top rebounders of the night!)
Kevin Garnett (BOS), Udonis Haslem (MIA), & LeBron James (MIA) – 9

Dynamic Dishers (Top playmakers of the night!)
Rajon Rondo (BOS) – 14
Paul Pierce – 6
A LOT with 4

Rajon Rondo delivered 14 assists in his
2nd game back.
Terrific Thieves (Top thieves of the night!)
A LOT with 2!!!

Boomin’ Blockers (Top blockers of the night!)
A LOT with 2!!!

Sharpshooters (Top 3-point shooters of the night!)
Jerryd Bayless (TOR) – 4
Mario Chalmers (MIA) & Ray Allen (BOS) – 3

Feb. 5, 2012 First Five
C – Kevin Garnett (BOS) – 24pts, 9rebs, 2asts, 1stl
F – Rudy Gay (MEM) – 21pts, 7rebs, 3asts 1stl, 1blk
F – LeBron James (MIA) – 30pts, 9rebs, 2asts, 1stl
G – Paul Pierce (BOS) – 21pts, 6rebs, 6asts, 1stl
G – Dwyane Wade (MIA) – 25pts, 3asts, 2rebs, 2blks

KG's 24 tied his season-high. He's due for a couple more
before the Cs make the playoffs.

Honorable Mention:
DeMar DeRozan (TOR) – 25pts, 3rebs, 3asts, 2stls
Jerryd Bayless (TOR) – 17pts, 4 treys, 3rebs, 3asts, 2stls, 1blk
Rajon Rondo (BOS) – 14asts, 5pts, 5rebs, 2stls

For a full summary of the day, here’s today’s NBA Daily Zap:

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