Why 2012-13 Is Deja Vu All over Again for the Boston Celtics
That was the Boston Celtics' record heading into their Jan. 5 matchup against the Atlanta Hawks. You may look at that and say, "Wow. This team is two games under .500 through 32 games. How are they ever going to rebound?"
Well, hold on.
Remember last season when the Celtics got on a roll after the All-Star break and shocked the basketball world by nearly besting the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals?
What was their record through 32 games?
Much like this year, everyone doubted Boston. Prognosticators said their age had finally caught up to them. They said it really should have happened two years prior when the C's made a run to the Finals. But now, it was finally occurring. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce's legs had finally gotten to the point where they just could not take it anymore. Right?
The Celtics posted a 24-10 record over their final 34 games (remember that 2011-12 was a lockout shortened-season) to win their fifth consecutive Atlantic Division title.
Now, let's return to the present time.
Boston was on a four-game skid, all four losses coming by double digits. The C's were embarrassed by the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings on a West Coast trip and then came home to drop a game to the Memphis Grizzlies in Avery Bradley's return.
Let's talk about that Grizzlies game for a second, though, because we may end up looking at that contest as a potential turning point for the Celtics this year.
Yes, they lost by 10, but there was obvious progress. With Bradley back in the lineup, there was an energy on the floor for Boston that we had hardly seen for the first couple of months. The defense was already looking better. Memphis just made some very difficult, contested shots. Credit the Grizzlies for that. They are a very good team.
You couldn't help but think that the C's took a step forward regardless of the fact that they lost.
Two nights later, the Celtics thumped a red-hot Indiana Pacers team 94-75. It was Boston's best defensive performance of the season, as Doc Rivers' group held the Pacers to 31.8 percent shooting. The 75 points was also the lowest point total the C's had given up all year.
Is it any coincidence that this coincided with Bradley's return to the lineup? Is it also any coincidence that the Celtics had the same starting five they had used throughout their 2012 run for the first time since Game 4 of the second round of the playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers back in May?
It was only one game, yes, but you had to be encouraged with what you saw. Boston looked like it did in the second half of the previous season when it simply shut teams down. Kevin Garnett and company pestered Indiana. They forced them into tough shots. They forced turnovers.
It was as if the C's were sending a message to the world: "We're still here."
The next night, that Celtics went into Atlanta to play the Hawks, another hot team. This would be a litmus test for Boston. Would the team carry its momentum over, or would it wilt like it had done at several other points earlier in the season?
At first, it appeared the latter was the case.
The C's watched Atlanta race out to a 31-18 lead after one quarter and saw that lead balloon to as much as 19 in the second. At halftime, the Celtics trailed 53-38.
Not so fast.
Boston outscored the Hawks 33-9 in the third quarter, taking a nine-point edge into the fourth that it would never relinquish. Behind a triple-double from Rajon Rondo, the C's topped Atlanta 89-81.
The Celtics face another difficult task on Monday, when they have to go to Madison Square Garden to play the New York Knicks.
Right now, though, it appears that they are back. Just like last year.
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