Today the Boston Celtics learned they'd be without their new starting power forward, Jared Sullinger, for the rest of the season—a crippling blow for a team still reeling from news that Rajon Rondo had torn his ACL.
They responded like a pack of talented veterans might, blowing out the Orlando Magic by a score of 97-84. Two key players may be gone, but the Celtics still have their ridiculously effective defense, and tonight they unleashed it on the Magic, who were shooting 33.3 percent from the floor with eight minutes to go in the game.
Meanwhile, Boston's offense was team-centric. They assisted on 30 of their 42 made baskets and were led by all-around stupendous performances from their captain, Paul Pierce, as well as Jeff Green and Kevin Garnett.
Bradley's shot wasn't falling early on, and he missed six of his first seven shots. The defense was there, though, and he did a pretty good job bringing the ball up the court and getting Boston's half-court offense going in the few instances where he needed to.
In the third quarter, Bradley began to cut baseline off the ball, finishing on a few open layups at the rim. He finished with six points.
Courtney Lee came into this game with an aggressive mentality, and that's wonderful news for the Celtics. After the first half, Lee led all Celtics in shot attempts, going 3-of-8 from the floor. He ended with a solid line of 14 points on 13 shots, five boards and five assists, but this game was won by the bench, and in limited minutes, Lee was a solid contributor.
From the opening tip, Paul Pierce was everywhere, attacking constantly, grabbing rebounds, facilitating the offense and playing his usual reliable defense. He finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in just 29 minutes of play.
It was one of Pierce's better efforts of the season and the type of performance Boston will need moving forward on a consistent basis now that their talent is stretched so thin.
With Jared Sullinger gone, Bass was reinserted into the starting lineup, and he responded with a focus on the glass, which is great. He finished the first half 1-of-4 from the field, but the five rebounds were a hopeful sign that he finally understood what the Celtics need from him moving forward.
He finished with seven rebounds in under 27 minutes.
Garnett was utterly dominant in the first half, scoring 10 points, grabbing five boards and missing just two shots. Nikola Vucevic couldn't guard him, and the Celtics kept going to the well. Garnett only played 23 minutes, but when he was out there, Boston's defense was ferocious and basically unstoppable.
He scored 14 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, had three steals and only missed three shots.
Jeff Green was amazing in the first half, attacking in transition and running a few effective pick-and-rolls with Paul Pierce that we should see much more of going forward. In the third quarter, he threw down an absolutely ferocious dunk after faking a corner three and driving baseline.
Green has been a fantastic player in recent weeks, and if he's able to continue his aggressive play moving forward, Boston's bench will be one no opposing team wants to match up with. In the fourth quarter, he went on several one-on-one drives to the hoop that Orlando had no answer for.
He chipped in with four boards, three assists and three blocks, finishing the game with 17 points.
When Boston's bench entered the game, Boston came to life. Jason Terry, Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox and Leandro Barbosa were all a jolt of energy, sparking a 20-5 run in between the first two quarters. (In the first half, Boston's bench outscored Orlando's 20-2.)
Barbosa was especially great on the boards, swooping down below the free-throw line and swiping several balls off the glass he normally wouldn't have any part of.
Terry finished with 12 points and 4-of-8 shooting from the field.