Building the Ultimate Highlight Reel from the Boston Celtics' Regular Season
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Like it or not, the Boston Celtics are nearing the end of their 2012-13 season. It's been a year of ups and downs, highs and lows and of course, highlights and lowlights.
To keep it positive, we'll just consider the highlights right now.
The following clips rank as the top 10 plays of the Celtics' season, according to yours truly. They have been ranked based on skill level, excitement and impact.
10. Jeff Green's Posterization of Al Jefferson
Utah Jazz center and 2013-14 unrestricted free agent Al Jefferson has been rumored as a candidate to return to the Celtics after this season. He may want to don the shamrock again to avoid having to guard Jeff Green.
On November 14, Green dribbled from the far left corner past Paul Millsap to the heart of the interior, drawing Jefferson on the contest as he raised up. But there was no contest.
Green hung in the air and outstretched his wings over the helpless big man, undoubtedly making him a little squeamish when he went back to his hotel to catch the highlights.
The dunk gave Boston some serious momentum, pushing the C's up 84-78 with a little over 7:00 left in regulation.
The Green ended up winning 98-93, and Jeff Green proved heart surgery was a thing of his past. Now he was pumping fine, and pumping Celtics Nation up even better.
9. Paul Pierce's Clutch Shot Against the Knicks
As every Boston fan expects, some clutch Paul Pierce jumpers have to be on the end-of-year highlight reel. The “Truth” saved some of his heroics for the toughest of games, including the Celtics' first game and only victory against the New York Knicks of the regular season on January 7.
Pierce led the charge, logging 23 points, six assists, three rebounds and a steal. Perhaps most impressive was his customary close-out jumper as time expired on the shot clock late in the fourth quarter.
He held the ball near half-court with Carmelo Anthony on him like glue. Kevin Garnett, who was being guarded by Tyson Chandler, came out to set a screen. Pierce drove around it and Chandler switched with Anthony. Bad move.
Pierce shimmied, dribbling in and out and finally fading away for a dagger in Chandler's face. Boston's Mr. Clutch did it again.
8. Jeff Green's Tomahawk Slam on Chris Bosh
LeBron James will always be known for full-fledged assault dunks. But on January 27, James could only watch as emerging star Jeff Green soared past him for one of the most monstrous dunks of 2012-13.
Green took a Leandro Barbosa pass from about 26 feet out and dribble-penetrated with a quick first step right by James. Chris Bosh (feebly) attempted to slide over and contest him, but Green soared over the Miami center with a tomahawk slam that lit up the Garden.
The "Boshtrich" could only hang his head in shame. He never stood a chance. Green could have dunked that ball on an 11-foot hoop—the tip of his right hand looked like it was level with the top of the white box on the backboard when he reached the apex of the jump.
It should have been an and-one, too, as Bosh clearly fouled him. King James would have gotten that call, and probably would have proceeded to stage some theatrical chest-pumping look into the audience after the whistle.
Mean Jeff Green is content with just running back to play defense, waiting for his next opportunity to dunk on somebody's face region.
7. Avery Bradley's Chase-Down Block Leads to a Pierce Three
Avery Bradley has established himself as one of the best defensive guards in the NBA. His swarming man-to-man defense wreaks havoc on opponents, disrupting offenses and creating fast-break opportunities for the Celtics.
As the Miami Heat know all too well, his transition defense and blocking deserves praise as well. He rejected Dwyane Wade last year on a perimeter drive. This year, he denied Norris Cole on a breakaway dunk attempt.
Here's how it happened: Cole got the ball at the Celtics' half-court logo with about five feet of separation, and he was off to the races. A.B. sprinted towards him in pursuit, chasing him down by the time Cole lifted up outside the inner circle. The two-hand dunk attempt was swatted away.
King James himself must have been impressed by such a strong chase-down block, especially considering it led to a Paul Pierce three. Once again, Bradley's hustle defense sparks a big momentum swing. This kid will be on highlight reels for years to come.
6. Rajon Rondo's Tip-in After Getting His Shot Blocked
One of the many things Boston misses from Rajon Rondo is his resilience.
In an early-season matchup with the Washington Wizards, the Celtics floor general was shooting a double-clutch leaner from the left hash when he got blocked.
As the ball flew to the right, he jumped back up and tipped it from inside the free-throw line, recognizing the shot clock was expiring. Miraculously, the ball fell in right as the backboard illuminated.
That huge shot put the Celtics up 84-79, and they ended up winning 89-86. Rondo proved that night that he can be smart and lucky.
The point-man finished with 12 points and 12 assists, and possibly one Hail Mary.
5. Paul Pierce's Clutch Shot Against Denver Forces Triple Overtime
Feeling a little deja vu? Pierce came through yet again in a triple-overtime thriller versus the Denver Nuggets, registering a triple-double and hitting yet another clutch three-pointer.
This time, Boston was down by three with 10 seconds left in double overtime. Pierce made a move on Andre Miller from half-court, then pulled up and elevated over him for a three from the left wing.
The ball snugly pushed through the bottom of the net, and Pierce confidently back-pedaled to the Boston bench with a smooth fist pump.
The Celtics ended up winning in the next overtime period, thanks mostly to Truth's 27 points, 14 boards and 14 assists. The win was Boston's seventh in a row, and snapped Denver's mark of nine consecutive victories.
Pierce also took over an overtime game against the Utah Jazz, singlehandedly winning the game for Boston by scoring seven straight points.
4. Jeff Green's Game-Winning Layup Against Indiana
Of course, Jeff Green can hit game-winning shots too. On March 6, the Celts found themselves in a position to beat the Indiana Pacers despite being down by as many as 14 earlier in the game.
Avery Bradley held onto the ball until the game clock ticked under 10 seconds. A.B. passed to Jeff Green halfway between the three-point stride and half-court, and Green dribbled left to hit K.G. on the outside elbow.
Paul Pierce set a back-screen on Green's defender, David West, stopping the power forward in his tracks. Green ran around the congestion and flashed across the perimeter, where KG rocketed a high pass to him.
Green jumped high to make the tough catch, came down to quickly regroup and powered back up for the winning layup with half a second left.
3. Jeff Green's Game-Winner (again)—This Time, Against the Cavs
Green also won a come-from-behind game in Cleveland against the Cavaliers in late March.
He received the inbound pass at the top of the key with two seconds left, then slashed to the lane past Luke Walton. He elevated a second later, hanging in the air as he double-clutched to squeeze between Wayne Ellington and Shaun Livingston.
The layup caromed off the backboard perfectly, and the C's won without Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger, K.G. or Courtney Lee.
Green finished with 21 points (on seven-for-18 shooting), seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block in 41 minutes of action.
2. Jeff Green's Own Dunk Party in Chris Andersen's Face
Jeff Green again? Who does this guy think he is? Well, certainly not somebody who gets intimidated by the Miami Heat.
In a 109-101 losing effort in South Beach on April 12, Green dunked on Chris “Birdman” Andersen not once, not twice, but three times. And they were serious facials.
In the first quarter, he showed some fancy dribbling and footwork, then sped by Andersen to the right, slamming down the right-hand dunk over the seven-footer's outstretched hand.
A minute and a half later, he drove around a Jason Terry screen, penetrated the lane past two defenders with his textbook aggressiveness and elevated in yet another rough Birdman poster.
Then, in the fourth quarter, Andersen received the worst beating of the three.
Looking like he gave up on trying to block Green, he put his head down and his hands up as Green came right toward him. Jeff slammed it down with such power that he knocked himself to the ground.
Meanwhile, Andersen just kept his head down.
1. Brandon Bass and His Hammertime Jam in Brook Lopez's Grill
For the majority of the year, Brandon Bass struggled to find his way. He did not pick up where his impressive 2011-12 regular season and playoffs left off. He was entering dangerous doghouse levels with most of Celtics Nation.
But in late March and early April, when everything was going wrong for Boston, Bass actually started to pick it up. He showed more aggressiveness and intensity on the drive, clearly dispelling rumors that he lost all confidence.
On a Wednesday, April 10 home game against the Brooklyn Nets, the power forward took it to the house early. He drove past Reggie Evans after shaking him out of his shoes, then proceeded to posterize Brook Lopez on a rim-rattling two-hand jam.
Sadly, the Celtics ended up losing to the Nets, partly because Bass did not maintain that brand of intensity. He ended up 5-of-11, with one of those five field goals haunting Lopez's dreams.