The Celtics beat the Timberwolves 101-97 at the Garden last night. Standout performances included Jared Sullinger (24 pts, 11 reb, 5 ast) and Avery Bradley (19 pts, 5 reb). Jordan Crawford also contributed with 15 points and 4 assists.
Offensively, Avery Bradley continued his hot-streak by scoring all 19 of his points in the first three quarters. In the fourth, Sullinger picked up where Bradley left off, scoring 15 of his 24 points in the final quarter. Although most of Sullingers buckets came in the paint, his only three proved to be the biggest shot of the game. With 2:22 remaining in the game, Crawford hit Sully with a pass at the top of the key and was rewarded when Jared sank the three to put the Celtics up 95-92.
Perhaps most impressive was the defensive work of Kris Humphries on Kevin Love. Brandon Bass was supposed to be the one to cover Love but he found himself on the bench for most of the game due to foul trouble. Humphries stepped in and made life very difficult for arguably the best power forward in the game. Love finished the game with 27 points, but it took him 26 shots to get there. He especially struggled from three where he was only 2-11.
Brad Stevens spoke about Humphries’ defensive presence in his post-game press conference. “The best part about (the win) was our primary defender on him wasn’t playing much of the night with foul trouble, and I thought Humphries did a phenomenal job off the bench for us on both ends of the floor,” Stevens said. “But certainly in guarding and defending Kevin Love. He did it as well as he could, and I certainly was very happy with that.”
Kelly Olynyk began to show his range by nailing two threes from the wing. And to everyone who is opposed to the C’s big-men shooting threes, Brad Stevens is smarter than all of you. He understands the importance of having big men that can not only score down-low but spread the floor with their outside shot as well. It’s no coincidence that this guy has taken a team that was supposed to finish in last place and made them into a possible Eastern Conference contender. His name is already being thrown into the Coach of the Year discussions so I think it’s time that we stop questioning his strategies and just enjoy the ride.
The Celtics are now 8-4 in their last 12 games after starting the season 4-10. The question is, how many more wins until the tankologists disappear? How many more wins until people realize that this team has way too much pride to lose games on purpose? The way things are shaping up in the Eastern Conference, it’s going to take an epic collapse for the Celtics to end up with a lottery pick. Given the effort that this team has been bringing every single night, I can tell you that it’s probably not going to happen. So, if you really do consider yourself to be Celtics fan, I would suggest you start rooting for them as soon as possible. Let’s face it, this team is not the mess that you thought they were going to be, not even close. And as proud Celtics fans, we should be happy about this.