Celtics look to stay hot as the playoffs near
Three storylines to watch as the Celtics invade Madison Square Garden:
Lack of hype
There are a few reasons why tonight’s Celtics-Knicks game isn’t as hyped as it was once thought it would be. The Celtics are jelling at the right time, while the Knicks currently sit at 31-29, just two games ahead of the No. 9 Milwaukee Bucks. There’s no Jeremy Lin and no Amar’e Stoudemire, and without those two it’ll be an uphill battle for NYC despite its 13-5 record since Mike Woodson took over. The biggest thing they can hope for is that Stoudemire returns healthy before the start of the playoffs (assuming the Knicks clinch). With Stoudemire and a hot Carmelo Anthony, they could be tough if the chemistry is there.
Give it up for Greg
When the season began, nobody had heard of Greg Stiemsma. And why would you have? The 26-year-old rookie out of Wisconsin made somewhat of a name for himself in the NBA’s D-League, but never having averaged even 12 minutes a game at Wisconsin, Stiemsma was never thought of to be anything more than a garbage time player. But after season-ending injuries to Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Wilcox, Stiemsma has played a bigger role on the Celtics than he has on any team since high school. On Sunday, he got the start and registered six blocks against the Bobcats. In April, he’s averaging 21 minutes per game, 5.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks. His backup play has been invaluable to a C’s team thin on big men.
The grand stage
The Celtics always bring it against the Knicks, regardless of who’s playing. Expect both Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to play Tuesday night, as both revel in the NYC spotlight (Pierce’s game-winner — and Manhattan bow last year, anybody?). Ray Allen, on the other hand, probably won’t play. It doesn’t make sense to rush him back, especially when the C’s are playing great without him. Rajon Rondo’s insane play as of late can be attributed some to his guard riding shotgun — Avery Bradley. Long have we wanted a team that could run with Rondo, and Bradley has proven himself to be that guy. The Celtics are a confident bunch, and that, more than anything perhaps, has carried them down the stretch.
Who’s the 2?
Avery Bradley has taken over the starting 2-guard position from Ray Allen. A look at the transition:
Ray Allen’s last 20-point game came March 16 at Sacramento. Allen has 11 20-point games this season.
Avery Bradley’s second career 20-point game came Sunday night against Charlotte as he had 22.