Jared Sullinger becoming a sturdy leader for surprising Celtics
It’s the holiday season, and the Celtics are definitely going to Jared.
Jared Sullinger, that is.
Sullinger had a strong message a few days back to anyone thinking the Celtics would tank this season.
“Kiss our butts,” the second-year forward out of Ohio State put it.
No thanks – but we get the point. Sullinger and the now 12-14 Celtics have been one of the pleasant surprises of the NBA season in an Eastern Conference filled with disappointing teams. While just about everyone wrote off Boston before the season began, the players and coaches inside the locker room knew they had more fight in them than anybody was ready to give them credit for.
Sullinger, coming off of back surgery, is becoming a go-to guy on the C’s. On the season, he’s averaging 14.0 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.7 assists – all significant improvements from his stats last year in a reduced role. He also leads the Celtics in plus/minus at plus-84, which means the Celtics have outscored opponents by 84 points when he’s on the court. Monday night, he scored 15 of his 24 points and grabbed six of his 11 boards in the fourth quarter of a four-point win over the Timberwolves.
Sullinger and the C’s clamped down on the glass in the victory, outrebounding the T-Wolves 16-8 in the fourth while limiting them to just two offensive rebounds (they had 17 going into the quarter).
“We just tried to make it difficult,” Sullinger said after the win. “We understand that we’re small and we had to play as a group tonight.”
They’ll have to bring that same mentality into Wednesday night’s game against the Detroit Pistons (7:30 p.m., CSN), a team that boasts one of the best frontcourts in the NBA. The Pistons rank first in the NBA in points in the paint at 51.6 per game. That’s partially due to the second-chance opportunities they get through offensive rebounds – an average of 14.2 per game, which is also tops in the NBA.
With young studs like Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, along with newly signed swingman Josh Smith, it’s no wonder the Pistons dominate down low. Detroit is riding high into Wednesday’s game after its big win Monday over the Pacers. But if you already have the C’s penciled in for a loss, you better pucker up – because there’s a Sullinger-sized butt waiting.