It took more than 30 games for it to happen, but it looks like the Celtics have finally come to play.
Boston (16-17) goes into Madison Square Garden in New York Monday night winners of two in a row after an atrocious four-game losing streak. But it was the way in which the C’s won their last two games that’s worth noting.
With a hot Indiana Pacers team in town, the Celtics rode what got them to the playoffs over the last five seasons – defense. Boston held Indy to just 31.8 shooting from the field in it’s 94-75 win.
That same defense showed up in the next game against the Hawks, albeit a bit late and after Paul Pierce had to rally his team in the locker room at halftime.
“We’re kind of bickering with each other at halftime about what to do defensively, and I just reminded the guys that the fight isn’t against us, it’s against the other team,” Pierce told reporters after the game. “Once we remembered that, we stepped up and played the kind of basketball that we’re capable of playing.”
The Celtics held the Hawks to just nine points in the third quarter, erasing a 15-point halftime deficit en route to the 89-81 win, thanks in part to that staple defense and Pierce’s 17 third-quarter points.
Boston’s defense and cohesion will need to stick against the Knicks, a team that has surprised just about every NBA pundit around this season.
Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony is averaging 29.3 points per game, second in the NBA. He’s playing arguably the best basketball of his career and most importantly helping his team win – to the tune of a 23-10 record, up there with the Heat for best record in the East.
New York is also playing some of the best offense as a team in the NBA, averaging 102.5 points per game. That’s largely in part to their success behind the 3-point line. The Knicks are first in both attempts (29.2) and makes (11.3) this season.
But as the saying goes, “Live by the three, die bye the three.” If the Celtics are on point with their defensive sets and rotations as they have been over the last two games, they could leave NYC winners of three in a row.