The Starting Lineup: Celtics Keep The Streak Alive

In their first road test since Rajon Rondo’s injury, the Celtics were able to come back from 10 down at the start of the fourth quarter to beat the Raptors 99-95 and extend their win streak to five games.  The catalyst in the rally?  LeAndro Barbosa, who scored 11 of his 14 points in the fourth.  Barbosa’s energy at both ends of the floor sparked a dramatic turnaround in which the Celtics went from being outscored 34-19 in the third to winning the fourth 30-16.  The Raptors, who’d finished the third on a 10-2 run, suddenly looked atrocious to start the fourth.  Their first four shots were ugly misses from beyond 21 feet, and as they continued to settle for jumpers their offense became more and more stagnant.  It often seemed as though they didn’t even cross halfcourt until there were just six or seven seconds on the shot clock, and their attack essentially consisted of everyone standing and watching as Kyle Lowry dribbled aimlessly.  Quite honestly, I believe it was as poor an offensive quarter as I’ve seen played by any team this season.

Kevin Garnett had a fantastic outing, leading the Cs with 27 points and 10 boards.  It’s a damn good thing he did, too, because Paul Pierce, Jeff Green, and Jason Terry combined to go 5-20 from the floor.  Along with Barbosa, Garnett was at his best when it mattered most, scoring 11 of his own in the fourth.  While most of his teammates couldn’t have fallen from a boat and hit water, The Big Ticket was executing complex maneuvers fit for an Olympic diving competition…

As you can see, Andrea Bargnani made his return from a 26-game absence.  He did so to a smattering of boos, which upset Dwayne Casey but didn’t appear to faze nor inspire Bargnani, who had a typical Bargs game of 13 points and 3 rebounds on 5-10.

LeBron’s incredible play continued in a 114-108 Heat victory over the Rockets.  James, who’s been averaging 30 points on 60% from the floor and 40% from three over his last 12, posted his third consecutive 30-point game as he hogged the stats until he’d had his fill (32/6/5).  In the stead of Chris Bosh (illness), who has also been playing exceptionally well as of late, Dwyane Wade stepped up to score 31 points of his own.  This is just the second time all season that LeBron and Dwyane have each topped 30 in the same game.

Despite trailing by double figures for most of the third quarter and even part of the fourth quarter, the Rockets were able to get back in this thing.  After having failed to score between the 11:38 and 7:22 marks of the fourth, Houston came surging back thanks mostly to James Harden, who scored 11 straight points to bring his squad to within three.  From that point, though, Miami displayed their defensive prowess by drawing charges (legitimate charges, no flops) on consecutive possessions.  It then became a free-throw shooting contest and the Heat sealed the deal.

James Harden, though. With 36 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 assists… he was pretty incredible.  Observe his abuse of Ray Allen at :35, and his discarding of LeBron James at 1:30 and 3:00 (yes, he cooked LeBron twice)…

The Nets eked out much-needed victory in Detroit, where they defeated the Pistons 93-90.  Both teams were pretty sketchy down the stretch as they each failed to score for stretches of more than two minutes, but a couple of big buckets by Deron Williams and Brook Lopez made the difference for the Nets — that and a missed free throw by Greg Monroe.  Had he been able to deliver, Monroe’s free throw would’ve tied the game with 33 seconds to play.  So, instead of being down two after Monroe proceeded to allow Lopez to back him down and score a layup, the Pistons trailed by three and were ultimately forced to play the fouling game.  What I’m getting at here is that Greg Monroe, despite his impressive line of 23 points and 10 rebounds, kind of blew it.  Williams and Lopez, on the other hand, had just 12 and 17 points respectively, but were able to manufacture important hoops late in the fourth quarter.

Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and Tristan Thompson combined for 58 points in an encouraging display of hope for Cleveland.  The young core missed just 10 of their 34 attempts from the floor, though the whole thing ought to be taken with a grain of salt as the aforementioned floor was that of the Time Warner Cable arena, home of the Charlotte Bobkittens.  This 122-95 defeat is the fifth in a row for the ‘Cats, who’ve not beaten the Cavaliers since Boris Diaw went off for 26/11/7 on March 30th of 2011.  Good times, relatively speaking (Charlotte won 34 games that season, which is nearly twice as many as the 18 they’ve won since).

The Golden State Warriors suffered their second blowout loss in as many nights, losing 119-98 in Oklahoma City.  The Thunder, already out to avenge a hotly-contested, 104-99 loss (January 23rd, the one where Scotty Brooks thought it’d be a good idea to run a play for Kendrick Perkins), apparently drew some extra motivation from the demonstrative habits of the Warriors’ bench.  Said Kevin Martin, who contributed 21 points in the onslaught: “Coach Jackson should talk to a couple of his bench players and make sure they get wet behind the ears before they come barking at a couple of our players.”

Mark Jackson and company sure aren’t making any friends on this road trip.  Not that they should care.  Jackson is likely more concerned by the fact that his team has given up 259 points — nearly three games worth for a Memphis or an Indiana — in their last two outings.  Looking like the Warriors of old, these Warriors are.

Sorry guys, but that’s all I’ve got today.  I allowed myself to go to sleep last night without doing two things — finishing this post and setting an alarm.  Fatal mistake.  I’ll try not to let it happen again.  As a sign of my regret, I give to you some Rubio magic.  Please forgive me.

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