I thought it was unlikely the Celtics would start this week unscathed given the impressive number 22 standing in the way on their biggest back-to-back of the season. First, they started out down 22 against the NBA's defending champs. Then they followed that up with a showdown against Houston and their historical 22-game winning streak.
Monday's game in San Antonio was nothing short of spectacular. Even after an atrocious start you knew the Celtics had a comeback in them, especially on St. Patrick's Day. When they battled back from an overwhelming first half deficit to make it a two-point-game heading into the fourth quarter, I knew we were in line for something special. I'll admit I was a bit skeptical of the C's chances after the Spurs built up a nine-point-lead with less than five minutes to go. However, the Celtics were able to show their resilience down the stretch. Pierce, Garnett and Rondo all had impressive showings but it was Cassell that left his lasting impression on the night with what turned out to be a game-winning three.
The luck of the Irish shined in the final minute. First, Manu Ginobili's layup spun around the rim 283 times before rimming out. Then Garnett apparently couldn't hear me screaming (from my couch) to call a timeout as he inadvertently threw away the inbounds pass in the final seconds. I nearly had a heart-attack when the ball found the hands of Robert Horry -- aka "Big Shot Bob" -- but thankfully he couldn't find his magic.
Sky Rockets in Flight
Up next came the Houston Rockets, who as we all know, hadn't lost in well over a month. As is the case with most Celtics' games these days, it was a playoff-type atmosphere right from the start. Rondo and Alston exchanged elbows, technical fouls, and threatening glances before the ball was even in play.
Their fists were clenched from the start but the Celtics didn't land their haymaker until the second half. (AP Photos)
It took a while for the C's offense to get rolling, but like we've seen so many times this season, they came out with a purpose to start the second half. The game was tied going into the break but the Celtics came out of the locker room and outscored the Rockets 32-16 in the third to put the game out-of-reach.
Garnett capped the night off with a thunderous dunk late in the fourth quarter that put an exclamation point on the game. It still impresses me how hard he plays, even when the game is well-in-hand. That makes Minnesota's owner, Glen Taylor, look all the more foolish for his comments about Garnett 'tanking' while missing the last five games last year with an injury.
Road to Riches
The Celtics have been road warriors all season long. Subtract a three-game hiccup a month ago and you can count their road losses on one hand, quite easily if you're Antonio Alfonseca.
The Celts continued their road (and overall) dominance Tuesday night in Houston while improving their league-leading road record to 25-8. They put on quite a show considering their exhilarating come-from-behind victory in San Antonio the night before. They are now three games deep on their second and final five game road trip of the season and looking, dare I say, playoff-ready.
- Even though I hate him, I'll give Doc some credit for his halftime adjustments. We've seen the Celtics flourish in nearly every third quarter this season. I assume some of that has to be attributed to the coach and whatever he's saying to the players. But I'd also like to think Doc just takes a nap at halftime while Scalabrine initiates awe-inspiring slow-claps throughout the break. I guess we're all entitled to our own opinions.
- I have to say I'm none-too-pleased with Sam I Am's shot selection. I understand he can score but a lot of his shots come early in the shot clock with defenders all over him. He gets a pass for now because of his clutch shot against the Spurs, but this is something that worries me. I'm hoping over the next month, before the playoffs start, he learns there are many other options on this team and one assist is just as good as two or three points.
- Let me apologize for Friday's loss against Utah. That was the final game in my weekend-pack of tickets. Heading into the game the Celtics were a perfect 10-0 this season in games I've attended. I made a poor judgment call and gave an extra ticket to an unlucky friend. He's now been to four games so far this season - all losses. Considering the Celtics have only lost 5 home games in total; that seems a bit outlandish. I swear I tried to get him to leave at the half, but to no avail.
- Finally, it will never happen, but Pierce should get some consideration for MVP this season. Garnett gets the majority of the praise from the media, but Pierce has been playing almost flawlessly all season long.