Boston Celtics: 2012Game60

Bass, Bradley continue to flourish

April, 15, 2012
[+] EnlargeAvery Bradley
Jim O'Connor/US PresswireAfter getting noticed for his defense, Avery Bradley added 3-point marksman to his resume against the Nets.
Brandon Bass' importance to the Celtics became all too clear last Wednesday when he crumpled to the floor with an apparent knee injury against the Atlanta Hawks and teammates rushed to his aid. Fortunately, Bass immediately recovered without even needing a trip to the locker room. On Saturday, over the course of Boston's 94-82 bounce-back win over the New Jersey Nets, his importance was reiterated, but this time it was his play, rather than a cringe-inducing fall, that sent the message.

Meanwhile, Avery Bradley followed Bass' lead as he continued to carve out his own niche of importance for Boston on Saturday. Bass registered a rugged 18-point, 11-rebound double-double, and Bradley chipped in 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting, helping fuel a strong second half that saw the Celtics race away from New Jersey, helping to atone for Friday's unsightly 84-79 loss to the Toronto Raptors.

The win, coupled with the Bucks' loss to Indiana, allowed the Celtics to clinch a playoff berth.

Kevin Garnett scored a team-high 21 points and grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds for Boston, Paul Pierce contributed 17 points, and Rajon Rondo racked up 15 more assists, bringing his streak of games with 10 or more helpers to a robust 21. But Bass and Bradley may have been the most influential in Boston's outpacing of the Nets.

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Rapid Reaction: Celtics 94, Nets 82

April, 14, 2012
Chris Chambers/Getty ImagesCeltics captain Paul Pierce drives to the basket Saturday night against the Nets.
Rapid reaction after the Boston Celtics defeated the New Jersey Nets 94-82 Saturday evening at the Prudential Center:

Kevin Garnett scored a team-high 21 points for the Celtics, to go along with a team-high 12 rebounds. Paul Pierce added 17 points and Brandon Bass chipped in a workman-like double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Avery Bradley scored 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting, ratcheting up the points in a variety of manners. Marshon Brooks scored 13 points for the Nets, while former Celtic Gerald Green chipped in a team-high 15 points off the bench.

After things were knotted up at 48 at halftime, the Celtics took control in the third quarter, outscoring New Jersey 26-13. They began the period on a 7-0 run, and after the Nets closed within six, Boston embarked on a 9-2 spurt, with all of the points coming on right-corner 3-pointers from Bradley. The nine consecutive points from Bradley produced to a 72-59 edge. The C's carried that 13-point lead into the final quarter and rolled from there.

With nine minutes to play in the third quarter, Bass rose up over New Jersey's Kris Humphries and snared an offensive rebound off a Garnett miss before pouncing right back up and throwing down a two-handed slam -- part of Boston's 7-0 run out of the locker room. Despite lacking any type of solid rebounding position, Bass took advantage of Humphries not boxing out and simply outworked him for the rebound, helping to set the tone for Boston's explosive second-half effort.

While Rajon Rondo barely managed to increase his streak of double-digit assist games on Friday night against the Raptors, he had no such trouble on Saturday, dishing out a game-high 15 helpers (to go along with 4 points and 4 rebounds), extending his streak to 21 games. Rondo recorded seven assists in the first half and fed Bradley for all three of his momentum-turning 3-pointers during the third quarter.

A night after recording just 16 total points in the paint, the Celtics nearly doubled that total against New Jersey, finishing with 30 points down low. Most importantly, Boston built its third-quarter separation by initiating the majority of its early offense in the post. Garnett threw down a right-handed slam from Bass, followed by Bass' offensive rebound and putback over Humphries, and Rondo came through with a right side layup just a minute later.

It might have taken a bit longer than some would have liked, given how disjointed the Nets seemed on offense for the majority of the evening, but the Celtics eventually pulled away for a convincing victory, helping to atone for Friday night's debacle north of the border in Toronto. Doc Rivers was able to pull Garnett and Pierce fairly early in the fourth quarter, as both clocked in right around the 30-minute mark, which could pay dividends given the final game of the dreaded back-to-back-to-back looms Sunday night in Charlotte. Every win matters for Boston right now, with the playoffs approximately two weeks away. With the win on Saturday, the C's extended their division lead over idle Philadelphia to 3½ games, further cementing their hold on the all-important fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.

2-on-2: Celtics vs. Nets (Game 60 of 66)

April, 14, 2012
David Butler II/US PresswireRajon Rondo vs. Deron Williams headlines Celtics vs. Nets.
The Boston Celtics (34-25, 13-16 away) stumbled out of the gates at the start of a back-to-back-to-back in Toronto on Friday, now they'll look to get back on track Saturday evening against the New Jersey Nets (22-38, 9-20 home) at the Prudential Center (7:30 p.m., CSN). To preview the middle game of this three-day arena hop, we go 2-on-2 with colleague Greg Payne.

1. What will you be focussed on when the C's visit the Nets?

Payne: I'll be interested in the point guard matchup. With the exception of their recent tilt with the San Antonio Spurs, it's been a while since we've seen Rajon Rondo go up against one of the game's elite quarterbacks, and Deron Williams easily qualifies. There was a time when Rondo appeared to play with a bit of a chip on his shoulder whenever he went up against the top players as his position, so we'll see if that reemerges in any way tonight. Additionally, remember how well Williams played when he took on Jeremy Lin at the height of Linsanity (38 points)? Well, Rondo's current assist streak isn't nearly on the level of Jeremy Lin's rise to fame, but it isn't difficult to imagine Williams wanting to be the guy that puts an end to Rondo's personal run, so let's see if he puts some extra effort in on the defensive end tonight.

Forsberg: Two things interest me: (1) How do the Celtics respond after Friday's head-shaker. This trip just got a lot more difficult because the starters -- for whatever reason -- couldn't get it going in the middle frames Friday night against the Raptors. The first unit needs to atone by not only starting the game off strong, but more importantly not enduring the lulls that plagued the team in Toronto. (2) Remember how much of a hard time the Nets had with the Celtics' pressure last time out in Boston? That was the first time we had really seen the Rondo-Avery Bradley backcourt flourish while applying full-court pressure. Let's see if the Celtics ramp back up the intensity and make it a long night for Williams and the New Jersey ball-handlers.

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Jeff Green
19.5 1.6 0.9 34.0
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.3
AssistsE. Turner 3.4
StealsK. Olynyk 1.2
BlocksK. Olynyk 0.8