Things Are Looking Up

“The Celtics won’t be able to limit minutes and preserve their health for the postseason during their final six games.” That was the opening line of the Globe article previewing Tuesday’s Philadelphia game. I couldn’t be more pleased at how non-prescient that proved to be. The 76er’s game buoyed my spirits in several ways and I feel more optimistic than I have all season.

The mind-numbing and seemingly endless onslaught of injuries has made it a difficult year for Celtics’ fans. Not difficult to be a fan, that’s easy, but the feel-good moments have been seriously obscured by the plague of mishaps. Just this past week I was taken aback at how strained my optimism had become. I rejoiced in injury reports!? Not that there were injuries but that they were minor—originally Krstic and Shaq both looked felled like steers at the slaughter house. To see Nenad back in days and Shaq expected (fingers, toes, eyes, and various other body parts crossed for luck) back in less than a week seems like the Celtics are finally getting some positive breaks.
Shaq may have only played six minutes Sunday but for a man out for months he looked like he didn’t miss a beat. Nenad, who had started his Celtics’ career off productively, had fallen on rough times; but in his return he seemed back in the flow, and the fray. Imagine, a break that energized and allowed him some perspective, and a return to productivity.

Delonte appears to have shaken off the lingering aftereffects of the ankle sprain in spite of the bone chip(s) that will likely require cleaning in the off-season. Wafer returned Sunday and appeared to have lost little during his month-long forced idleness. Even Troy reemerged and pulled down a couple of rebounds. Can the C’s be emerging from the ominous shadow of the injury cloud?

In addition to Krstic’s strong showing Tuesday, I thought Green played his best game in green. He had an off shooting night but was uncharacteristically(?) beast-like on the boards and on defense. This more aggressive Green adds both energy and intensity to a veteran crew occasionally lacking in both.

Against Philadelphia the starters hummed on offense. The ball moved, even if occasionally a bit too much. Open looks were had by all and Rondo, even though his outside shot wasn’t falling, was the energizer bunny and field general that directed the flow. His full court dashes to end a quarter with a soft underhand toss for a basket as time expires have gotten to be a regular thing. And when the defense clamped down in the second half, the offensive production opened up a lead.

But perhaps the best part of the Sixers’ game was the bench crew. They played both a lot and well. It was a joy to watch the starters lounging on the bench as the second unit finished off the game pulling away. Ray Allen was top in minutes at 35:19, Rondo had less than 32, Garnett only 24. JO had a measured twelve and a half minutes while the super-scrubs logged substantial minutes giving the starters ample rest. For the reserves Krstic was low man with a injury-return 18:25 and Davis was high with only a half minute less than Rondo. This kind of contribution, and production, is just what one hopes for as the team tunes up for the postseason. Maybe you can have your cake and eat it too.