The Boston Celtics were still feeling lucky two days after St. Patrick’s Day because when they took the court Wednesday night. LeBron James was not on the floor. The end result was the Celtics coming away with a 101-96 win over the two-time defending champs. James sat out with back spasms that had to have Celtic fans and anyone still claiming to have Irish eyes smiling.
James twisted his back Tuesday night against Cleveland. The Heat sat the reigning MVP on the second game of a back to back. With less than twenty games remaining, the Heat and other contenders are being strategic in resting their star players. Everyone wants to be ready come playoff time.
The Celtics, however, are not playing for the post season. They are on their way to the NBA lottery. At 22-46 the best the Celtics can do is play well and set a good foundation for next year. A win against the Heat, even minus LeBron James, is still a quality win for first year NBA coach Brad Stevens and his upstart team. It wasn’t as if the Heat had a D-League squad on the court Wednesday night. All-star and sure to be hall of famer Dwayne Wade was in the building and managed to put up 17 points.
The Celtics had a balanced attack led by forward Brandon Bass. Bass scored 18 points and played his usual hard defense. Forward Jared Sullinger had 14 and Jeff Green chipped in 13 points. Rajon Rondo, the man who Celtic fans are desiring to lead the Celtics back to respectability turned in a stat line of 9 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds, narrowly missing his first triple double of the year. Even if it took James suffering from back spasms to help the Irish eyes of the Celtics to smile, they’ll take it.
It’s not as if the Heat conceded the game and didn’t come ready to play. They still have something to play for and that’s namely the number one seed in the East. They are currently trailing the Indiana Pacers by 3 games. Forward Chris “Birdman” Anderson came off the bench and added 16 points and 8 rebounds. 10 of those points came in the fourth quarter. Miami forward Chris Bosh, the third member of the “big three,” disappeared in the 4th quarter when he grabbed no boards and put up a goose egg for points. Bosh may have been speaking specifically about his performance when he said the Heat needed to do a better job if they want to win.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens enjoyed the win with humility as he pointed out to the media that the game’s best player was not suited up for the Heat. As Stevens’ first year comes to a merciful end, many Celtic fans and observers are optimistic that Stevens is the man for the job despite having over twenty games under .500. Many teams would have given up and put themselves in position to be blown out every night. Just look at the slumped shoulders and poor play of the Philadelphia 76ers. Boston has played hard, night in and night out. Given the roster, that is a testament to Stevens.
The off-season will be an eventful time for the Celtics as they continue to rebuild. One thing they can hang their hat on is that they beat the champs and maybe those good vibes can transfer to next year. Even though LeBron James’ back spasms kept him out of the game, the Celtics hope the luck of the Irish has their eyes smiling again next season.
By Tony Bowers