Two wins in a row, both of the comeback variety. But the Celtics victories over the New Orleans Hornets on Saturday and the Knicks on Monday had something else in common. They were both made possible because of the Celts continued sparkling play on defense.
Against the Hornets, the C's bounced back from allowing 51 points in the first half to just 34 in the second, while holding New Orleans to 28.6 percent shooting (6-of-21) in the third quarter. On Monday in Madison Square Garden, it was more of the same, with the Knicks managing just 35 points after halftime after posting 51 in the first half, and shooting a lousy 31.4 percent following the break. Furthermore, neither of the Knicks stars, Amar'e Stoudemire or Carmelo Anthony, made a single shot in the fourth quarter of the Celts 96-86 win.
On Wednesday night, the Celts (50-19) will look to win their third straight when the Memphis Grizzlies come to town at 7:30 p.m. EDT, on Comcast Sports Net New England. The Grizzlies (39-32) currently hold down the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, two games ahead of Houston and three ahead of Phoenix and Utah. Memphis, led by power forward Zach Randolph (20.1 PPG, 12.6 RPG) has won three of its last four but dropped a 116-110, overtime decision to the C's back on Nov. 13, at FedEx Forum. Paul Pierce led the Celts with 28n points in that one, while Rajon Rondo pitched in with 17 assists.
The C's got big games in New York from Kevin Garnett, who had 24 points and 11 rebounds while holding Stoudemire to 16 points on 7-of-15 shooting, and Paul Pierce, who finished with 21 and took over in the decisive fourth quarter. It was Pierce's best game in two weeks, since dropping 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting on Milwaukee in an 89-83 win. A win Wednesday night will move the Celts back into a tie for first place overall in the Eastern Conference with the idle Chicago Bulls, who hammered the Atlanta Hawks, 114-81 on Tuesday.
The game will also mark the return to Boston of Tony Allen, the former Celts reserve swingman who signed a three-year deal with the Grizzlies last summer. Allen has been starting in place of injured Memphis star Rudy Gay for the past several weeks and is averaging 8.3 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game while also serving as the Grizzlies' key defensive stopper.