Ray Allen left as a free agent. Rajon Rondo is out for the season. Kevin Garnett is recovering from an ankle injury.
With the center of the Celtics team that took the franchise’s 17th NBA title in 2008 otherwise occupied, Jeff Green led Boston into the playoffs.
The Celtics swingman scored 34 points, including a 3-pointer with 45 seconds left to snap a 2-minute scoring drought, to help Boston beat the Detroit Pistons 98-93 and clinch the team’s 6th consecutive playoff berth.
”We knew we were a playoff team before the season started, regardless of the injuries and everything,” recounted Paul Pierce, the only holdover from the team that claimed it all in 2008 and returned to the NBA finals 2 years later.
”The playoffs is a totally different game; it’s nothing like the regular season. At least these guys will go out there and get their feet wet, see some shots go in, rebound the ball and get some experience.”
Pierce and Brandon Bass scored 17 apiece, and Bass added 7 rebounds for the Celtics, who had lost 2 in a row and 7 of their previous 9.
The victory, joined with Philadelphia’s 88-83 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats, left Boston 8 1/2 games before the 76ers with 8 games to play. It is the 6th consecutive season Boston has reached the playoffs since the New Big 3 was assembled in the summer of 2007.
Even with Allen gone and Garnett missing 7 straight games with an injured left ankle, the Celtics are back in the postseason. Boston is 7th in the Eastern Conference, 2 games behind 6th-place Chicago and 2 1/2 before 8th-place Milwaukee Bucks.
”There wasn’t any doubt in my mind or anybody in the locker room that we wouldn’t be in the playoffs,” said Jason Terry, who had 10 points and 5 rebounds.
Green came to Boston Celtics in the 2011 trade that sent Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City, but he missed all of last season after heart surgery. Baseball spreads
Now he seems like the Celtics’ best hope of making a postseason run.
”Jeff’s a very, very good player, and I think (that’s) what you have seen,” Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. ”He got off to a hard start this year and clearly he had major, major, life threatening surgery last year. … I didn’t like to see him do well tonight, but in the main every other game you pull for him, especially with what he went through.”
Green scored 13 points in the 4th quarter and added 6 rebounds and 4 blocked shots in the game. He has turned into one of the players the Celtics look to for big plays as the clock runs down, sharing the job that Pierce had occupied for more than ten years.
The Boston Celtics led by as many as 18 points before the Pistons scored the last 11 points of the 3rd quarter and opened the 4th with Jonas Jerebko’s 3-point play. Boston went into another scoring slump late in the 4th, going 2 minutes, 9 seconds without a point while Detroit Pistons cut a 93-87 deficit down to 2 points.