Eight games in a row on the road — it was supposed to do Boston in, knock them out of the playoffs. It was the biggest test of the season and the Celtics old legs were not going to be able to live up to it.
Friday night the road trip ends in Philadelphia and at the end of the night the Celtics could move into first place in the Atlantic Division.
The stage was set for that by Boston’s 100-91 win over the Bucks Thursday night. That win moved the Celtics half a game behind the Sixers for the division lead — and the automatic four seed that comes with it. Which means avoiding the Heat or Bulls in the first round of the playoffs.
Even if the Celtics don’t grab the division lead Friday, the win over the Bucks — breaking Milwaukee’s six-game winning streak — put them on solid footing to make the postseason.
The Bucks are the 9 seed in the East but are now four games back of the 7 seed Celtics — that’s a lot of ground to have to make up in just 20 games. (Which is how many games the Celtics have left this season.)
(The team that might be more nervous about the charging Bucks is the Knicks — except the Knicks have won five in a row themselves. New York is 1.5 games ahead of the Bucks. Milwaukee might have better chance to catch the 76ers who are 4.5 games ahead of them but slumping.)
The Sixers got their key win over the Bucks the old fashioned way — good defense. Well, a half of good defense. After a tight first half the Celtics held Milwaukee to 29.3 percent shooting in the second half. For the game the Bucks backcourt of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings combined to shoot 12-of-32. Which is still better than Drew Gooden’s 2-of-12.
Meanwhile Paul Pierce had 10 points in the third quarter on his way to a game high 25.
If Boston can get a performance like this on Friday night — if the old legs can do it one more time on this road trip — they will go home with after a 5-3 road trip with a half-game lead in the Atlantic. Something nobody saw coming.
Markieff Morris made a lot of noise this summer about being unhappy in Phoenix and wanting out, after the Suns traded his twin brother Marcus to the Pistons as part of a salary dump. He openly demanded a trade, and said on the record several times that his long-term future is not with the team. He’s changed his tune since training camp started, once he realized he has no choice but to play for the Suns unless they decide to trade him. But according to the Detroit Free Press‘ Vincent Ellis, there is interest from the one team he would be guaranteed to want to play for:
Markieff’s unhappiness with the Suns started when they traded his brother, so he would obviously jump at the chance to reunite with Marcus. And they don’t have much in the way of power forward depth beyond the other Morris twin and Ersan Ilyasova, so it would be a good fit from a basketball standpoint. But with the brothers’ felony assault charges pending, reuniting them on the same roster might not be the best idea, and it also opens up the possibility of having to trade one of them in the future and the other one being unhappy. So far, the Suns have shown no inclination to trade Markieff, but if that changes, the Pistons are an interesting destination to keep an eye on.
Gregg Popovich’s habit of resting key players at times has become the norm around the league as more and more studies have shown it helps players perform at higher levels plus helps reduce injury risk. Still, Popovich is the poster child.
New Spur LaMarcus Aldridge wasn’t used to this but got introduced to it in a very Popovich way, reports Jeff McDonald at the Express-News.
LaMarcus Aldridge missed his first workout of training camp today with leg tightness. Or rather, the Spurs — being the Spurs — held him out for precautionary reasons.
“We sat him out,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “He didn’t want to do it. I said, ‘Welcome to the Spurs. Go sit.’”
He might as well have added “get used to this.” Aldridge is going to get some rest this season. Not as many as Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker, but he’s going to get some nights off.
Remember, Aldridge is a guy who played through a torn ligament in his thumb last season because he thought the Blazers could make noise in the playoffs (and they might have had Wesley Matthews not gotten hurt). He’s not a guy used to being told to sit and rest.
It’s his “Welcome to the Spurs” moment.