A little practice can go a long way. Fresh off of a three-day rest, the rejuvenated Celtics returned to the TD Garden and beat up on the already beaten up Utah Jazz, 105-86. All five of the starters starters, as well as Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels scored in double figures on the night, as the Celtics worked the ball well and got all involved.
"Over the stretch of eight games we barely had any practice time," said Paul Pierce, who scored 13 points while adding six boards and six assists. "So throughout that course sometimes you play, you play, and you really don't practice and you lose some of the discipline that you have throughout the course of practicing before you play."
"It's like just revisiting everybody's individual lab," said Ray Allen. "You go in there and mix up your potion, whatever it is... your game together. When you're not in [the gym] for a while you definitely need to get that feeling back to it."
Doc Rivers could not stress enough how important it was to get back in the gym and work out some of the kinks. It seemed that many of the issues were addressed, as the Celtics held their opponent to 90 points or lower for the eighth time in nine games. The only time they didn't hold their opponent to under 90 points was in the loss to Phoenix on November 6. In fact, the Celtics are the only team in the shot clock era to hold opponents to under 90 points in their first six wins.
"I just thought the execution tonight was absolutely fantastic- especially the beginning of the game," Coach Doc Rivers said. "I think we got two or three lay-ups and two wide-open shots to start the game. And the defense, the hands were active."
Once again the Celtics jumped all over the opponent in the third quarter, scoring 30 points in the quarter and holding the Jazz to 18. With 3.8 seconds left in the third quarter, Rajon Rondo drove down the court and laid in the ball at the buzzer to give the Celtics a 22-point lead.
"It's called get out of the way play," Rajon Rondo joked. "Rasheed stepped up and set a great pick, and left me one on one with the big, and I just tried to get to the rim as quick as possible. It was just good spacing on the floor. Doc brought in shooters so you couldn't leave the corner."
It is certainly special when a team has a bench full of guys who can play a significant role in any game at any moment. That has been the case so far this season, as players coming off the bench have stepped up and excelled in their role. Kevin Garnett, who had a game high 18 points tonight, is quick to rave about how happy he is with the bench so far.
"[Marquis Daniels] makes everything so easy because he can hound the ball, he can score, he's a post threat. And Rasheed, he just stretches the defense. The shocker here is probably Shelden Williams. He's rebounding, he's keeping the balls alive, he's perfect for this team. He's that live wire that we need, especially with Glen [Davis] being out and he's came in and filled the void that was lost for a second."
The Jazz were clearly outmatched and outcoached for the majority of the game, and they could do nothing but tip their hats to the Celtics on their way out.
"In the second-third quarter, they came out, they executed their offense," Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan said. "They do a great job executing their offense and they're very, very, good defensively. They made it tough for us. We turned the ball over for 15 points in the first half... and they just were all over us."
There was a chance that we would not see the Rajon Rondo / Deron Williams matchup tonight because of Williams' back problems, but he was cleared to play after the pre-game shoot around. He ended up scoring 13 points and dishing out seven assists, in a less-than-Williams-like performance, but didn't blame his poor performance on his back.
"We all played bad today," Williams admitted. "We all have to play better to win, and we haven't done that on a consistent basis this year- and it's frustrating."
"We're soft- and there's no way around it," Williams continued. "We're not playing tough at all. They were quick on loose balls, quick on the floor. They did what you have to do to win. They're a great team. They have a group of guys who know their roles, one through ten."