The Boston Celtics entered the night ranked second in the league in points allowed per game, at 88.3. The Golden State Warriors entered the night ranked first in the league in points per game at 111.2. Something had to give, and thanks to a third quarter effort that saw the Celtics go on a 12-0 run at one point, the Celtics prevailed, 109-95.
The Warriors matched the Celtics for the first half, to the surprise of many. Sure, they can score, but they also rank last in points allowed per game, at 113.7. For that reason alone, it was a surprise that the Celtics only led by one point at the half.
"We just know we are a better team as far as being solid and consistent," said Kevin Garnett. "The captain (Paul Pierce) here knows how to pull everyone together and just talk to us about what we need to do to go out in the second half and I thought we followed his lead and followed what he said to us and took it to heart versus personal and applied what he said to the game and it was beneficial and much needed."
It may seem to many that the Celtics are playing "down" to their opponent. Cases in point are the squeakers against Minnesota and New Jersey, and the loss to the Indiana Pacers. Other times, they stray away from their game or fall into the trap of playing at the opposition's pace. The Suns came in and played their style of basketball, creating problems for the Celtics, and the Hawks came in simply determined to beat the Celtics.
"I just feel like, you know, we beat ourselves when we come in with a lack of energy sometimes," said Kendrick Perkins, who had 15 points and seven rebounds on the night. "You know, breaking our defensive rules; we just beat ourselves. I just feel that we need to stick together, stick to the game plan, and do it hard as we possibly can. The rest will take care of itself."
It is also evident to coach Doc Rivers that his team isn't quite playing from start to finish yet. Too often have the Celtics starters come out flat to open the game, sometimes even relying on the second unit to right the ship. The same could be said tonight, when talking about the difference in play from the first and second halves.
"Well, we had to play better in the second half," admitted coach Doc Rivers. "You know, honestly, we didn't play very well in the first half. So, you know, again, we're just working. We're going to get better. We have to become a 48-minute team, and that's what we're talking about a lot right now."
Asked what got the Celtics going in the second half, Kevin Garnett responded by saying, "(Rajon) Rondo. I thought he changed the momentum of the game. I thought he was a lot more solid than the first half. He consolidated the ball, he was aggressive, he picked up the energy, started picking up full court. He just changed the whole momentum.
Rajon Rondo scored 12 third quarter points on his way to 18 on the night. He also dished out 12 assists.
"The thing that changed the game, I thought that Rondo started getting aggressive, started attacking the basket," Kendrick Perkins said. "It changed the whole game. Every time he attacks, it opens up the floor for everybody else."
"It seemed like he was a little frustrated in the first half for whatever reason," Perkins continued. "Then he came out in the second half, and that was the Rondo I'm used to seeing. He was attacking, finding guys, dunking on people, and just back to his old self."
The Warriors came into the game with only seven healthy players, Raja Bell being the eighth player to play, even though he is scheduled to have surgery on his wrist in the near future. One of the Celtics' game plans going in was to feed the ball down low, as the Warriors were undermanned and undersized.
"That was the focus of the game", said Paul Pierce, "you know try to get the ball inside, knowing how small they were and undermanned so we wanted to take advantage of that, get the ball to Kevin (Garnett) and Perk (Kendrick Perkins) as much as possible in the post and they were able to score inside and make plays."
Paul Pierce scored 19 points tonight, and passed Isiah Thomas for 48th all-time in scoring, at 18,824. If Pierce can score eight points on Friday night against the Orlando Magic, he will pass Chet Walker for 47th all-time.