The Boston Celtics shot a whopping 67.6% in the first half of Friday night's game against the Toronto Raptors. Unfortunately for them, the Raptors shot 66.7% in that same half, and lead by one point, 55-54. For that reason, the Boston Celtics needed to come out in the third quarter and step up the defensive effort.
They did just that.
Holding the Toronto Raptors to 17 points on just 35% shooting, the Celtics took a commanding lead in the third quarter, dropping 33 points to give them a 15 point lead to start the fourth quarter, and ultimately a 116-103 win.
"We just turned the pressure up," said Kevin Garnett who scored 12 points and grabbed seven boards. "One of the things we talked about in the locker room- I think the first couple of games we had we've said we've wanted to start each quarter, especially the third quarter, with a lot of energy and I thought we did that tonight."
Garnett was just one of six players on the Celtics to score in double figures on the night. The rest of the starters and Rasheed Wallace all scored in double figures midway through the third quarter. It was the balanced attack of all players, in the paint and out, that lead to the Celtics victory tonight.
"Tonight I thought Rondo set the tone, and I thought Perk set the tone," coach Doc Rivers said. "I thought they were terrific tonight because everything was in the paint and it led to everything else."
The Celtics scored 68 points in the paint, 16 coming from Kendrick Perkins who was a perfect 8-8 from the field for the night finishing with 18 points and five rebounds.
"Before the game Doc said this needed to be a real power game," Perkins said. "I just thought, you know, go attack early, we posted early."
"I still think what Perk does, and he's really done a good job of it, he understands he's our picker and he understands when he rolls deep into the paint he's a scorer in the paint," said Rivers. "When he catches it outside the paint, he struggles a little bit. So he's figured it out; he's getting paint catches every night right now."
Rajon Rondo set the offensive tempo for the Celtics in the first quarter, scoring eight first quarter points and dishing out five assists. Rondo had 11 assists on the night, exactly one third of the 33 assists the Celtics had on 48 field goals made.
Rasheed Wallace's low post moves also made an appearance tonight. In the second quarter Wallace made two great moves in the paint on back to back possessions. He also went 3-6 from three point range on his way to a 15 point night. This was definitely Wallace's best performance as a Celtic in a while.
"Everyone in their career goes through a few slumps, but the thing is how you react from it," explained Wallace. "You're either going to talk about it or you're going to try to shoot your way out of it and I'm damn sure I'm going to shoot my way out of it."
Ray Allen led the Celtics with 20 points including 3-4 from three point land. Paul Pierce added 18 points and seven assists, including one monster dunk over Toronto's Chris Bosh that brought Bosh to the floor and fans to their feet.
"Somebody should have got some tissues to wipe Paul's butt- if you all get the meaning of that," Wallace said of Pierce's dunk. "It was nasty. I told (Pierce) a couple minutes ago I said ‘I didn't see none of the other games tonight but so far that's probably number one for the week, probably for the month'. It was viscious."
But do Pierce and the Celtics get up more for a game against a division foe?
"When have the Boston Celtics ever looked at an Atlantic Division?" Paul Pierce said with a smile. "We play for bigger goals. We're playing to get better; our goal is to win a championship. You know since I've been here I can't tell you how many Atlantic Division championships we've won. They don't give away nothing for that. They don't raise a banner for that in this building."