We have seen it many times with this Boston Celtics team this season. The game starts at a certain time, but the players on the Celtics don't show up until sometime around the midway point. The same can be said tonight. The Celtics trailed by 15 points at halftime, 57-42, playing from behind the entire half.
The starters, minus KG who was out with a right thigh bruise, looked asleep the entire first half. Rondo let his man Earl Watson score 18 first half points, Kendrick Perkins had trouble finding the ball on the offensive and defensive end, and Paul Pierce could not buy a basket.
It was clear that the Celtics were missing Kevin Garnett out there. Garnett, known for his defensive intensity, gets the Celtics in gear and all on the same page defensively. It took the Celtics an entire half to realize that they would need to adjust to the fact that he wasn't shouting in their ears.
"We said at halftime we said we weren't talking on defense and usually Kevin [Garnett] leads us in that category as far as talking, being in the spots, having everybody in their spots," Pierce said. "I guess it took us a half to realize that Kevin wasn't going to be out there. So we got it together, that is an adjustment we got to make when it's relevant. We got to make it a little bit earlier at the start of the game and realize there are things we have to do when he's out."
The Celtics came out in the second half looking more like Dr. Jekyll and less like Mr. Hyde, while showing something that was not seen in the building up to that point: effort.
"Just straight energy, just focus," coach Doc Rivers said of what the Celtics did differently in the second half. "We didn't change one defensive assignment. We didn't make one adjustment. We just did it harder, and did it better."
Kendrick Perkins and Ray Allen led the charge in the third quarter, scoring 13 points and 11 points respectively. Rajon Rondo added five assists and two steals in the quarter. The Celtics dropped 35 points and gave up only 20- tying the game at 77 by the end of the quarter.
Perkins ended the night with 19 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks. Asked what he did differently in the third quarter, Perkins said, "Finishing around the basket, I quit putting it on the floor and I just wanted to do some defensive things, checking my defense to help the team win."
Up to this point, Paul Pierce was 0-8 from the field, scoring seven points all on free-throws. Pierce would end up with 21 points, going 4-7 from the field in the fourth and hitting five free throws. Also, he ended the night with five steals.
"I've been in this league long enough to shrug off shooting slumps that really don't bother me," said Pierce. "The shots I was getting were good shots. I was thinking it's just got to be a matter of time before they go in."
Rasheed Wallace started the night in place of the injured Kevin Garnett. He finished the game with nine points and thirteen rebounds to go with three steals and zero turnovers. Wallace didn't know he was starting until about twenty minutes before game time when Rivers told him.
"It's a different preparation," Wallace admitted. "You know when you're coming off the bench you're looking more at the guys that they have coming off the bench. At first I was more focused on [Tyler] Hansbrough and what they have coming but I had to turn that focus to [Roy] Hibbert and [Troy] Murhpy and try to do what I can with them."
Wallace didn't have much success in guarding Murphy, who had 24 points and 18 rebounds on the night, but Rivers chose to stay with Wallace in the second half over Brian Scalabrine.
Ray Allen notes how different it is for a player to adjust from a bench role to a starting role, especially on such short notice.
"Rasheed might try to get us more shots because we're starting the game, so he's been very professional about it because he's started most of his career so layups he's out there getting everybody shots. But now he's in the starting lineup it changes; he needs to get his own shot, he needs to worry about getting himself going and making sure everybody is sharp and he knows what Hibbert is doing to start the game off."
Kendrick Perkins, who started alongside Wallace for the night, said that while Wallace's numbers weren't eye catching, he had an affect on the game in many ways.
"He goes out there and rebounds- his defense and energy is up," Perkins noted. "He just goes out there and does the little things. He doesn't worry about scoring the ball or nothing like that he just goes out there and plays his role to the fullest."
Rajon Rondo ended the night with 15 points and nine assists, and Earl Watson did not record a single point in the second half. Ray Allen had a game-high 23 points, and hit some extremely timely three-pointers during the Celtics third quarter run. Eddie House did his best to stop the bleeding in the second quarter, scoring all of his 10 points then but failed to score in the second half.
The Celtics play their next game on Christmas day in Orlando. Rivers expects Garnett to be suited up for that game, and more importantly the entire west coast trip. Rivers stressed the importance of having Garnett for that trip, and explained to Garnett that it was important for him to get rest for a couple of days to be healthy for the trip. Garnett got hit in the thigh against Memphis, but didn't tell anyone it was hurting him until yesterday or today according to Rivers.