Two days ago the Celtics ran off the court at halftime to a rain of boos from the fans. Tonight, as the buzzer sounded, the scene was quite different. The Celtics, up 67-47, left to a standing ovation.
"It really left a bad taste in my mouth the way we played last game," said Paul Pierce who finished with 20 points. "I mean, nobody wants to be booed at home by our home crowd, and seeing everybody leave early. And that really sat with me that night to be honest, you know I think it sat with everybody. Today we just came in, talked to each other, and you know, just played like a team that was on a mission tonight and hopefully it can carry over for the rest of the season."
Tonight at the TD Garden they shot 63% in the first half, scoring more than double what they scored in last game's first half. A Marquis Daniels jump shot, followed by a Nate Robinson inbounds steal that he turned into a three-pointer, gave the Celtics a six point cushion going into the second quarter. The bench built on that lead early on in the second, and the starters came in midway through to put the Celtics ahead by 20 at the half.
"The second unity, they've been redesigned a couple of times so they're all out there just going off of feel and just trying to get to know one another," said Kevin Garnett. "But as far as energy and effort, you always have to praise them for that and like Paul said we have to get off to better starts and let them feed off of that energy."
They would not relinquish that lead for the remainder of the game, as Gino made an appearance at the Garden with just over two minutes to go and the Celtics cruised to a 122-103 victory.
Let's forget for a second that this was the Indiana Pacers. After such a poor effort against the Grizzlies, it is at least encouraging to know that this team can bounce back the next game in the fashion that they did, and beat up on a poor team. One way to limit the Big Three's minutes is to build up a big enough lead in the first three quarters so they don't have to touch the floor in the fourth.
"We're supposed to be able to bounce back; that's the type of team we are," said Paul Pierce. "The important thing for us is to just play better. We want to start building these habits going into the playoffs and it's not too late. We're going to use these last 18 games to start to gather some momentum and start playing better basketball. We're going to try to win all of them. If we don't, regardless, the key is even if we lose some games to feel good about the way we play and what we left out there on the court."
Once again, it was Nate Robinson who provided that spark off the bench for the Celtics. He got the crowd going throughout the game, draining five three pointers on his way to 15 points, five assists, and four steals. He has more than fit into his role on this team as the backup point guard and offensive force off the bench.
"You know, listen, when Nate and the second unit, when they play like that, the tone of the game changes," said Coach Doc Rivers. "We've just got to keep him aggressive."
The other guard didn't have such a bad game himself. Rajon Rondo had another double-double tonight, scoring 16 points and dishing out 11 assists. Rondo and Robinson make a pretty good 1-2 punch at the PG position, and while their style of play is different, Robinson is learning a lot from Rondo playing with him in games and practices.
"He's a smart player, he's feisty, he knows how to play the game," said Robinson. "Just being along side of him, watching him play, watching the areas where I can pick up different traits off of him. When we're in there together it's kind of hard to guard. You just got to pick your poison when you're in there against us. With him in practice, me pushing him, him pushing me, it's definitely going to make our game better."
Celtics fans can sleep a little easier tonight, but Sunday's game in Cleveland will say a lot more about this team than tonight's game can.