One day after losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Boston Celtics returned home to the TD Garden to host the Detroit Pistons. They weren't very welcoming to the Pistons, as the Celtics jumped out to a 31-15 first quarter lead, and never looked back- winning 119-93.
"A totally different team today, came in with a lot more energy, a lot more aggressive, five guys who were aggressive," Kevin Garnett said on a night where he tallied 14 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. "I thought that our bench was aggressive also. We had to talk amongst each other, and we just came out and played."
It appeared as though the Celtics were playing with a bit of an attitude and determination to put the Pistons away early. Paul Pierce got off to a hot start, driving to the hoop early on in the first quarter, scoring 12 points while getting to the line five times. Early foul trouble would limit his minutes for the rest of the half, but he was not needed.
"We obviously are really working to try to re-establish him," said Coach Doc Rivers. "And like I said before the game, it's coming around. It's still not there, but, I mean, that was great to see. He looked explosive. So those are signs I keep seeing that I think he's getting closer and our team's getting closer."
"...Paul is aggressive like he is, there isn't a forward in the world that could play him, a player whoever could guard him," Garnett said. He's hard to guard when he is aggressive like that. He sets the tone not just for the offense but for the defense also.
Rivers said before the game that the bench would need to play better than they have of late in order for the Celtics to see success. He also noted how Marquis Daniels and Rasheed Wallace, specifically, would need to improve. That effort and energy was there off the bench tonight, as they came in and built upon a lead that the starters established.
"I mean, the bench is important every night we got to always either sustain the lead or push the lead up if we can," said Marquis Daniels who was one of seven players to reach double figures in scoring. "Never come out with no energy, and that's what we had yesterday, so we always got to come in with it."
The recent play of Glen Davis is not going unnoticed by Rivers either, as he had good things to say about Davis' energy and decision making on the court.
"He's playing hard, you know, and really all our guys are. Just keeping it simple, playing it hard, and playing it the right way. You know, baby's moving the ball when he should move the ball, he's shooting the ball when he should shoot the ball."
On a night where Rajon Rondo only accounted for six assists, the Celtics tied a season high with 34 assists on the night. On top of that, they only committed one turnover in the first half.
"Trying to see, as Doc likes to say, the hockey pass; setting up for that next man to pass it to that next man for the bucket," said Rasheed Wallace who finished with eight points on the night.
One player who can benefit from these "hockey passes" is newcomer Michael Finley. Finley put together his best game in a Celtics uniform, scoring 15 points on 6-7 shooting from the field. Finley is starting to gel with the second unit and work his way into the rotation as a scoring threat.
"It gives us another guy where you have to step up," Wallace said. "And I say that from an offensive standpoint, you know guys will have to respect Fin's jump shot and driving ability, and that pretty much leaves all the post players for a one on one."
"Whenever my number is called I just want to be prepared, and tonight is just an example of that," said Finley. "My teammates got me in good position to make plays and I just made the most of it... Like I always said, this team was a good one before I got here. I just want to come in and help them be a better team. If that's possible I'm all for it... I think I can help this team get to the ultimate goal, and that's the reason I came."
After the win, the Celtics improve to 27-6 against sub .500 teams on the day of the game, but it is still the 13-18 record against teams .500+ on the day of the game that is of concern. The Celtics did not help that cause after yesterday's game against the Cavaliers, but eight out of the next ten games are against teams with winning records. If the Celtics want to establish themselves as a team that can compete with some of the best in the league, there is still time to do so.
"We'll see, we'll just keep plugging along... We got a tough late season West Coast trip, and I don't even remember having a trip this late like this but it is what it is and we have to go out there and play them, and all the teams are tough to play," Rivers stated. "Clearly if we can win a lot of them it'd be great for us, but my focus still is improving our team, just getting better. It may be strong steps but we got to keep taking them."