The last four games at the
nursing home TD Garden have been fun to watch for Celtics fans, and it's about time. Prior to the Celtics' win against the Indiana Pacers on March 12th, they were a measly 18-12 at home. Twelve days later they improve upon that record and make it 22-12 at home. Even more noteworthy is the fact that each win has been by double digits, with the Celtics scoring over 109 points in each victory. It appears that confidence, not frustration, is now growing in the Garden- and it couldn't come at a better time.
Led by the rejuvenated and reenergized Paul Pierce, the Celtics are playing the best basketball they've played all season. With the win in Houston and Dallas, and now the home win against Denver, Celtics fans can finally point to big games in which the Celtics came out on top. While Doc Rivers states that the players never lost confidence in themselves, the losses certainly did not give them confidence.
The NBA is a game of runs, and while the Celtics hit quite a rut around Christmas, culminating with the worst loss of the season at home against the Nets, they have since gone 10-4, including 6-1 at home. The Celtics have five more home games in a row, four of which are against playoff contenders. They can roll over at home like they have done many times this season, or they can continue to play the type of basketball that we all thought they were capable of playing before the season started and that we have seen in three of the last four games.
"This is the longest home stand we've had this year I believe," said Paul Pierce on a night he shot 10-16 for 27 points and seven rebounds. "It's good to finally be home for two weeks ending out the season, Hopefully we can just start playing well in this building and gather some momentum going into the playoffs. This is that time of the year, this is the stretch run, going into those last couple if laps, this is where you really want to be playing well going into the playoffs."
The last time the Celtics faced the Nuggets in late February the Nuggets jumped out to a huge first quarter lead and ended up winning 114-105. In that game, Paul Pierce shot 2-10 for only five points. A little more than a month later, the Nuggets came to Boston. The team the Nuggets would face this time would not be the same team they saw in February.
"Yeah, well completely different team- I thought defensively overall we were just so much better, so much more active," said Coach Doc Rivers after the game. "And then Paul [Pierce] obviously was different. You know, all of them are different. They're better, they're healthier."
They are certainly better, and it showed on the boards tonight as well. The Celtics grabbed 45 rebounds tonight, with a season high 17 offensive rebounds. While it has been Glen Davis as of late leading the charge on the offensive glass, it looks as though his intensity on the offensive glass has spread to other members of the team. Rondo ended up with six offensive rebounds tonight, and Garnett grabbed four.
"It was totally a group effort," said Garnett. I thought Paul, Rondo, they came back especially when we went with the small lineup. I thought everybody took a group effort to come in and crash the glass. We knew that if we could rebound, we could get fast break points, we can get the ball to Rondo, hit the lanes and get some easy baskets. But it was totally a collective effort tonight."
The Unlikely Hero
Rajon Rondo had a triple double on the night with 11 points. 15 assists, and 11 rebounds, and Kevin Garnett ended the night with 20 and 10. It was Tony Allen, however, who may have had the biggest impact on the game. Allen finished with just 13 points and two rebounds, but it was his energy and timeliness on the court that provided the Celtics with the spark they really needed off the bench when Pierce and Marquis Daniels sat with foul trouble.
"I really commended Tony because as a young player when you sit and you don't play for a few games, it can bother you," said Pierce. "The good thing about it, he's been staying ready. Tonight was a night that we needed him. That's the type of team we have- professionalism. He stayed professional and when his number was called, he was ready, and that's what we need from everybody."
Allen's most noteworthy attribute is his on-ball defense, and he showed that again tonight, playing solid defense when defending Carmelo Anthony.
"He was huge," said Garnett. "Not even just his defense, but just like Paul said, to concur, his energy was off the charts, I thought he was aggressive, he put the onus on Melo [Anthony] obviously when he was guarding him. He put the pressure on defense, and that's what you want- to be aggressive."
One thing is for certain, all the time on the bench isn't affecting Allen the way it might for some players.
"Well I just look at it like they got a quiet assassin and whenever you all want to unleash him he's going to be ready," said Allen. "There isn't any frustration over here because I know what I'm capable of doing."
Allen has teased us on numerous occasions with flashes of greatness, but it is his consistency that has been an issue. In fact, consistency has been an issue for the most part all year with this Celtics team. Now is their time to buckle down and continue to win games down the stretch, especially at home.
The ball is literally in their court, it's up to them what they do with it.