Prior to tonight's game, Paul Pierce spoke with reporters and said that the Celtics must prepare for the NBA playoffs like one would a boxing match. You've got to put in the time and effort in the regular season the same way you would train and spar for a big prize fight. Tonight in front of the home crowd, Pierce and the Celtics beat up on the Charlotte Bobcats to the tune of a 104-80 victory. It was their largest win at home since a 118-90 shellacking of the Chicago Bulls on October 30, 2009.
The Celtics took a nine point lead into the third quarter, and extended it to 21 by the time the fourth quarter rolled around.
"I thought the key was the third quarter," said coach Doc Rivers. "We came out and extended the lead. That's when you take away games- when you're up ten at halftime and you get it to twenty or you're up ten at halftime and they cut it to one or two."
Paul Pierce had 27 points in three quarters on 9/13 shooting while adding four assists and three steals. It was the most points he has scored since he dropped a season high 35 against the Hawks in a losing effort.
"It's my first game I've played without the knee pads," Pierce said with a laugh. "I feel pretty good. This is the best I've felt in quite a while body wise, just getting up and down the court. No more nagging injuries and I'm ready to go. Hopefully I can continue that way and finish off the season on a strong note."
Asked about his minor altercation with Stephen Jackson which resulted in a double technical foul, Pierce downplayed the event but did note that clashing with opposing players and showing that extra fire and attitude on the court is something that they could use more of.
"I think we need to do that more. I think that's who we are, truthfully. We're a team that usually intimidates the other team, pushes them around, talks trash. You guys know that's who we are and I think we have to somewhat be that way but not to where it's a distraction to the team, not to where it's costing us the game.
Nate Robinson provided that token "spark" off the bench tonight, adding 16 points including 4/6 from three-point range. Robinson has gelled with this team rather easily and has quickly become a fan favorite in Boston.
"Nate is pure energy," said Kevin Garnett. He is almost like fresh air. He fits right in with our team. He is unselfish. We all knew that he could play but his personality is what stands out mostly about him. We like the way he plays. He comes out and just puts it on the floor. He is the reason we turned the corner like we did."
"He's our X-factor in a lot of ways," said Rivers. "I don't know if we need him to play great to win but I know when he plays great it's tough for us to lose."
Not only is Robinson communicating well with his teammates on the court, he has quickly bonded with them off the court as well. Prior to the game he was watching previous game video with Paul Pierce, and after the game he was joking around with locker buddy Rasheed Wallace.
"We have him and Kevin; I can't imagine if they were roommates- it would be amazing," joked Rivers. "They are both very active and very loud. The guys love him. I think they love him more because he has been donating a lot in the card games. That's what's ingratiated them more than anything. But I just think they like him because of his personality. I think he's a free spirit in a good way and I think that's a good thing for our team- we probably needed a little bit of that."
This being Robinson's fourth game at the TD Garden in a Celtics uniform, he is starting to get comfortable with the surroundings.
"The first couple of times I was kind of nervous because I'm used to always being on the other side playing against you guys. It's always kind of been that rivalry Boston- New York but now being at home here it's definitely made it easier for me. The fans, you know, they welcomed me with open arms as well so you got to take you hat off to them so I'm just happy to be here and happy to be playing."
Robinson also got his first real look at Gino, who made an appearance at the Garden tonight for the first time in a while.
"Yeah, I've seen everybody dance with that guy!" said Robinson after it was explained to him who Gino was. "Is that when everybody is doing the little old school dance?"
Yes, that's the dance. Let's hope we see it more often.