Tonight the Celtics hosted the star-laden but clearly fatigued Denver Nuggets at the Garden for the second home game of the year. The game is a poignant one for the C’s as Doc is mourning his father who passed away on Sunday. However, the mood on the court is anything but somber, as the Celtics continue their evolution toward membership in the ranks of the NBA elite.
The Celtics start strong, with each of the starting five making significant contributions on the court. Rajon Rondo twice steps into passing lanes, picks off the ball and goes in uncontested, and then weaves through the lane for a lay-up in a half-court set. Paul Pierce twice finds Kendrick Perkins underneath for dunks, once on a behind the back pass as Pierce drives across the lane. Ray Allen throws a look-away pass to Kevin Garnett for a dunk, hits a three and floats around doing everything right. Garnett hits three jumpers and a fall-away and grabs every rebound that comes his way. Pierce scores on drives and jumpers like he’s working the room in a Toronto nightclub. The C’s defense is tight. Meanwhile, Denver can’t seem to stop anything. End of the quarter stats tell the story: 38-22 Boston with 71% shooting, 12 assists, and 6 steals. But even those numbers can not convey what an offensive clinic this was, easily the best quarter of the year so far for the Cs.
On Denver’s part, Marcus Camby had a couple of nice jumpers and overall was very active on the offensive end. The other two all stars, Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson match Camby’s six points in the quarter, basically keeping the Nuggets in the game (if being down 16 after the first quarter is "in the game").
Sure, great first quarter, but they can’t keep this up, especially with the four bench players taking over, right? Oh, those would be your crazy uncle’s Celtics, those of the last 4 years. Tonight, they pour it on. Eddie House hits two three-pointers and has his toe on the line on another jumper. Brian Scalabrine gets a tip-in. Tony Allen drives for a lay-up and then pulls up in the lane for another two. Starters return with more of the same. You can’t even keep up with who’s scoring, it happens so fast and so often. House comes back in for the final possession, gets a kick out pass from Tony Allen, and yes, drains it.
The Cs only score 41 in the quarter. The half ends 77-38. Yes, 77-38, that’s no misprint. If you are looking for negatives in the quarter, there is always the fact that James Posey left the game with back spasms and will not return (Nene is also gone with a thumb injury). Rondo briefly turned into Bad Rajon with a couple of sloppy turnovers and one of his patented nothing-but-backboard drives, but then he hit a jump shot. Again, no misprint, Rajon Rondo hit a jump shot. Pierce has 20 at the half; Garnett has 14 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, and a blocked shot (some day it will get old to say how good KG is, but not yet); Ray Allen has 13 points, and Eddie House 11. Big Baby Davis never played but scored anyway. Ok, that didn’t happen but every other miraculous thing that could, did.
The third quarter opens with the burning question: will the Celtics cross 100 points before Denver gets 50? Okay, maybe not, but it is deliciously close. For a few brief moments, it looks like the break has refreshed Denver, with Kenyon Martin looking particularly displeased about the beating, but Denver quickly lapses back into their first half malaise. The Celtics, meanwhile, continue hitting on all cylinders. KG executes a beautiful one-handed dunk on an alley oop from Pierce, Garnett floating effortlessly while throwing it down. The Celtics continue to do little wrong on offense, although they do slow the pace. Their shooting percentage at the end of the quarter remains at 72%. Their defensive intensity abates somewhat and Denver wins the quarter 28-26, closing the gap to a mere 37 points (103-66). Denver: what is there to say? They make some nice shots, but the complete lack of defense is crippling. To add insult to injury, Mike Gorman actually compares them to the Washington Generals attempting to do battle with the Globetrotters. It’s nice to be the Globetrotters for a change.
Two small moments highlight the third quarter. First, Rondo sets a pick on Camby. Camby lowers his shoulder, drilling Rajon and sending him flying. Camby gets the foul, close to a flagrant one, and the Cs inbound the ball. What does Rondo do? Sets another pick on Camby to free Garnett for a jumper. No fear. Later, Pierce and Garnett go up for a defensive rebound. Pierce has position, but Garnett rips it away. They head up court, Pierce good-naturedly chiding Garnett and Garnett gives him a high five. Both continue to tease one another right up through a time out. A fun moment of chemistry between stars.
Can an entire quarter qualify as garbage time? Pierce leaves the game after the third quarter, while Garnett and Ray Allen leave with 9:11 left in the fourth. The rest of the quarter is a race against the clock. Can the Celtics bench get to the end of the game before they lose so many points that the starters have to sub back in? The play is a bit sloppy, to say the least. The Celtics really need to work on holding those 40 point leads. Big Baby scores legitimately on an old fashioned three point play. Powe finally sees some court time and puts up four points in four minutes. Denver subs crush the C’s subs (+ Rondo) 26-16 and the final margin is only 26 points (119-93), closer than many Patriot games.
We do believe this Celtics team has a shot a being OK. Are you all having fun yet!?