On the second night of a back-to-back in Texas the Boston Celtics did not want to be another footnote in Houston's impressive streak. And before a second even ticked off the clock Rafer Alston and Rajon Rondo got tangled up, exchanged pushes and each received a technical foul. I loved Kevin Garnett's statement dunk at the end of the game, Tony Allen sucking it up and hitting two free throws after falling painfully on his hip, Leon Powe exploding for 21 points and everything else about this win. But the defining image might be Rondo, fists clenched, refusing to even take a step back from Alston. I'm wouldn't say that it set the tone for the evening. Rather Rondo's defiance reflected the Celtics' attitude as a whole. Boston arrived in Houston with one goal in mind - break the streak. Some other thoughts:
- Doc Rivers can leave the second unit out there for extended periods of time without falling into a deep hole. And the addition of Sam Cassell only helps that. Kenny Smith was dead on when he credited Cassell's ability to avoid panicking. Sam I Am has the ability to play with emotion and yet maintain his cool. That's a nice combination.
- Paul Pierce has played some great basketball throughout his career but I've never seen him play like he is now. He had a quiet 20 points tonight. Furthermore, he picks his spots. Also with more talented players around him the Truth is a better all around offensive threat. He is quick for his size and gets to the rim well. At the same time he is deadly from around the foul line and the foul line extended. And he has been able to set up the bigs with great passes when the defense swarms. As good as Powe was tonight he had Pierce to thank for some of his buckets. Finally, Pierce plays physical as well.
- At one point Alston picked Cassell's pocket and headed down court for an uncontested lay up. Cassell feigned a chase but no one was fooled. However in the process, Alston slowed, stared down Cassell and then finished. I'm not condemning Alston's taunting. It was nothing compared to when Rondo actually stopped to give Kendrick Perkins a dunk against the Bobcats. I just don't want anyone to complain about KG's thunderous dunk in the final two minutes. And it was not a coincidence that Cassell called for Garnett to isolate on the block on the possession following the big time dunk. KG finished emphatically again. If you're going to get caught up in trash talking you have to be prepared for the consequences.
- Boston's defense swarmed all over the Rockets and agitated them every step of the way. Yes the Rockets suffered from poor shooting, everyone outside of T-Mac's struggles to create shots and the lack of height. But Boston ratcheted things up a notch defensively.
- I was extremely excited when the Celtics said, "Hey no one can stop KG, let's keep going to him." And they did just that with excellent results.
- To his credit McGrady had 8 assists. But the Celtics were happy to hold him to 8 points.
- How about KG taking the high road with his former boss, Glen Taylor? Well done.
- In the grand scheme of things this game did not mean as much to the Celtics. That's why it was so great to see Boston come out, refuse to make excuses and enjoy beating the Rockets down.
- It was a poor showing by many of Houston's fans that left the game when it was far from over, at least from a time standpoint.