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Truthless Lineup Holds It Down At the Palace

A Daily Babble Production

It's hard to remember the last time Paul Pierce sat through the midst of the fourth quarter of a close game without five fouls or medical issues.  He did just that last night, and the Celtics came out no worse for the wear.

Rather than getting his rest as he often does between the end of the third and early portion of the fourth quarter, Pierce played through the second half until committing his fourth foul on a charge at the 8:48 mark of the final period.  After the ensuing timeout, Pierce went to the bench for Ray Allen.  In a 66-60 game, the Celtics went to a lineup of Rajon Rondo, Eddie House, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins.

Perkins would be replaced by the Infuriated Infant after being ejected for a flagrant two foul with just inside six minutes to play.  That was the only substitution Doc Rivers made during Pierce's time on the bench.

It became a test for the Celtics, and by virtue of the fact that they stretched Pierce's rest phase all the way to the 2:31 mark of the quarter, they clearly passed.  Playing without their go-to fourth quarter scorer, the C's got the job done.  Rajon Rondo continued to control the offense, penetrating to find Kevin Garnett for an easy lay-up and then kicking to Eddie House the three that extended the Celts' lead to eleven and forced Michael Curry to call for time.  Large Baby chipped in with a strong take to the rim for a lay-up of his own as well as the huge offensive rebound that preceded the House trey.  And Ray Allen was Ray Allen, hitting all three freebie attempts in that stretch.

At the defensive end, the Celtics allowed the Pistons to shoot 5-for-9.  They were also the beneficiaries of Jason Maxiell missing a pair of free throws and giving Ray Allen one of his own when he retaliated to Kendrick Perkins' flagrant with a shove that earned him a technical.  But at the same time, the Celtics were playing with a suspect defensive swing combination of Ray Allen and Eddie House, and they still managed to force two turnovers, including a shot clock violation.  When it was all said and done, they had allowed just 11 points in 6:15 without Pierce on the court, and in scoring 12 of their own extended the lead from six to seven.

Playing with a lead in the fourth quarter, taking time off the clock and not blowing the lead is all a team needs to do, and the Celtics managed to do exactly that playing without Paul Pierce in the fourth quarter.  Good for Pierce to get some rest in a game in which he still played 38 minutes, and good to see Doc Rivers continuing to adjust his rotations to mix in two or three reserves at a time with his starters, thus helping each of them to play as productive a role as possible.

More random thoughts from a grind-it-out win in Auburn Hills:

  • Regardless of any message that may have been sent, two foul shots, possession and an ejection with six minutes to play in a five-point game is an idiotic way to send that message.  As mentioned earlier, the Celtics were fortunate that Jason Maxiell missed both free throws and that he committed a technical that sent Ray Allen to the line for an extra point as well.  That doesn't make Kendrick Perkins' play any smarter.  There was no doubt that he committed a flagrant two and should have been ejected for it.  I'm all for sending a message in certain situations, but there is a time and a place.  That wasn't it.
  • My favorite part of the evening: The reaction after Eddie House hit the three to stretch the Celtics' lead to 11 late in the fourth.  Watching Eddie scream and jump around after a big bucket is always enjoyable enough.  But two of the first three guys off the bench to greet him were Bill Walker, who hadn't played in the game, and Sam Cassell, who wore street clothes and hasn't played a second this season.  The head slaps, the chest bumps, the ear-to-ear grin on every face: just one more part of the chemistry that has made this team such a joy to watch over the last year and a half.
  • With the exception of his time on the floor with Rondo in the fourth quarter, most of House's night was spent as de facto point guard rather than playing off the ball, where he has been particularly effective of late.  Didn't understand that or the DNP for Gabe Pruitt.
  • I'll cosign Jeff's sentiment from the game recap:  Rodney Stuckey is the real deal.  He is only going to get better and better.
  • Score another 2-for-2 night for the Rondo-KG lob play.  The first time, KG drew a foul on Rasheed Wallace, a success despite the lack of a basket on the play.  The second resulted in a Garnett dunk to stretch the lead to nine with 2:19 to play.
  • Speaking of Garnett, credit him for playing a great game overall.  At some point last night that it has become surprisingly easy to unwittingly take KG for granted from time to time.  He has been his usual solid self throughout this streak, and on an ugly offensive night for both teams, he came up big last night: 22 points on 10-for-17 shooting, including 10 points in the fourth quarter.  KG looked good both on his mid-range jumper and in the post.  He grabbed nine boards and played excellent defense on Rasheed Wallace all night, frustrating the Pistons' big man into a 5-for-16 game from the field.  Wonderful performance for the Ticket.

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