It wasn't the offensive bonanza some fans hoped for, but they'll take it. The Celtics beat the New York Knicks by a final score of 96-82 Friday night inside the TD Garden. Scoring just 41 first half points on 35.7% shooting, the Celtics looked sloppy. Fortunately for them, the Knicks were only able to muster up 33 first half points on what was a combination of poor shooting and decent Celtics defense.
"It was not pretty, I can tell you that," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I thought defensively we were really good in the first half. Offensively we were really good except we couldn't make the shots. What I didn't like is then we went to shoot jumpers. We were getting good shots, why go away from the good shots we were getting?"
While the Celtics looked asleep out there for the first half, it was late in the third quarter when Paul Pierce took it upon himself to wake up his teammates and the crowd. Driving down the lane after a Rasheed Wallace pass, Pierce took off for a 180 degree jam, electrifying the crowd and sparking his teammates.
"Oh man, I don't know where that came from. You know, I'm good for one of those like one every 20 games, so about four times a year. My legs feel fresh right now, feel pretty good."
On the next possession, crowd favorite Brian Scalabrine launched a three pointer from the corner that tickled the twine. The crowd erupted once again, and the Celtics never looked back.
Kevin Garnett saw an increase in minutes tonight and did not seem affected by it. Scoring ten points and grabbing eight boards, he got up and down the court fine and showed minimal signs of weakness or fatigue. There was a point late in the second quarter when Garnett got tangled up with Knicks forward Jared Jeffries, but Garnett shook it off, hit his free throws, and continued to play on.
"Kevin got stuck in a terrible spot, and I think that actually really helped Kevin. You can have strong knees and be in that spot and get injured. All the guy's weight was on Kevin and Kevin is in a bad spot, it just felt like all of a sudden Kevin was like, ‘Wow I'm really healthy.'"
The Celtics were able to hold the first half lead over the Knicks mainly because of Kendrick Perkins' play. Perkins took it to Knicks center David Lee early on and had much success in doing so. Not only did Lee pick up three quick fouls, essentially taking him out of the first half, Perkins was able to show off his low post moves en route to 14 points and seven rebounds on the night.
Rasheed Wallace once again showed that he isn't shy when it comes to taking shots from perimeter, as he went 3-9 from beyond the arc dropping 13 points and grabbing 12 rebounds off the bench.
With Wallace on the team, the Celtics are able to do a lot of things offensively that they weren't able to do last year.
"Right now, with [Wallace], Perk, and Kevin down low- forget the jump shots, just the post game it gives us- it's just fantastic for us," Rivers raved. "And then, Rasheed's dimension- we scored a couple buckets that he literally had nothing to do with the play except for standing behind the ‘three', but he took a five out there with him and our guards are driving down the lane, and there's nobody there.
Celtics role players Brian Scalabrine and Tony Allen played extended minutes tonight as well, and looked solid while out there. Scalabrine went 3-4 from three point land and gave the fans what they wanted by doing so. Tony Allen, while not adding much to the stat sheet, was very active on the floor, felt good, and just needs to get his confidence back to where it used to be.
Allen said after the game, "You know it's preseason, so you just try to get better at things you need to improve. I was getting in better shape. I feel like before the season starts so I'm just trying to take it one day at a time."
It certainly is preseason, but it is already clear that this Celtics team is on the fast track to success. With a healthy Garnett, and a few more weapons in their arsenal this season, the Celtics prepare to take back what is rightfully theirs.