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The Game That Left No One To Pick On

A Daily Babble Production

"I've got no one to pick on tonight." - Howard Weinman

The Guru summed it up best on the phone after last night's 114-76 Celtics rout in Denver.  That wasn't just a 38-point stomping on the road.  It was a beautiful festival of a performance that left as little room for complaint about the active Celtics as any game this team has played all season.

Playing the second game of a back-to-back out west up in high altitude, playing without Kevin Garnett (though it bears noting the Nuggets were coming off a game in Milwaukee and were without Nene at center), the fellas in green did just about everything right.  Against the Suns on Sunday, at least the home team got off to a quick start, made a bit of a mini-run in the third quarter and forced the Celtics to play their starters deep into the fourth.  None of that occurred on Monday in Denver.

It started with Rajon Rondo, who might not have matched his 32-point effort of the day before but did just as effective a job commanded the offense.  He did whatever he wanted going to the basket, earned himself an and-one and even drew a foul while taking a jump shot (seriously, what was Melo thinking?).  Not only did Raj notch 14 points and 8 assists (against just two turnovers), he nabbed eight rebounds.  The three of those that occurred at the offensive end also included one beauty on which he put the ball right back up and in off the glass with his left hand.  He limited to Chauncey Billups to an awful 1-for-8 night from the field, and most importantly, he was simply in total control when he had the ball in his hands.  Just a pleasure to watch.

Ray Allen and Paul Pierce led the Celtics' 14-of-23 perimeter attack by going 10-for-18 from beyond the arc between the two of them.  The word that comes to mind to describe an in-rhythm Ray Allen is "pure."  Everything looks so natural when he elevates, extends and snaps his wrist.  The four-point play courtesy of Anthony Carter's foul put a nice exclamation point on Ray's night.  Pierce did a little bit of everything as well, and he carried over his second half heat in Phoenix into another good shooting night, particularly from deep.

Playing shorthanded once more after Brian Scalabrine went down with a neck injury, the bigs did a fine job as well.  Kendrick Perkins did his best job in quite some time of catching the ball in the post and immediately looking opposite to find open men across the floor.  It resulted in five assists.  Large Baby and Leon Powe continued to crash the glass and out-work opponents all over the place.  Not only does the Infant continue to look more comfortable shooting his mid-range jumper, he also notched a couple of dunks, including one in traffic.  Powe didn't have a great night from the field (5-for-13), but he was attacking the basket hard, and his 6-for-8 performance from the foul line was a nice step away from Sunday's 1-for-5 effort.

The energy even kept up with the bench running the show in the final quarter.  A few minutes of Bill Walker is always fun, and after catching his own airball and traveling, he scored a couple of times, including flushing an alley-oop from renowned passer Eddie House.  After J.R. Giddens scored the first two baskets of his NBA career, I considered starting a "Play for the future and start J.R. over Ray" thread in the forums.  Sady, I decided that it wouldn't be worth my head exploding after reading the thoughts of the first two or three intrepid eggheads choosing to start posts with "I feel like this is meant to be a joke, but seriously, it might actually..."  Didn't need that today.  Maybe after his next bucket.  But aside from his charge, J.R. did look good, getting a lay-up and hitting a jumper while also deciding on a couple of occasions to stop and pull the ball out when he saw that he didn't have what he wanted going to the rim.  Good stuff in garbage time.

Eddie Mansion poured kerosene on the fire with some threes when the game was out of hand.  Gabe Pruitt hit a couple of shots, avoided turnovers and found Eddie with a sweet behind-the-back feed for a three on the left wing.  He still hasn't earned his way to "Gabe" with The Guru yet (Dad insists on calling him "Greg"), but it was not a bad showing by any means.

But even more meaningful than a concurrent set of solid individual performances were the whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts team facets of this game.  Even without Kevin Garnett, the defensive rotations were fantastic, with even the Nuggets' (really hard to listen to) announcers talking about how the Celts always seemed to be doubling the ball yet never really leaving anyone open enough to get an easy look at the basket.  That's a testament to everyone who stepped on the floor in green last night, and it was reflected in the Nuggets' 34.7 percent field-goal shooting.  The Celts showed a willingness to sacrifice their bodies, too.  Led by Large Baby, they took five charges for the game.  It seemed Doc prepped this team perfectly to face a squad that features several players (Melo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin) not known for exhibiting high self-control.

On the offensive side, the communication was present all night.  The team managed to turn the ball over just 10 times (and force 17) while remaining committed to making the extra pass to find the open man.  The three-point shots came off of good looks and wound up in the basket.  The foul shooting, so poor against Utah and Phoenix, was great: 18-for-21 (85.7 percent), with the two biggest culprits from Sunday (Rondo and Powe) going 4-for-5 and 6-for-8 respectively. 

There were no second-half let-ups, no absurd bouts of sloppiness when the starters left the game.  Nobody played more than the 33 minutes apiece Pierce and Allen logged.  The Nuggets' announcers made note on multiple occasions in the fourth quarter of the fact that the Celtics' reserves continued to play under-control, team-oriented basketball rather than flinging the ball around with everyone trying to get his.  The Celtics allowed exactly two runs of more than four straight points to Denver for the entire game: one 5-0 and one 7-0 stretch, the latter of which brought the deficit all the way down to 94-68.

Offense, defense, rest, lack of an energy lull, run for the youngsters: The Boston Celtics went to Denver and tossed a complete game last night.  A beauty to watch and of course an even greater pleasure to relive with The Guru afterward.  Thanks to the men in green for a fine start to the work week.

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