The Celtics did two things last night that they haven't done much of this season: Score points, and score points from the paint.
Result? A win over a good team - their third one this week.
And if you've been watching much Celtics basketball this season - especially the two previous games against the Pacers - you know how hard it's been for the Celtics to establish any sort of low-post presence.
On the year, the C's average just 8.8 shots per game from 3-9 feet away from the basket. Their conversion of just 2.6 of those gives them a field goal percentage of 30-percent, second to last in the NBA behind the Knicks.
So yeah, it's bad.
And to top it all off, the Pacers are statistically one of the best in the NBA from the same area - ranking first in makes and attempts (7.0-16.2).
A quick look back at the two previous games before Friday night's win proves just how weak the C's were offensively in the paint.
January 6: Celtics points in the paint- 28 | Pacers points in the paint - 42
January 14: Celtics points in the paint - 24 | Pacers points in the paint - 42
Not a good look, and certainly not the trend they want to set. So Doc Rivers and his team of coaches made sure to do address it the third time.
"For us, we did a horrible job [in previous games against Indiana]," Rivers said. "I mean, [Thursday] night coming back watching that game again on the plane with my coaches. We were awful in the post against them in Indiana. That was the whole talk as a staff was I don't know if we're going to win or lose but we're throwing the ball down there to everybody; to guards, to bigs. We're going to make them fit on the post, because what you clearly see is you're not going to be more athletic than them; you're not going to be blowing by them."
It worked. The Celtics doubled their production in the paint from the last game against Indiana, scoring 48 down low to the Pacers' (once again) 42 points. Five players scored in double figures for the Celtics, led by Paul Pierce who dropped 28 points (17 in the third quarter), grabbed ten boards, and dished out eight assists. Pierce hit four three-pointers in the win, but it was the inside game - pounding it down low, driving, cutting to the hoop - that got it done.
"Before the game, that's what we wanted to establish," Pierce said. "Kevin - get him the ball in the post and establish that. I thought Chris Wilcox did a good job really in the pick and roll, rolling to the basket getting us easy baskets as well as Brandon Bass. Those are guys that you count on every night to do kind of like the dirty work, along with myself in getting those points. The easier you can get points in the paint makes it so much easier on us because if you settle for jumpers so much you can live and die by it."
Wilcox had his best game as a member of the Celtics, attacking the rim and doing exactly what Rivers needs him to down low. He scored 14 points off the bench in just under 22 minutes, and grabbed six boards.
"We just had to come out and play hard," Wilcox said. "We had to be aggressive tonight and that's what we did. We came out, we played hard, boxed out, we rebounded. That was one of the top rebounding teams in the league so we had to come out and show our presence."
After getting outrebounded in both games against the Pacers prior to Friday, the C's edged the Pacers in that category, 45-42.
It's not a lot, and there's certainly room for improvement, but if this week has proven anything, it's that the Celtics have a lot more left in the tank than maybe any of us gave them credit for.