Celtics start better, can't sustain: Much has been made of the slow starts the Celtics have been guilty of in recent games, as they averaged just 15 points in the first quarter in their previous four games. But on Saturday, the Celtics exploded (relatively speaking) for 24 points in the opening frame, with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen combining for 13. Any celebration over Boston's gains in that department were vastly overshadowed, though, by a host of defensive lapses, as well as an inability to maintain that offensive pace for the remainder of the game. Indiana scored 29 points in the opening frame and stretched its lead to as many as 13 in the second quarter.
Things grew far worse for the Celtics in the second half, though, where they managed just 37 total points. The C's put in 19 points in the third quarter on just 7-of-22 shooting, but were bested by the Pacers again, who scored 26 in the third frame, stretching their lead to as many as 18 at one point. And any hope of another valiant comeback effort by the Celtics simply never materialized in the fourth, when they channeled their recent first quarter scoring woes and scored just 16 points over the final 12 minutes, while committing five turnovers.
Paul Pierce was aggressive to the rim Saturday and it got him to the line 10 times.
Pierce, Garnett productive: After struggling mightily through their last several games, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett finally came through with productive offensive evenings. The pair each scored a team-high 21 points, with Garnett hoisting a game-high 19 field goal attempts, while Pierce did most of his damage at the free throw line, connecting on nine of his 10 attempts. For Garnett, the number of shots was encouraging, as coach Doc Rivers has practically been begging him to assert himself more on the offensive end. Even more encouraging is that Garnett developed his offensive rhythm early by taking shots closer to the rim, before incorporating his usual flurry of jumpers from 12-18 feet.
For Pierce, the night was positive overall, but it wasn't without its fair share of hiccups. Perhaps most importantly, Pierce was back to being the guy who aggressively attacks the rim and draws fouls, which generate a healthy number of free throw attempts. And much like Garnett, Pierce began reverting back to more of his customary shots as the game progressed, even connecting on two second-half 3-point field goals. But Pierce was also guilty of six turnovers, two of which were careless, poor passes that Indiana easily picked off. While it might have been a step in the right direction for this pair, their performances were largely overshadowed by the team's loss, as their efforts weren't enough to give Boston even a chance at winning this one.
Moore gets minutes: With Avery Bradley not producing the way Rivers needed, the Celtics' coach finally took a chance on rookie guard E'Twaun Moore, who played his college ball locally at Purdue. Moore made his presence felt right away when he checked in early in the second frame. He stripped Indiana guard Lance Stephenson and drew a foul (Rivers argued for a clear-path infraction), and later earned his stripes on the offensive end by coming off a Garnett screen on the right wing and knocking down a 3-pointer late in the third quarter. He also had a strong drive to the basket from the right side of the floor. Moore played a career-high 20 minutes, finishing with seven points on 3-of-7 shooting. He added two rebounds, three assists, and two steals.
Rondo's disappearing act: After back-to-back games in which he shouldered the Celtics' offensive load by attacking the rim relentlessly, Rajon Rondo was virtually invisible on Saturday night, finishing with just six points in 36 minutes. The C's point guard did dish out nine assists, but there was a noticeable difference in terms of feeling his overall impact on the game. He wasn't as aggressive in taking the ball to the rim as he was in recent games, and he deferred mainly to Pierce and Garnett. Rondo doesn't have to be Superman for the Celtics every night, but there has been very little balance for this club on the offensive end all season. In years past it wouldn't be unusual to see the likes of Garnett, Pierce, and Ray Allen all score in the 16-24 point range, while Rondo finishes his night with 10-12 points and 12 or more assists. But we haven't seen that type of balance at all this season, and that has to, at least on some level, account for Boston's overall offensive woes. Rondo's performance on Saturday isn't being highlighted strictly to criticize him, but instead to point out the Celtics' continuing inability to develop the necessary balance on the offensive end of the floor.