Boston Celtics: 2010Game17
--BENCH RESPONDS TO CHALLENGE, TURNS GAME AROUND--
Under fire for lackluster efforts in recent games and shorthanded by injuries, the Boston bench responded with perhaps its best performance of the season, helping the Celtics turn Tuesday's game around. Boston came out flat and, hindered by early foul trouble for Paul Pierce, let the Cavaliers build a seven-point cushion. Even with that hole, Rivers leaned on a second unit comprised of Glen Davis, Nate Robinson, Marquis Daniels and Semih Erden, with point guard Rajon Rondo staying on the floor.
Rondo scored the final 11 points of the first quarter, pulling Boston within a bucket after one quarter. But that second unit produced 16 second-quarter points, highlighted by a trio of hoops (and seven points in the frame) from Daniels. By the time Ray Allen subbed back in for Daniels with 3:50 to play in the first half, Boston held a seven-point lead, which soon soared to double digits.
"I thought the bench turned the game around," Celtics coach Doc Rivers told reporters in Cleveland, saying he spent some extra time with the second unit before Monday's practice to break down its recent struggles. Boston's bench only outscored their Cleveland counterparts 43-41 but that doesn't reflect the impact the Celtics' reserves had on this game.
--MORE BENCH PRESS: DANIELS, DAVIS SHINE--
When Delonte West spilled to the ground Wednesday night against the New Jersey Nets, fracturing his right wrist and sidelining him indefinitely, Daniels got thrust into a role as a potential backup point guard behind Rondo (who was dealing with his own hamstring and feet injuries). But Tuesday's game showed how good Daniels can be off the ball in his natural swingman role. He was all over the court, but thrived in the paint, making a trio of second-quarter shots in the lane to spark his big night. Daniels, who got early minutes because of Pierce's foul trouble, finished with 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting with four rebounds and two steals over nearly 33 minutes of action. What's more, his defense against Ramone Sessions and Mo Williams was fantastic, leading Rivers to suggest that Daniels can be this type of a force every night.
After struggling his last five games, Davis scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half, connected on 7-of-14 shots, and added 11 rebounds, 4 assists and a highlight-reel block over nearly 32 minutes of action.
--CAVS MAKE RONDO SHOOT; RONDO MAKES CAVS PAY--
The Cavaliers came in with a game plan to make Rondo shoot the ball. Trouble was, they didn't plan on letting him take the majority of those attempts from inches away from the rim. At times it looked like a layup line for Rondo, who repeatedly drove to the basket in the first half, completing layup after layup as Boston rallied from its early deficit.
Rondo put up nine first-quarter shots, dropping five of them, and scored Boston's final 11 points of the quarter. Rondo settled in from there, registering 10 of his assists after the first 12 minutes. Rondo made 3-of-4 attempts and added four assists in the third quarter as Boston's lead ballooned to 19. Rondo finished 11-of-17 shooting for a season-high 23 points over 38 minutes. He was the only starter whose minutes remained high, but his play allowed his more veteran teammates to save their energy on the first night of another back-to-back (the Trail Blazers visit TD Garden Wednesday).
--OHHHH, FUDGE ... ONLY HE DIDN'T SAY FUDGE--
The only thing louder than the expletive Kevin Garnett bellowed (quite audible on the TV broadcast) after a third-quarter injury scare was the collective gasp that went up around New England at the thought of Garnett holding his right leg in pain. It turned out to be his ankle (collective exhale at no mention of a knee), which rolled when he stepped on Pierce's foot while chasing a rebound.
The Celtics quickly called time out, and Garnett didn't just stay in the game, he seemed to get inspired, even as he grimaced initially while trying to walk off the pain. A few minutes after the injury scare, Garnett produced a ridiculous turnaround, and-1, banked-home jumper that put Boston out front by 16 with two minutes to play in the third. He finished with 11 points (on 4-of-11 shooting), 10 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal over less than 30 minutes of action.
--LOOSE BALLS: PIERCE & RONDO JOIN CHARGE WATCH, BABY SHOOTING 3'S--
* Pierce played a mere 22:44 in large part because of early (and questionable) foul trouble. After logging just 2:33 in the first quarter, Pierce returned in the second and promptly drew his first charge of the season (fearlessly absorbing a Ryan Hollins bump just 15 seconds after re-entering). Pierce played inspired defense the rest of the night, blocking three shots and showing no fear after the two early whistles.
* Speaking of charges, Rondo also drew his first charge of the year, stepping in front of a fast-breaking Daniel Gibson early in the fourth quarter ... And speaking of blocked shots, the Celtics matched their season high of eight blocks (set last time out vs. the Raptors). Boston now has 26 blocks in its last four games, with Semih Erden contributing a pair Tuesday.
* Rookies Avery Bradley and Luke Harangody got 1:19 of court time to close out Tuesday's game. Harangody knocked down a 19-foot jumper off a Bradley assist with 30 seconds to play.
* You know things are going pretty well when Glen Davis hits a 26-foot 3-pointer to close out the game. (As Davis would Tweet, 'On my momma!')
* The Celtics continue to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor this season, connecting on 50.6 percent (44-of-87) Tuesday. That mark is directly related to high-percentage shots, as evidenced by Boston's latest domination in the paint, outscoring the Cavs, 60-26, in the ink.
* It could have been worse for Cleveland, a town awaiting the return of LeBron James on Thursday night. The Celtics connected on a mere 56.5 percent of their free throws (13-of-23), so this could have been even more lopsided.
HOW THE GAME WAS WON
Rajon Rondo scored a season-high 23 points on 11-of-17 shooting and handed out 12 assists over a team-high 38 minutes as his play single-handedly pulled Boston out of an early hole. Marquis Daniels chipped in 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting over 33 minutes to pace five other Celtics in double figures, providing the bench contribution the Celtics generally have lacked of late. Paul Pierce (11 points, 22 minutes) and Ray Allen (12 points, 23 minutes) got breezy nights, which should aid Boston with the second night of a back-to-back looming Wednesday.
The Celtics found themselves in a seven-point hole midway through the first quarter and looked like they might be falling prey to the sort of lackluster effort that dotted their loss in Cleveland last month. Instead, Rondo put the team on his shoulders (or maybe his ailing feet and hamstring is more appropriate), scoring the team's final 11 points of the first quarter to make it a one-possession game. Boston turned on the jets in the second quarter, outscoring the Cavaliers 35-22 for a double-digit halftime cushion.
STAT OF THE GAME
The Celtics registered eight more blocks Tuesday, matching their season high set in Friday's win over the Raptors. Boston now boasts 27 swats over its last four games (this after registering a mere 41 blocks over the first 13 games).
Daniels thrived with a second unit that included Rondo on the court, generating easy baskets around the rim, particularly with his slashing ability. While it's become routine for Glen Davis (17 points, 11 rebounds) to provide a nice punch off the bench, it's been rare for someone else to step up, but Daniels did that Tuesday.
WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics improved to 4-1 on the first night of back-to-backs this year and head home in good shape with the Trail Blazers coming to town Wednesday. Rondo put together a fine effort, increasing his own offensive output when the team needed it. Doc Rivers shortened his rotation in the early going and was rewarded with a big night from the bench.
Leave it to Glen Davis to put into words how the Celtics have lacked a killer instinct against some opponents over the past two seasons and how he'd like to see Boston finish the job more consistently.
"We don't speak no English, all we know is 'kill,'" Davis said after Monday's practice in Waltham. "That's it. No more English. Switzerland. That's all we know is 'kill.' Kill, kill, kill; That's our mentality. That's how we have to be for the rest of the season, winning these games and not taking Toronto for granted, not taking Cleveland for granted. Not taking any of these teams for granted. Every team gets up for us and we just gotta get up for every game. No days off."
Kevin Garnett took a simpler approach, heaping praise on a Cleveland Cavaliers squad and preaching a 48-minute approach against a team that topped Boston last month.
"First off, this is a team that's not locked into one or two guys, they share the ball, they run their sets, and they know what they’re doing. They know what kind of team they are, they're a hard-working team that plays for 48 minutes, and they play hard. I wouldn’t say we underestimated them, because of the LeBron [James] factor, but this is a team that you don't know what to expect, to be honest. But they're playing beautiful basketball, you gotta be ready for that.
"It's high-energy guys, guys who keep the ball alive. Most importantly, they understand their roles. [Anderson] Varejao is going to bring pure energy, J.J. [Hickson] is getting better as the year goes on, he's getting experience. [Mo Williams is] back and he’s giving them a lot of confidence while playing with a lot of confidence. They’re a team to be reckon with, not just a team out here getting 'almost wins,' they’re playing hard for 48 minutes."
Davis said if Boston did underestimate Cleveland, it won't happen again.
"We didn't destroy them," said Davis. "We played a tough game the night before and I think we were still on [opening night's win over] Miami, thinking about Miami. We didn't come and play the way we should have played. You can't do that. You gotta go in there and finish every game. At the end of the day, we need these games for home-court advantage. That's what we're trying to fight for."
|(12-4, 5-3 away)||-- vs. --||(7-9, 4-4 home)|
GAME PREVIEW (via Stats Inc.)
Following a loss to Cleveland during the opening week of the season, Boston center Shaquille O'Neal admitted that the Celtics overlooked a Cavaliers team playing its first game without LeBron James.
The Celtics likely won't make that mistake again, especially since Cleveland has found someone new to take big shots and make big plays with the game on the line.
Boston looks to avenge that early defeat and win its fourth in a row Tuesday night when it visits the Cavaliers, who have leaned heavily on Mo Williams in winning two of their last three games.
After opening the season with an emotional 88-80 win over Miami on Oct. 26, the Celtics (12-4) suffered a letdown the following night and lost 95-87 in Cleveland. Boston, which frustrated James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in one of the most highly anticipated regular-season games in years, had trouble against a Cavaliers team that got a game-high 21 points from J.J. Hickson.
"We took them a little bit too lightly," O'Neal said after that contest.
The Celtics haven't been caught off guard too many other times since. They won five in a row immediately following that defeat and are tied with Orlando for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
One of the three losses Boston suffered since falling to Cleveland came at Toronto on Nov. 21. The Celtics avenged that defeat with a 110-101 win over the Raptors on Friday.
Read the full preview HERE.
FORSBERG'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH
- Revenge factor: The Celtics haven't exactly been perfect in "games they should win" this season as three of their four losses can be attributed -- at least in some small part -- to looking past teams like Toronto and Cleveland. Ironically, Boston has fared much better against the teams that it slipped up against last season, like New Jersey and Washington, so they seem to be atoning along the way. They did just that Friday night against Toronto and, undoubtedly, Cleveland's October win will be fresh in mind for Boston Tuesday.
- Shaq-a-tones: O'Neal missed Boston's 90-minute practice session due to a mix-up in times. It happens. Celtics coach Doc Rivers said the team had already moved past the issue by the time the practice session ended and O'Neal joined the squad for an afternoon flight to Cleveland. Back in the city he played in last year, and needing to atone for Monday's transgression, Shaq could be in line for another monster effort. He's been dominating inside lately, earning a nomination for Eastern Conference Player of the Week for his efforts last week (Shaq is averaging 18 points and 10.3 rebounds over his last three games, adding 1.7 blocks over 25 minutes per contest.)
- KG the key?: During last year's playoff series against the Cavaliers, the Celtics made a concerted effort to funnel the ball to Kevin Garnett, hoping to exploit a favorable matchup at the power forward spot. He put up shots in bulk and the strategy played a big part in Boston's eventual triumph over Cleveland. In Boston's October visit, Garnett put up just eight shots (hitting three of them) for nine points. Expect him -- and Shaq -- to get plenty of touches around the basket Tuesday.
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