I won’t lie. This contest had all the necessary ingredients of another regular season letdown during the first six minutes. Anderson Varejao was dominating the offensive glass. Paul Pierce exited early with foul trouble and the C’s offense looked complacent and rushed. Shaquille O’Neal was missing bunnies. Ray Allen was forcing up contested jumpers. It wasn’t pretty.
Then a funny thing happened however. I don’t know whether it happened during a timeout or just was a natural stream of conscience. But somehow, someway Rajon Rondo remembered just how much he abused Mo Williams during last year’s conference semifinals. He averaged 20 plus points and 10+ assists a game in that series.
To say the refresher worked would be an understatement as the team’s All-Star point guard put together, I’d argue ,his best all-around game of the year. With 23 points, 12 assists, and 5 rebounds, with 10 of those points coming in the first quarter, starting a Celtic offensive onslaught on the paint to the tune of 60 points on the evening.
The strong offensive output early on from Rondo helped the C’s turn around a 9 point first quarter deficit. Then, thanks to exceptional performances off the bench from Marquis Daniels and Glen Davis, (who must have gotten extremely tired of reading three days of articles questioning their contributions these last few weeks) the C’s played three complete quarters of basketball the rest of the way, turning this one into a laugher.
Amongst the various exciting developments in this contest includes the re-discovery of Davis’ post game, the best game of Daniels’ career in a Celtics uniform, scoring all of the floor and a tremendous all-around half court defensive performance against a Cleveland team that really lacks half-court scoring options in their offensive sets.
Let’s start with some praise for Rondo though, who got the offensive engine running when it was on idle for the first six minutes of this one. Byron Scott wanted to make Rondo a shooter tonight…..the problem was he forgot the guys he had to guard him were Mo Williams and Boobie Gibson. Both defensively inept guards played the point guard loose, allowing Rondo countless looks at the rim (7/10) on the night, with the misses being blown layups.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s easy to forgot just how much Rondo dominated this team in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. LeBron may not be there anymore, but it’s the same cast of characters otherwise, who Rondo burned for 20.7 pts, 11.8 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game in that series on 54 percent shooting. He did whatever he wanted in those six games and the same stood for tonight, scoring 11 of his points in the first quarter, before getting the rest of his teammates involved during the final three frames. It’s amazing that Rondo did all this while looking to be at about 80-90 percent speed-wise with his plantar fasciitis. He’s hobbling a bit but still making it look easy all the same.
The involvement of Rondo’s teammates though really started with the bench during the second quarter who put together a stretch of basketball that could have been the best the team has played all year. Nate Robinson played a stretch with Rajon Rondo that really proved to be effective in getting the team out and running aggressively in transition. His line will not show it, but Robinson played one of his better games this year last night, moving the ball effectively around the offense, and taking open shots all over the floor, despite a poor shooting night overall (3/10).
While the little guards helped set the tone, it was Daniels and Davis who inflicted the scoring damage. Brendan will have more on Baby this morning, so I’ll stick to giving some well deserved kudos to Daniels who played a career-high in minutes for the C’s during his 16-point outing, with all the points coming in the final 36 minutes.
Both Daniels and Davis really got their offensive going in the post, taking advantage of favorable matchups by being aggressive down low and getting great position in the paint. Daniels had three strong postups in the second quarter, then continued to expand his offense by scoring in transition as well as on a mid-range jumper over the rest of the night.
The best part about this offensive explosion though for Daniels is that it enabled Doc to rest Pierce and Allen the entire fourth quarter. I can’t remember the last time it happened in a win. Probably never. With a game coming up tonight in Portland, you can’t buy that kind of rest (22 minutes for each). Doc may have ridden Rondo a little too long, (37 min) but I’ll take that if he’s going to rest the other major players.
- KG tweaked his right foot. “I’m fine,” he repeated to reporters about 10 times after the game. We’ll take you at your word Kevin.
- Pierce took seven shots, but loved his defensive intensity, blocking Mo Williams all over the floor in the third quarter, which helped pushed this one into a laugher. Having a guy willing to do that at this stage of his career on a night when his offense wasn’t needed, separates a team like the Celtics from the rest of the league.
-Speaking of defense, Boston allowed just 70 points in this one in the final 42 minutes. Cleveland also made 8/27 of their midrange shots. They really will struggle all year long against good defensive teams in the halfcourt like Boston.
-Good night to shoot 58 percent from the line. Let’s get that out of our system now.
-Ray had a tough night shooting from the perimeter, but he did a phenomenal job in and around the basket, hitting a bunch of tough in-between shots, many of which came in transition, an area of his game that’s not his strongsuit. Pretty to see.
Portland tonight coming off a loss in Philly. I like our chances with a well-rested starting five.