Ok, so it’s not exactly how the Celtics imagined this game would go, but a 12-point victory is a 12-point victory, right?
Perhaps…but at the very least, I don’t need to address any “Post-Christmas” issues right now.
The Celtics won ugly in Indiana tonight, struggling through two and half quarters of sub-par play before turning it on when it really mattered, outscoring the Pacers 29-16 in the 4th quarter. They ended up shooting just over 50% for the night, when early on it looked like they were on pace for their 3rd straight game under 40%.
After the 1st quarter, this game just had trouble written all over it. Paul Pierce went to the bench early in the 1st after committing two fouls, and as a result, the Celtics’ offense stalled. Kevin Garnett started 0-4 from the field (but ended up with 11 points and 13 rebounds). And Shaquille O’Neal had 5 early points, but foul trouble (again) limited him to 16 minutes.
The Pacers led by double-digits in the 2nd quarter before Pierce came back and got the C’s back in the game with a quick 10-point spurt. But in the second half, it wasn’t just Pierce taking control of the Celtics’ ball-handling duties. That distinction went to Marquis Daniels, who arguably had his best game of the season and did just about everything for the Celtics tonight.
*This wasn’t a must-win game, by any means, but this was an important come-from-behind victory for the Celtics. Honestly, I don’t think there is any chance of this team playing .500 basketball for the remainder of the season. But you know they all remember how last season went. And with a loss tonight, maybe an OUNCE of doubt creeps back into the players’ minds. Probably not, but maybe. So I think a victory tonight sets the tone for the rest of the season.
*Overall, the Celtics have done a fine job managing the offense without Rajon Rondo, who sat out his fifth consecutive game tonight. Pierce has played “point forward” as well as anyone could ask. But tonight, I think the C’s really missed having Rondo in the lineup. The C’s recorded a respectable 18 assists, but there were stretches of the game where the offense just couldn’t find a rhythm, and rarely do the C’s have that problem with #9 on the floor.
What makes Marquis’ performance tonight so special, is that the Celtics absolutely needed that from him tonight. When Pierce dominated that stretch of the 2nd quarter, I said to myself, “He needs to put up 35 tonight for the Celtics to win.” But that’s not really fair to ask of Pierce at this point in his career. He can dominate 6-minute stretches of games, but not an entire game. And especially not when he’s doubling with point guard duties.
So Marquis stepped up. He did a little bit of everything. 12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks. Nothing blows you out of the water, but he took advantage of what the Pacers were giving him. TJ Ford? I’ll post you up, thank you very much. Mike Dunleavy? Let’s penetrate and create some movement. The Pacers are actually a decent defensive team, but Marquis found weaknesses and exploited them. The Celtics don’t win tonight without him, that’s for sure.
* Even though I think it’s clear that Nate Robinson will never be a long-term solution at point guard for this team, am I the only one that thinks he had a real gritty performance tonight? Aside from the head-collision (hope he’s doing alright), Nate made a lot of positive plays for the Celtics. He drew an offensive foul. He got a huge offensive rebound and kicked it to Pierce for a 3-pointer. He had 4 assists and no turnovers. Just a solid game, proving he doesn’t need to go 4-5 from 3-point land to have an impact on the game.
* Glen Davis keeps getting better with every game. Today, it was his floor spacing. The Celtics were having trouble creating space off the dribble, so Baby just found it on his own. He knows he’s quicker than Roy Hibbert or Jeff Foster, and he just got to open spots before they could. Another 14-point game and a step closer to Sixth Man of the Year.
*12 minutes, 0 points, 0 shot attempts and 2 rebounds for Jermaine O’Neal. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s still recovering from his knee injury, but at some point doesn’t he need to start contributing?
*My one wish for Avery Bradley is that he has one game where he scores 15 points and finally gets his confidence up. He looks like he’s going to be a lock-down NBA defender, but I still have no idea what he’s capable of on offense because he’s still playing scared. Not that I blame him for it, he’s still just a rookie. You can tell how badly he wants to nail those 18-foot jumpshots, and I really hope they start falling for him.
*Donny kept alluding to how quiet the Conseco Fieldhouse crowd was during the game. But can you really blame them? Just a mediocre team in every sense of the word. Probably won’t make the playoffs. Probably won’t have a shot at a Top 5 draft pick. Just stuck in between, which is where you never want to be. On the bright side though, if the NBA ever has a competition for which NBA roster can produce the most NCAA Tournament victories, the Pacers have to be the front runners, right?
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