Kevin Garnett got consistently great low post position in transition and off pick and rolls and punished the Raptors for 27 points and 10 rebounds in only 26 minutes. That’s ridiculous All-NBA-level production for KG, who will go over 25,000 career points tomorrow night against the Lakers. He can’t do it every night anymore, especially against committed defenses, but when he dials it up, you’d be forgiven for thinking he could play another five years.
A bipolar second half. After a back-and-forth first half, the Raptors came out aggressive in the third quarter and took it to the Celtics, outscoring them 34-19 before Boston clamped down on defense in the fourth, turning over the Raps, forcing bad shots and doing to them, well, what most teams do to them. It’s comforting to see Toronto on the schedule, isn’t it?
Only two guys on the bench showed up but they made serious contributions. Jeff Green had a bad shooting night (2-6) but was active off-ball (!) and on the glass, finishing with 6 rebounds in 21 minutes to go along with 3 assists and a steal. Leandro Barbosa worked his attack mentality for 14 useful points, making good on the time Rivers has given him in Rajon Rondo’s absence.
At first glance it was an impressive Rudy Gay stat line (25 points, 12 rebounds and 4 steals) that becomes far, far less impressive when you look closer (he shot only 8-24 and the C’s bottled him up in the fourth, when he missed 8 of his 9 shots). Pierce missed everything tonight but when it counted he did what he often does against athletic small forwards with limited handles. He out-clutched them.
More tepid fuel for two of my least favorite current narratives, namely “the Celtics are better without Rondo” and “Danny Ainge can’t blow up the team because the C’s have won five games in a row.” Let’s bury this nonsense. They aren’t and he can. Over time, the Celtics will face more full-court pressure that will plug up the offense, the burden to score will increasingly rest on Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, who don’t have the kind of gas in reserve, the mid-range jumpers will fall short and as the schedule gets tougher, this team will be exposed. If Boston’s floor is at least temporarily higher, their ceiling is far, far lower. And Danny Ainge isn’t going to use tiny sample sizes against mostly terrible teams to make long-term strategic decisions for this franchise. That just isn’t how he operates.