This time there was no hole to try and climb out of.
The Boston Celtics got back to what worked for them last season, a mixture of big Bigs and athletic Smalls and a rotation that didn’t leave them unbalanced and defenseless as they – really? – blew the Indiana Pacers out of TD Garden 94-75 on a chippy Friday night in Boston.
Jared Sullinger led a spirited assault on the boards, ripping down 10 boards, six of them on the offensive glass, as the Celtics out-rebounded the Pacers and they snapped a horrid 4 game skid to improve to 15-17 on the season.
Kevin Garnett posted perhaps his most complete game of the season, scoring 18 points and hauling down 7 rebounds and blocking 2 shots before getting booted in the 4th quarter, the result of a flagrant foul. Brandon Bass cleaned 8 balls off the glass and rejected 2 shots as well. Courtney Lee had a fantastic game off the bench, scoring 13 and hauling down 5 boards.
Rajon Rondo led the Celtics from the point with 7 assists and matching Garnett’s 18 points, dishing out 5 helpers for a balanced stat sheet while Paul Pierce posted a quiet 13 points. Avery Bradley struggled from the field, scoring just 6 points on 3 for 11 shooting, seeing his minutes increased to 23 as he is being slowly worked back into game shape.
The athleticism that Bradley, Rondo and Bass brought to the court seemed to free up Garnett, as he became more and more forceful and seemingly more energized as the game wore on. At 8:24 of the 4th quarter it appeared as if he was simply swiping down at the ball, but caught Pacers’ forward Tyler Hansbrough in the mug. The officials reviewed the replay and decided Garnett had put a little too much gusto into the swipe and tossed him.
That was the only thing that stopped Garnett on this night.
Hansbrough scored a game high 19 off the bench for Indiana, who fell to 19-14 with the loss. David West had 10 points and 10 boards for the Pacers while Roy Hibbert also pulled down 10 rebounds to go along with his seven points.
West and Hansbrough were the only Players in double figures for the Pacers who suffered through an abysmal shooting night, hitting on just 31% from the field – the Celtics’ best defensive effort to date. Conversely, the Celtics shot for 44% – not exactly shooting the lights out, but a good effort against the top defensive team in the league.
The solid defensive effort for the Celtics eliminated the need to climb out of a deep hole, and perhaps represents the first step on the long climb up the Atlantic Division mountain. With the win, the Celtics leapfrogged the 76ers and into 3rd place in the division, but still a full seven games behind the Knicks, whom they meet on Sunday in New York
The lineup that the Celtics used in this game was the same that propelled them to an excellent second half of last season – and while it’s far too early to think of a replay of last year’s success, Doc Rivers may have found a formula with his athletic youngsters and long-tenured veterans.
But again, it’s too early – and with a trip to Atlanta for a match up with the Hawks tomorrow night and a visit to Madison Square Garden for the Knicks on Sunday, their new found confidence will be put to a test against two of the Eastern Conferences best teams.
If they get through those games with wins, they will be back at .500 and then they can start thinking big.