One of the NBA’s oldest rosters showed what it can do when it gets to take a beauty rest. Its next game was….a beauty…and the bench took care of the rest.
The Celtics move to 8-1.
Facing a tough Utah Jazz team that gives the Cs trouble in the TD Garden, Kevin Garnett led the way with 18 points in just 26 minutes, while Rajon Rondo registered his third double double of the season with 14 points and 11 assists.
Garnett (and Perkins) also turned in a stellar defensive job on Carlos Boozer, holding him to just 10 points, on 5 of 7 shooting, two rebounds, and 4 turnovers.
Because back-up point guard Ronnie Price is out, Deron Williams played 33 minutes for the Jazz with a troubled back.
Once again the Celtics’ second unit played a solid role. As the second quarter began, Marquis Daniels made a reverse lay up and Rasheed Wallace dropped in two straight three point bombs giving the Celtics their biggest lead (nine points) to that point at 36-27. The Jazz would get no closer than seven the rest of the way.
Just as amazing as the results, was watching a four man second unit playing with just one starter (Ray or Paul) running plays like a first unit, and reacting defensively with solid help defense. That just doesn’t happen very often in this league.
The starters came back in later in the quarter, got the lead to 12 and cruised into half time up ten 54-44. They started the third quarter blazing from the outside, with Paul Pierce hitting two straight three pointers. Ray Allen followed those with a jumper and a three of his own. Then Garnett hit two free throws and Rondo made a lay up off of the best sequence of the evening, giving the Celtics 14 points in the first 3:40 of the second half. It was a 14-6 run leading to a 19 point lead (69-50).
Passing. It’s a beautiful thing.
The Rondo lay up, making it 69-50, started with Kendrick Perkins stealing the ball in the middle at the other end. Rondo brings it up and throws it to Ray Allen cutting through underneath the hoop. Ray’s momentum brings him out on the other side and while in the air, Ray passes it to Kendrick Perkins cutting down the right side of the paint. Perkins immediately goes behind the back with a pass to Kevin Garnett setting up at the top left inside the arc. Garnett spots Rondo heading to the hoop on the left. The Jazz defense is completely confused at this point. Rondo drops in an easy lay up before Utah knew what hit them. The whole thing took about 3 seconds.
It was a thing of beauty. Basketball played at its best.
The Celtic lead got as high as 23 points in the fourth quarter on a Marquis Daniels driving lay up. Daniels was 3 for 5 shooting and appeared to be a little more active in looking for his shot. Eddie House scored all 5 of his points in the fourth quarter, but was just 2 for 7 shooting with 3 turnovers.
Against Boozer and the Jazz bench players in the fourth, Shelden Williams played solid defense, picking up a few fouls and corralling 5 boards along with his 6 points.
The rest and extra practice helped.
Off for three days, the Beantown Ballers practiced defending the pick and roll among other things, a staple of the Jazz offense. The rested Celtics took it to the unfortunate Utah Jazz, shooting .532 for the game while holding the Jazz to 0-10 from the three point line and just 86 points total.
The Celtics gave a clinic in sharing the ball all night, as 7 Celtics scored in double digits. All 12 Celtics played and 10 players scored. The Jazz never led in the game, as the Celtics jumped out on top, though Utah tied it up twice in the first quarter, at 16 and again at 23 all.
The Celtics final point total and shooting percentage won’t indicate it, but they faced some excellent defensive stands by the Jazz. An energetic and mobile Utah defense caused the Celtics to make multiple passes that either did not produce a solid look at the basket, or required extra patience to find the open shot. The renewed Celtics were up to the challenge.
Some Celtic passing sequences were simply brilliant, eventually dissect the defense for the easiest shot.
Correspondingly, the Celtics set the standard for an active defense, generating 7 steals and causing 21 turnovers, resulting in 25 points, while maintaining solid help defense all night. In spite of that, the Jazz scored 46 points in the paint, 12 points higher than what the Cs were allowing this season.
If you want to find fault with a solid defensive effort, (nit picking, I know) the Celtic were a bit slow in closing off the middle at times. The Celtics are the fourth best in the NBA in that category. The Jazz shot a credible .468 on the night for that reason. It was the distance shooting and turnovers that did the Jazz offense in.
An 18 point third quarter lead allowed Doc Rivers to rest most of the starters for the entire 4th quarter. The second unit (playing with Paul Pierce or Ray Allen) continued to play well, holding, and even extending the lead it was given. There were even Lester Hudson, J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker sightings in the final minutes.
Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett were both 4 of 5 shooting with ten points at the half. Kendrick Perkins had 8 in the second period when the Celtics started to break away and ten total at the half way point. Kendrick led the Celtics with 8 rebounds.
Paul Pierce had an efficient and productive game with 13 points on just 4 of 7 shooting, but 3 of 5 from downtown, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and led both teams with three steals. Ray Allen finished 6 of 8 shooting for 15 points and 4 assists. Garnett added 4 rebounds, an assist and 2 steals.
Rasheed Wallace added 12 points on 5 of 12 shooting, with just one rebound in 21 minutes. Marquis Daniels hit double figures in scoring at ten points for the very first time as a Celtic, adding 3 rebounds and 3 assists in 21 minutes.
Shelden Williams added 6 points and 6 rebounds in 19 plus minutes as he continues to play a solid game.
Paul Millsap came off the Utah bench to lead all rebounders with 13 in 23 plus minutes. In fact, the Jazz had 17 offensive rebounds and beat the Celtics in rebounding overall 39-33. It is another area that the Celtics need more work, but it wasn’t enough. Last season, the Cs had the second best rebounding differential in the league at +4.5. Right now they are only +0.9.
Deron Williams and Ron Brewer led the Jazz with 13 points apiece. Williams was held to just 4 assists, his season low.
The Celtics play the 6-2 Atlanta Hawks next on Friday in Boston.