The Celtics took some time to find themselves. Thanks to an attacking, energized Rajon Rondo, they stopped a two game losing streak.
Repeating another uninspired performance for more than a half, the Cs ended strong, played with energy, and more in the team concept as the game went on.
Rajon Rondo came alive in the 3rd quarter with 12 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds as the Celtics broke open a close game. He was the energetic difference as the Celtics finally put some daylight between themselves and the pesky Warriors.
They held the sharp shooting Warriors to 7 of 19 shooting while making 11 of 20 of their own shots in the pivotal quarter.
The Celtics were up only 49-48 at the half when they outscored the Warriors 31-19 to take a commanding 80-67 lead heading into the final period. That broke the game open and the final score was 109-95.
Playing with a healing knee, Paul Pierce led the Celtics in a gritty performance with 19 points on 7 of 12 shooting including 2 of 4 three point shots. He supported Rondo’s critical 3rd period assault with 7 of his own points in the quarter.
Rondo drove home 18 total points with a series of aggressive drives on 8 of 12 shooting, including a rare three pointer, driving and kicking for 12 assists for game honors, while grabbing 7 rebounds to tie for the team lead with Kendrick Perkins. Rondo also led the team with 36:35 minutes played. He was, by far, the most energetic Celtic on the court.
It started as yet another lackluster, give and take game with a team they should be giving a whupping to and taking charge of.
Instead it was still anybody’s ball game halfway into the third period. Both teams were shooting at least 50% at the half. The Warriors were even playing better defense than the Celtics for much of the time.
Perkins was the Celtics leading scorer at the half with 12 points as the Cs tried to push the ball inside time and again against the undermanned Warriors.
Then Rajon Rondo began his one man assault in the 3rd quarter. He was by far the most active Celtic on the court, though the Celtics didn’t start to break away from the undermanned Warriors until the 8:49 mark of the quarter. At that point it was tied at 55.
By that time Rajon had already begun to take over offensively, setting the tone and setting the table offensively.
The Break Away 12-0 Sequence
The Celtics took off on a 12-0 run to go up 67-55 over a 4 minute period.
Rondo dropped a pass into Perkins who had great position on the right block against Mikki Moore. That was something Perkins was able to do all night. Moore fouled him as he went for the lay-up. Perkins hit 1 of 2 free throws.
Pierce and Rondo worked a little two man game, when Paul threw an in bounds pass from the left top, then came all the way around underneath to the weakside, losing Corey Maggette. Rondo followed behind Pierce and hit him with the pass from underneath the basket as Monte Ellis reacted to help much too late. Paul drained the open side jumper to make it 58-55.
Rondo drove and kicked, but was fouled by Monte Ellis. Kevin Garnett missed an open jumper. Then Rondo came down off a Warrior miss and found Pierce underneath and behind the defense for a wide open lay up, but Pierce missed.
Ray Allen had his running lay up blocked by Maggette on a fast break attempt.
The next Celtic score was a thing of beauty.
Perkins set a great screen on Anthony Morrow, freeing Rondo at the top left coming toward the top middle. Ray Allen set a screen below the rim on Corey Maggette who was trying to stay with Garnett as KG came along the baseline towards the right. As Garnett came around, Rondo showed his quarterback skills, hitting him for a perfectly timed pass for a lay up as Monte Ellis (who was guarding Ray Allen) reacted too slow (again). Two point conversion to make it 60-55.
Anthony Morrow fouled Pierce at the top of the key and Pierce hit the two free throws. 62-55.
Perkins blocked Monte Ellis’ shot underneath into a jump ball. Perkins tapped the following jump ball back to Kevin Garnett who threw a touchdown pass the length of the court to a streaking Rondo for a quick lay up. 64-55.
Then Perkins comes over and screens Morrow off as Rondo drives the middle. Anthony Randolph picks up and bumps the leaping Rondo, but Rajon puts in an off balance lay up and hits the foul shot.
Rondo lets out an expletive as he made just his…gulp…4th foul shot…of the season. 67-55. He went 1 for 4 from the line on the evening.
That was a 4 minute unanswered barrage with most of it occurring in the last two minutes. Rondo was the catalyst for all of it, but good Celtic team work got people freed up, mostly for lay ups.
The Warriors would make chase for the rest of the game, but the Celtics lead got no lower than 9 points the rest of the way.
Twp three pointers near the start of the 4th quarter, one by Rasheed Wallace, and one by Eddie House, made it 86-70 and the game was no longer in doubt.
Marquis Daniels had two nice baskets, one a reverse lay up and the other a turnaround over his defender in the key in the first half.
Six Celtics scored in double figures and Wallace came close with 8 points, including 2 of 6 three pointers (and 1 rebound in 16 minutes).
After Rondo and Pierce, Ray Allen contributed 15 points, mostly around the hoop, and Kendrick Perkins had 15 points and 7 rebounds.
Garnett had 12 points, including an alley oop, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and a steal in 31 minutes.
Pierce added 4 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal and a block to a solid effort playing with a tender knee.
Eddie House finally found the range with 3 three pointers and 11 points in 17 minutes.
Shelden Williams had another solid game with 4 points and 3 rebounds in 15 minutes.
The Celtics scored 48 points in the paint and held the league’s best fast breaking team to 12 fast break points.
The Celtics scored 30 points off Warrior turnovers to giving up just 17 points off 19 Celtic turnovers.
The Warriors were led by Corey Maggette’s 23 points and Monte Ellis’ 18. Rookie Steven Curry added 13 points. 8 Warrior players suited up and all played.
So the Celtics looked better and better as the game went, They even turned around a 21-14 rebound deficit at the half to a 36-35 Celtic advantage at the end.
It is still a bit discomforting that it takes Rajon Rondo to get this team going. They used to all play with much more energy. Maybe they have become too used to playing with great efficiency. This is one of the most efficient offensive teams in the league. A little wasted energy on the defensive end, in the name of taking things to another level, would be a good thing. The elder Cs appear to be in energy conservation mode. I’m sure it’s just one of those things.
Holding the high scoring Warriors to 47 second half points is a good start. Let’s see if it a trend.
The Orlando Magic, the team that has had the most success against the Celtics over the Garnett Era comes to Boston on Friday.
This is the team that the Celtics feel they would have beaten in the playoffs if they had Kevin Garnett healthy and playing.
The Magic will again be without Jameer Nelson, who went out with injury recently.