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Boston Celtics

Celtics Show Signs of Life: Beat Lakers 87-86

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The Celtics started on a full tank of gas and brought this one home on fumes.

It was a man’s game.

This game had much more meaning for the Celtics than it did for the Kobe Bryant-less Lakers. In what become near playoff atmosphere basketball, the pressure was on the Celtics.

They needed to show that they are still alive and can play top level basketball for 48 minutes. They did all of that.

Ray Allen was supposed to be gone in a trade. Instead, he showed everyone why Danny Ainge decided not to pull the trigger on a number of scenarios. Ray broke out a recent shooting slump, hitting 4 of 5 threes, was 10 of 11 shooting at one point, and led both teams with 24 points, all in the first three quarters.

Ray had 8 straight Celtic points and 12 overall in the 3rd quarter as they built a 10 point lead.

Second Half Troubles Again
After the Celtics scored 53 first half points, scoring became much harder as both clubs played lock down defense in the second half. The Celtic starters also looked winded in the final period from playing so hard for so long.

While their offense and bench continues to have trouble, a return to Celtic style defense won this game for them.

The Celtics scored just 11 fourth quarter points and a mere 34 in the second half.  After shooting 55% (22-40) in the first half, they shot just 15 of 44 (34%) in the second. Normally that would signal yet another loss, especially in the Lakers’ building. A 25 to 13 free throw attempt disadvantage would only add to thinking so.

Lakers Held to 2 Points
Their defense made it be enough by holding the Lakers to 38 second half points. After giving up a game long lead once again, Green Team defense locked in and held L.A. to 2 points in the last 7 minutes of the game.

They held L.A. to 17 points on 8 of 22 (36%) in the final quarter and .407 for the game to eke out the win.

Rondo…Little Man – Big Heart
Mercurial Rajon Rondo scored 14 points and none were bigger than his high arcing, running bank shot over Lamar Odom and a closing Ron Artest with 2:49 left in the game. It gave Boston an 87-84 lead. It would be Boston’s final score and their defense made it stand up.

Rondo 5 steals – Rest of Celtics – zero
The importance of Rajon Rondo’s performance in this game cannot be over estimated. He was literally all over the court and with his 5 steals was the single biggest reason why the Celtics won. He shot only 6 of 17 but had 11 assists, drew a technical for taunting early in the game, had 3 shots blocked, and blocked one himself.

But he led the team in confidence and aggressiveness early in the game when they needed it most.

Any questions of Rondo’s rise to become one of the league’s very best point guards are being put to rest by games like these. He craves the pressure and responds.

His steals, particularly in the first half, were very important. They were the only ones the Celtics got.

Two plus years ago, the Celtics handed Rondo the keys to a Lamborghini. He is now the engine.

Kevin Garnett
But it was not a one man show. It was a total team effort and Kevin Garnett was right there with his best game since his return. His defense was relentless and he hit some big time shots against a tough Laker defense.

When he did his left/right ball fake with his back to the basket, turned, and hit a fadeaway jumper over Andrew Bynum for a 25-18 first quarter lead, you knew he was locked in as he has not been for a while.

Energetic and enthusiastic, Garnett got in early foul trouble, reducing him to just 26 minutes of playing time. He finished with 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks. But he was so good that the Celtics outscored the Lakers by 16 points in his time on the floor.

Kevin was as mobile and aggressive as I’ve seen in quite some time.

With the bench playing poorly and unable to maintain the lead that the starters built, and the lead evaporating as soon as Rondo would leave the game, Doc had little choice but run Rondo out there for 44 plus minutes.

The Beantown Ballers showed they still have a heart beating in the Green Team’s body with an outstanding effort in Lakertown.

Both teams missed players
The Celtics played without Eddie House and could have used him. Los Angeles played without Kobe Bryant and that is why Derek Fisher was shooting and missing a 20 foot jump shot as time expired with the game in the balance.

A true appraisal of this game may take a few more weeks of play before we can determine its importance. You could say that this was the first game of a truly concerted effort in a Celtic return to playing high level basketball.

They stormed out of the gate breathing fire and maintained control for most of the game while absorbing a number of intense and energetic assaults by a Laker team that was patient and oozing confidence.

Pau Gasol was a handful and showed what a great player he has become with 22 points on 7 of 12 shooting with 3 blocked shots. Lamar Odom also played big with 14 rebounds and a number of aggressive baskets, while blocking 2 shots and making 2 steals. Odom is always a match up problem for the Cs.

Perkins Big Block and Game
Playing a big game after slumping a bit recently was Kendrick Perkins. Kendrick shot 5 of 7 for 13 hard fought points, tied for game honors with 14 rebounds (3 offensive) and had a huge block of Ron Artest when Artest drove baseline on Pierce with the score 85-84 and 3:15 left to play.

With Rasheed Wallace shooting 2 of 11, and grabbing just 3 rebounds in 20 plus minutes, Doc had Perkins out there in the final minutes and it proved to be the correct move.

Perkins Regains Lead
The Celtics had gone scoreless for almost 4 minutes in the 4th period and had relinquished the lead to the Lakers at 84-80. Kendrick scored the next 5 straight Celtic points on a lay up and foul and a put back of a Ray Allen miss to go up 85-84 with 4:22 left.

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce committed to playing solid defense but had some trouble offensively with Ron Artest guarding him. Paul finished with 11 points on 4 of 9 shooting with 6 rebounds, 4 assists and just one turnover in 41 plus minutes. He looked a bit slow or tired as he shot 0-3 in the 4th period attempting to go isolation a few times.

Paul also missed two big foul shots with 3 plus minutes left and the Celtics up just 85-84.

Bench
The Celtic bench was disappointing with just 12 points and generally was outplayed by the Laker bench.

Marquis Daniels played 13 minutes without taking a shot. Glen Davis had 4 points and 3 rebounds in 16 minutes and they need more from both of them.

Summary
The Celtics will be very happy to take this win and this overall effort. They looked quite good compared to recent efforts, though they still have things to work out.

Beating the Lakers, even without Kobe Bryant, is a step in the right direction. We will have to see if they can build off this in Portland tonight.

Nate Robinson should be able to play I believe.

Thomas Halzack

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