The Celtics had a good game plan. But they’ve had good game plans before.
They wanted to trap Chauncey Billups up at the top and get the ball out of his hands on one end. On the other end, it was to pound the ball into the paint against a weakened Denver front line.
They knew the Nuggets were shorthanded in the big man department with Kenyon Martin out with tendonitis in his left knee.
They also know that Chauncey Billups is having a career year (20.0 pts.) in the scoring department at the ripe old age of 33, and that ‘Mr. Big Shot’ at the helm makes this Denver far more dangerous than it was before he came.
Both strategies worked to perfection and the Celtics walked off the court with a 113-99 win.
The lead got as high as 21 points in the 3rd quarter before a Denver run cut it to 8. Lately the Celtics are responding to runs with runs of their own and they boosted that lead back up to solid double digits and held it there for the win.
48 minutes of effort and multiple contributors, including some strong support from the bench were signatures of this victory.
Paul Pierce continues to look more like the old Paul Pierce with successful aggressive drives to the rim. He led the Celtics with 27 points with 14 of them coming in the first quarter. Paul was 7 of 7 from the line, while adding 7 rebounds, 2 steals and a block on Carmelo Anthony while playing him one on one on a drive.
This is a critical component to a Celtic resurgence. They are simply a better team when Pierce is aggressive offensively. And that has been missing for a large part of the season.
Paul Pierce…he’s turned his game up to another whole ‘nother level…him being the player we need him to be for this team. When guys don’t have it going…we need a guy who, for sure, can score. So, he’s been the big difference.
Rajon Rondo was extremely active and finished with a triple double with 15 assists, 11 rebounds, and 11 points.
Rondo hauled in an incredible 6 offensive rebounds to lead a Celtic team that grabbed 17 offensive boards on the night. The Celtics are dead last in the league in this category.
Denver Assistant Coach Adrian Dantley, who is filling in for Coach Karl…
Well, he hurt us getting to the rim. We tried to take away his penetration and you know, Rondo’s an excellent ball player. What can you say.
This again speaks to game plans. Having one and making it work are two different things. The Celtics were able to force their will upon the Nuggets and that has often been a missing characteristic through their ‘ride through mediocrity’ since Christmas.
Celtic chemistry and the sheer will to win are starting to emerge again in the final weeks before the season ends and the playoffs begin.
Kevin Garnett added 20 points on 20 attempts and had 10 rebounds and appears to be trying to be aggressive offensively and on the boards with 4 offensive rebounds. That ties his season high (three times).
Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with 32 points on 9 of 23 shooting and 13 of 16 from the foul line.
Tony Allen – Quiet Assassin
“…They got a quiet assassin and whenever you want to unleash him, he’s going to be ready.”
Tony Allen was the surprise factor with a solid 20 minutes at both ends of the floor. Consistency may be a challenge at times for Tony but the unheralded player is one of the best finishers in the NBA.
With Rondo and KG finding him often on his energetic bursts to the hole, Tony finished with 13 points on 5 of 6 shooting that were all dunks and lay-ups. But he was asked to defend a variety of Denver players and he brought that tenacious Tony Allen defense to all comers.
Yeah, I had a few assignments…Chauncey, Carmelo, J.R. Smith. Basically what I was trying to do was crowd their space and make them make passes and make the other guys beat us and we were able to finish out with that game plan.
Rondo created a steal on the other end of the floor and got the ball back on the fly from Kevin Garnett, and proceeded to make a sensational, highlight reel, left handed, behind-the-back fast break pass to Tony Allen for a dunk.
In Doc’s new approach to getting the most out of every player, he’ll make rotation changes if he has to. Marquis Daniels got 3 quick fouls with little else to show in 6 minutes of play. Tony got the call from there on.
When asked if Marquis was healthy, Doc quipped….
Everybody’s healthy. He just…. he didn’t play great tonight and we needed energy, and so we went with Tony.
The Resistible Force Meets the Moveable Object
The Celtics had been having trouble winning at home and were particularly bad against the better teams with a 1-8 home record against teams that are .600 or better.
The Nuggets have been having trouble winning on the road and were 17-18 on the road.
Of course, something had to give.
The Celtics took another step forward in getting back to Celtic basketball and playing well at home with this victory.
Mitigating the victory was the fact that Denver is without their head coach George Karl, and their defensive and emotional leader, Kenyon Martin. (Karl is out while receiving treatment for throat cancer.)
Martin’s absence was a big part of why the Cs were able to exploit the middle so much, finishing with 58 points in the paint.
Boston looked pretty good in this game, and it is another move in the right direction. But they also allowed Denver to shoot 50% through the first 3 quarters and 6 for 13 (.462) from the three point line for the game.
Denver is also the NBA leader in getting to the line and they went to the charity stripe a huge 37 times in this contest.
When Denver made a move to small ball with Carmelo at the 4, they made a run and got a 20 point lead down to 8. The Celtics finally countered at the end of the 3rd and reversed the momentum.
A few stand out statistics:
1) The Celtics had 28 points off turnovers to the Nuggets 4 points.
2) The Celtics had 23 second chance points to the Nuggets 8.
The Celtics still have work to do, but recent signs are encouraging. They could yet have something to say about who the next NBA Champion is.
Keep watching as the season winds down. Their next 5 games are at home.
They play the Sacramento Kings next on Friday night.