The Celtics had a lot going against them tonight. If they didn't win, fans could understand why. It was the second of back to back games and all three stars played over 35 minutes last night. They were playing on the road. 2 key players off the bench were out with injuries. Doc spent the morning attending his father's funeral. But this team is special and in spite of all the factors going against them, they pulled out an impressive 112-101 win on the road.
The Celtics struggled a bit on both ends of the floor in the first quarter but started to pull away in the second, leading by 7 at the half. Then in the third quarter, they stretched the lead to 23 before allowing the Nets to cut it to 8 in the 4th quarter. But they held on to win it by 11. It was obvious at the end that fatigue was a factor when Ray Allen shot an airball and the defense was allowing dunks and layups. Another factor was the fact that Doc went small down the stretch with Big Baby, Perk and Powe all on the bench.
Although Pruitt and Wallace were active and dressed for the game, Doc used only 8 players with Powe, Wallace, Pruitt and Pollard registering DNP's. Big Baby did get to play and was quite impressive. In 17 minutes, he scored 6 points, pulled down 8 rebounds, dished out 2 assists, had 2 steals and 1 block and won the Tommy Award for his efforts. The Nets announcers who called the game kept saying that he was a load. After the game in his interview, Dickerson asked Pierce what he thought about Big Baby's performance and Pierce said "He was huge." Dickerson then asked if he meant his performance or his girth.
Rondo did a good job of running the offense and looked very confident hitting a couple of jumpers. He finished with 11 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 steal in 38 minutes. House played 24 minutes and finished with 13 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal. Tony struggled in this game playing only 11 minutes and finishing with 1 point, 1 rebound and 1 assist.
Perk played only 19 minutes and we could have used him down the stretch. He had 8 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assistss and 1 block. He finished the half with only 2 fouls and then picked up 2 quick ones in the third. Doc sat him and never put him back in.
Pierce, KG and RA all played big minutes again with Ray Allen leading the way playing all 48 minutes of the game. Pierce finished with 28 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in 40 minutes. KG had 18 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists 3 steals and 1 block in 43 minutes. This guy is just incredible. He does a little of everything out there and practically wills this team to win. Ray Allen played all 48 minutes and finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists. At the end of the game, it was obvious that fatigue was a factor when he shot an air ball.
The Celtics did much better taking care of the ball finishing with only 11 turnovers. They also continued their unselfishness and great passing with 27 assists on 36 baskets. The Celtics shot 46% while allowing the Nets to shoot 45%. Doc had a couple heads up moves as a coach tonight. Rondo was having trouble getting the ball across and they had 1 second left before being called for an 8 second back court violation. Doc called a time out to save the possession and Rondo got the ball across in the 1 second left and KG scored off the inbounds pass. On another play, Rondo was coming up court very quickly and as he approached Armstrong who was set, Doc called a time out just before he hit the stationary Armstrong, again saving the possession.
It is a bit concerning that the 3 stars are playing such big minutes. It is going to have consequences sooner or later as they wear down and possibly pick up injuries because they are fatigued. Doc needs to get a rotation where Pierce, Garnett and Allen can get some rest. Playing Ray the entire game wasn't really necessary. Even in blow outs, Doc tends to keep them on the floor too long.
The Nets had some injury problems in the game with Vince Carter leaving the game after rolling his ankle. X-rays came back negative and it was thought to be a sprained ankle. Then, in the final couple minutes, Armstrong dove into the stands to try to save the ball and came up limping. This could affect the second meeting between the teams on Wednesday.
The Celtics are 5-0. The Celtics are one of the top defensive teams in the league. Don't pinch me if I am dreaming because this dream is too good. The Celtics face the Pacers in Indiana on Tuesday and then the Nets again on Wednesday, again in the second of back to back games. Whether they win or lose, The Celtics already have the best start in 20 years and it only promises to get better.