After the Celtics 114-83 blowout victory against the Washington Wizards, Greg Dickerson asked Delonte West if he still needed some time to work into a rhythm. West immediately likened himself to two soul musicians, Donny Hathaway and Curtis Mayfield.
“I was born with rhythm,” West said. “It just comes natural from the good lord above.”
It sure looked to tonight, for both West and his team. The guard, returning from a ten-game suspension to play for the Celtics for the first time since April 16, 2007, contributed 12 points, 4 assists and 5 rebounds as the Celtics ran away from the Wizards. Mr. West, it’s nice to have you back.
Though West was the story, the starting five led the way. The Celtics’ starters shot 35-49 from the field, for a tidy 71.4%. That’s pretty good, right? The starters also scored a combined 77 points, building a 20-point lead by the end of the third quarter before the reserves finished the game off. The Celtics combined for more assists (32) than the Wizards had fields goals (31). In case you didn’t know, that’s rare.
What starter do I begin with? It’s tough to choose, but I’ll start with Kevin Garnett. It was clear from the tip that he didn’t forget what Blatche did to him last year. First Blatche called Garnett washed up, then he poured salt on the wound by scoring 31 points on Garnett later in the season.
“This team gave us problems last year. We haven’t forgotten that,” Kevin Garnett said after tonight’s game, before cutting himself off. “I haven’t.”
Garnett’s a different player this season. It’s not going to be easy for players to dominate him anymore. Blatche should be happy he took advantage of KG when he was weak, because it will never be that easy again. Not this year, at least. The Wizards power forward scored only 10 points, and six of those came via long three-pointers. Blatche wanted no part of Garnett near the basket, or at least that’s what it looked like. Garnett bottled Blatche up on one end, and on the other caught alley oops like it was in style. He didn’t harbor hard feelings toward Blatche, Garnett said after the game. But his play spoke differently. So did his attitude.
“Players, they have memories,” Doc Rivers admitted, later adding, “I think [Garnett] has a checklist. He wants to be the best, and he doesn’t want the guy he’s playing against to play well. That’s who he is. He’s built that way.”
Doc also noted, “I think we’re far more concerned about us.”
Then there’s not much to be concerned with. Everyone played well. Paul Pierce continued to assault the nets. Rajon Rondo had more assists than the entire Wizards team. Shaq dominated the paint in the first quarter and severely outplayed Javale McGee. Ray Allen only scored 11 points, but shot a tidy 5-8 from the floor, nobody on the team had a negative +/-, and Luke Harangody played. Like, in a real game.
I only had a few problems with the Celtics’ performance. Semih Erden looked less comfortable than he has all year. After four fouls in his first six minutes of playing time (all in the first half), Semih could have painted his skin black, thrown on some dreads, and pretended to be Mikki Moore. He was better in the second half, but for a little while Erden’s performance looked painful. And I mean that both figuratively and literally. When he took a seat on the bench after his first stint on the floor, Erden winced and grabbed his shoulder. He has clearly been playing in pain.
That said, Erden’s dunk on JaVale McGee (and McGee’s accompanying punch to Erden’s face) was the highlight of the game. And I can’t forget about Glen Davis, whose no-look feed to Erden on that play might have been the pass of his life. Davis only scored two points in the game, but accumulated eight rebounds and continued his disruptive defense. After the game, Pierce noted that Davis has learned how to affect games even when he doesn’t score. Yup. Point well taken.
I also have thoughts about the Wizards, of course. McGee is a freak athlete, but he reminds me of Gerald Green. For those who don’t know much about Green, that’s far from a compliment. McGee runs around like a seven-foot pogo stick with its head cut off. He has no basketball IQ to speak of, and, if it weren’t for his absurd physical attributes, wouldn’t even play for my rec-league team, nevertheless an NBA squad. That said, I’ll give him this: he’s fun to watch, mostly because he’s always a candidate to A) dunk on someone, B) get dunked on, or C) make you shake your head and simply wonder, “Why?”, almost as if his long limbs got in the way of what his head was trying to tell his body to do.
Not so fun to watch? The rest of the Wizards. Nick Young shot well, but his shot selection would make me want to strangle him if I was his teammate. Same goes for Al Thornton. Kirk Hinrich’s a winner stuck on a losing team, and Gilbert Arenas? Well, he once was a spectacular scorer. Tonight, he just looked like a player who missed most of last season due to suspension. Which, coincidentally, he did. At least it was nice to see Lester Hudson on the court.
Tonight’s game was over at halftime, when the Celtics led 60-44, but the Celtics didn’t stop adding to their lead. They finally added a secret weapon to their bench, Delonte West, and West should make them even more formidable than they were during their 8-2 start.
Just don’t expect West to struggle finding a rhythm. He was born with rhythm. It just comes natural from the good lord above.