The play was ugly, the effort was slim, a few minutes remained in the first quarter, and the Celtics trailed the Cleveland Cavaliers — yes, the Lebron-less Cavaliers — 21-14. The second quarter was coming soon, which is normally bad, and part of the bench was already in the game, which doesn’t usually bode well for Boston. So, naturally, Rajon Rondo took over the scoring load and the second unit turned the game around.
Okay, so it wasn’t the C’s average formula for winning. It still worked. Rondo ended the game with a season high 23 points, to go along with 12 dimes, and the C’s avenged their earlier loss to the Cavs with a 106-87 win.
It was weird to see Rondo call his own number so often, but he was more aggressive going to the hoop than usual. He wasn’t settling for jumpers, for the most part. He was simply beating his man all the way to the hoop. It looked like he saw his teammates lollygagging through another road game, and said, “You know what, guys? Hop on my back, at least until you get your heads out of your asses.”
When Rondo started doing his scoring damage, he was surrounded by the second unit that has been much-maligned in recent days. But the reserves were splendid tonight, almost every single one of them. (Yes, the almost is mostly intended for Nate Robinson. I liked his eight points. The ten shots it took to score said eight points, not so much, even if all the shots were good looks.)
Marquis Daniels took advantage of good matchups and opportunities throughout the game. Doc Rivers upheld his vow to mix and match the first and second unit, and one of the units he concocted included Daniels as the shooting guard, alongside Pierce at small forward. With a small shooting guard (Boobie Gibson) defending him, Daniels was free to unleash his advanced post game. Gibson was no match for the array of herky-jerky up fakes Daniels offered, which Daniels only needed to utilize when his sheer size wasn’t enough. The braided, part-time rapper scored 16 points, another season high.
Also excelling on the bench was Glen Davis. That has become pretty normal, even if Rivers wasn’t thrilled with Davis’s production the last few games. Davis scored inside, he scored outside, and most importantly he didn’t force any bad shots. Of course, he didn’t need to force any bad shots — devouring Antawn Jamison was easy enough. It’s weird seeing Jamison now, but he used to be an All-Star. Even as recently as last season, he was supposed to be the key to a Cavaliers championship. Strange to think about now, no? I know Jamison’s not always as bad as he was tonight, but still. Alright, enough about Jamison — back to Davis. Ramon Sessions, Glen Davis does not allow you access to his kitchen.
Kevin Garnett notched a double-double, even though he didn’t play great. Shaq played like a man who didn’t practice any of the last three days, which he actually is. The Big Diesel made one beautiful touch pass, but also decided to conserve his energy defensively. On at least four occasions I noticed, Cleveland big men took jumpers while Shaq laid five or six feet off, with his hands by his side. Not too surprising, but not at all perfect.
Moving on, who else am I supposed to talk about? Ray Allen didn’t do much, but one floater he made was magnificent. Paul Pierce thought he was Dwight Howard for a little while. Semih Erden scored zero points and snatched only three rebounds, but still somehow pleased me, likely because of his two blocks and solid energy. There were even Luke Harangody, Avery Bradley and Von Wafer sightings, which was exciting if ultimately not very life-altering.
Also, it was sad to see the Lebron-less Quicken Loans Arena. I’m normally against arenas playing music during games, but Cleveland is an exception. Without music, the arena would sound like someone hit the mute button. The fans are THAT silent in there, or at least they were tonight. The deafening silence wasn’t just because the Cavs were blown out, either. Even when the Cavs started the game with a 12-4 run, you could have heard one of Ray Allen’s swishes from the nose bleeds.
Back to the Celtics, tonight’s win was a good one. Not against the best competition, granted, but the Celtics played well. The second unit started to hum a little, Doc Rivers may have found Marquis Daniels a new position, and the Celtics have now won four games in a row.
If it weren’t for the wedgie I’m currently experiencing, it would be difficult to complain about anything at all.