Winning an NBA game is tough. Winning the same NBA game twice, which is what these Boston Celtics often have to do, is — quite predictably — tougher. How many times has the script unfolded just like tonight, with the Celtics sprinting to an early lead that the second unit promptly, and furiously, coughs up?
Too often, Boston’s bench doesn’t just blow leads — it massacres them. It vacuums any momentum, leaving the Celtics’ starters staring a deficit in the eyes, during games which should have already been won. Nate Robinson enters the game, and suddenly the offense just doesn’t work. Semih Erden enters the game, and suddenly rebounds fall into opponent’s hands. Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen sub out, and quickly the Celtics fall from a championship-quality outfit to a D-League-quality mess. The bench meltdown doesn’t happen every game, I know. But it happens often enough to be considered a problem.
Boston actually won tonight’s contest by quite a few points, and the 115-93 final score indicated a blowout. But still, anger invades me and eats at my insides. Why? The blasted bench. The starters originally jumped to a quick lead, and they were humming. Rondo was scoring at will, Kevin Garnett was shooting jumpers like there were no defenders in sight (which makes sense; there weren’t), and the C’s worked to get easy shots. Until the bench came in, and quickly vaporized all momentum Boston had built.
Okay, no more complaints from me. The Celtics still won by 22 points, you see, so there were certainly some positives. Rondo penetrated into the lane at will, mostly because he’s Rajon Rondo and partly because, as Bill Walton said, “It shouldn’t make any difference” who guarded Rondo. “Because neither Curry or Ellis are going to play defense anyway.” Rondo wreaked havoc all night, scoring as he pleased and utilizing paint touches to find wide open teammates. It was Rondo’s birthday, and if I was super corny I’d make a joke about how his gift was a game played against Monta Ellis’ and Stephen Curry’s defense.
The C’s allowed only 33 second-half points, to a team that loves scoring points. Kevin Garnett worked his rump off, and was quite destructive in many ways. Neither Paul Pierce or Ray Allen forgot how to shoot during the All-Star break. Von Wafer could really use some more of Nate Robinson’s minutes, I’d say. Glen Davis double-doubled, and somehow added three steals.
Semih Erden played 17 minutes, scored zero points and contributed one rebound. He did, however, have four assists. A Rondo-Delonte West-Nate Robinson backcourt surprised me, and probably only works against Golden St. Speaking of West, his return to the court was largely uneventful. If today was any indication, he needs time to work his legs back into shape.
The Celtics confirmed tonight what we already know: they’re a lot better than the Golden St. Warriors, and Rajon Rondo’s a pretty masterful point guard. But the C’s still need to learn how to play 48 full minutes on a consistent basis, which means the bench needs to start holding up its end of the bargain.
P.S. – Kendrick Perkins left the game with a bruised left knee (not the knee he had surgery on). It didn’t look serious, but Perk walked off the floor with a slight limp.