The fourth quarter wound down, and Danny Granger earned a technical foul with a hissy fit toward referee Violet Palmer. As Granger continued to berate the female ref, Paul Pierce stood up on the sideline and encouraged Palmer to toss him out of the game. Now, I could care less Pierce thought Granger deserved a second technical foul. I could care less he voiced that opinion. I could care less Granger was in a ref’s face about what he felt was a missed call. It was the fourth quarter, and Paul Pierce was sitting on the bench alongside the other starters. Life was good.
A complete team win led the way for Boston, as all ten players who played non-garbage time minutes (which excludes Avery Bradley and Sasha Pavlovic) finished with positive plus/minuses. The Celtics limited Indiana to 37.5% shooting, a day after the Pacers lit up New York(‘s piss-poor defense) for 119 points.
After a mostly-despicable start that was uglier than Luke Harangody’s jumper, Jeff Green turned the game upside down (or was it right side up?). Green came off the bench to score bucket after bucket, pouring in 17 first-half points. He hit hook shots, drove to the lane, drew fouls, and ran the court with the urgency of a young boy who just accidentally hit a policemen’s car with a Roman Candle (yes, I might know a little something about that). On one occasion, he caught a blocked shot. On two others, he blocked shots without catching them. There was one play where Green made three straight perfect rotations, stopping penetration by beating players to the spot. He’s buying in to Boston’s defensive schemes, and that’s more beautiful even than his varied bag of offensive tricks.
Green was joined on the Celtics’ second unit by Delonte West, and the unit — semi-complete for one of the first times all season — flashed some serious potential. With Carlos Arroyo running the show, West and Green providing scoring and play-making, Glen Davis doing the dirty work while adding some buckets himself, and Troy Murphy reverse-dunking like a white Lebron James (okay, maybe that won’t happen every night), the second unit has turned into an A-plus. Anybody doubt that team could compete for a playoff spot? Neither do I. If Murphy ever becomes the player he used to be (and his legs and conditioning look infinitely stronger the past two games), that only adds another element. Even if he doesn’t, Boston’s bench has a little bit of everything — shooting, defense, play-making, and scoring. If Shaq ever returns and pushes Nenad Krstic to the bench? God. Dayum.
Less glowing praise for Rajon Rondo. Rondo did not grab a single rebound, nor did he score a single point, nor did he snap his (now six-game) streak of single-digit assists. At times, he looked okay. There was even a short span, when Boston pushed the ball in transition and Rondo found shooters on a few straight possessions, where he looked normal. But he still wasn’t the Rajon Rondo we love. He still wasn’t the Rajon Rondo who used to control every game. He wasn’t the Rajon Rondo who can impact games in so many different ways. Not that he needed to tonight, but still.
Aside from Rondo’s continued nonchalant play, there was little to complain about. The rebounding numbers weren’t pretty, but they didn’t have to be. Delonte West pinned Paul George’s shot off the backboard, prompting a prolonged “Yooooo” from Tommy Heinsohn. Tyler Hansbrough dunked in the vicinity of West a few possessions later, pretty fiercely. Paul Pierce opened the game with another “I’m a lot younger now than I was last year” special. Ray Allen had one quick-trigger three from the corner that made me want to cry tears of joy. And Avery Bradley and Sasha Pavlovic played the final 2:16, but in that time did nothing at all for me to discuss.
The Celtics needed a win, and got it. That it came with such a nice, balanced effort was something to smile about. The Eastern Conference now has two teams tied for first.