As the clock wound down on Boston’s latest win, “If you’re happy and you know it” played over the TD Garden PA system. You know, the song that goes, “If you’re happy and you know it, and you really want to show it, if you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.” The song normally just annoys me, partly because it’s a very annoying song but mostly because it’s a very annoying song that gets stuck in my head quite easily. As I type these words, the song’s racing through my head (damn it). If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.
I’m happy. The Celtics just held the Philadelphia 76ers to 32 second half points while getting contributions from everybody who played minutes (except maybe Glen Davis). Every player in Doc Rivers’ nine-man rotation finished with a positive plus/minus, the Celtics shot 52.6% from the field, and the bench started showing some signs of meshing. Nenad Krstic returned from injury, just a few days after I suspected he had played his final game as a Celtic. Rajon Rondo ran the offense like Rajon Rondo normally runs an offense. Paul Pierce continued his recent hot shooting, Jeff Green finally decided “Hmm, I’m 6’9—maybe I should grab a few rebounds!”, and Philadelphia founds easy looks as tough to come by as a rainbow in the desert. . . at least in the second half. And the best part of all? The Celtics look like they’re finally snapping out of their malaise. Excepting a short drought in the third quarter when Boston looked woefully disinterested, the Celtics’ offense looked alive.
And I know it. Jermaine O’Neal did some good things. Actually, he’s been quietly doing some good things since rejoining the Celtics, only I’ve been afraid to mention it too forcefully because I don’t want to jinx anything. I feel like the first time I praise Jermaine, his body will start falling apart, like when you pull one too many wooden blocks out of a Jenga game. But tonight was the final straw. I no longer have a choice. (Crosses fingers, knocks on wood.) Jermaine O’Neal has been good.
And I really want to show it. Nothing Jermaine did was spectacular. He finished a bunch of layups, contested a few shots, hedged a few ball screens, drew a foul on Spencer Hawes while shooting a fadeaway jumper, yada yada yada. But the point is: he’s learning how to play with his star teammates. He got those layups because he moved without the ball to find open spaces. He contested a few shots no other Boston centers would. He can extend to the perimeter to limit point guards coming off screens, or he can bang down low with the big men. I know, I know. It was only Spencer Hawes. Still, he made Hawes’ life miserable. Best of all, in the words of my little brother, “He looks like he’s in way better shape than he was at the beginning of the year.” The next trick he needs to learn? How to play more than 12:32, although I understand his minutes were limited in part because the game evolved into a blowout.
Clap my hands. With Jermaine starting and Krstic coming off the bench, Boston’s big man rotation looked (almost) whole for the first time in, what, months? Krstic’s offense fit well with the second unit, and Jermaine’s defense and suddenly-opportunistic offense aided the first unit. Having two healthy (or at least healthy-ish) centers allowed Glen Davis to play mostly his natural power forward position. Even though he didn’t play well, that change should help him succeed in the future, at least once he stops bricking jumpers and starts committing himself on the glass. I’m sorry. I really didn’t even mean to take a shot at Davis there; how could I degrade his play after the alley oop he threw to Jeff Green?
So much went well tonight, and so little went wrong. I’d still like the Celtics to find Ray Allen some more shots. I’d still like a better rebounding effort. I’d still like to see Evan Turner stopped every once in a while. I’m picking nits, I know, but I’d also like a few less turnovers. Still, today was a good day for the Celtics, especially against a Philadelphia team that has been playing good ball and could be a playoff opponent.
Now, I just need to get this damned song out of my head.