After several grind-it-out style games in a row, Boston desperately needed an easy win. We can debate whether or not a game that was close until the final minutes of the third quarter counts as “easy,” but I think we can all agree that any game in which Pierce and Garnett can comfortably sit the entire fourth quarter is a roaring success.
Once you’ve stopped Gino-dancing around your living room (Ok fine, once I’VE stopped Gino-dancing around MY living room), let’s get to the bullet points:
- What ankle sprain? Here’s how dominant Rondo was through three quarters: Not only did he finish with 20 assists, he only played 32 minutes, and the Celtics had just ONE point off a fast break. So Rondo didn’t play the whole game, and the Celtics didn’t really play his ideal style of basketball. And he still managed to completely control the game, while scoring just six points. The man is enigmatic maestro.
- Before today’s game, Rondo’s assist percentage, per Basketball-Reference.com, was 55.6%. That means that on 55.6% of Boston’s scoring possessions, Rondo was credited with an assist. That’s both impressive (because Rondo is such a phenomenal playmaker) and frightening (because Boston’s offense revolves around him so consistently).
- After a game like that, Rondo deserves three bullet points. His most impressive play: Early in the first quarter, Rondo got the ball along the baseline. He dribbled toward the hoop and attracted a triple-team and seemed to be trapped. But Chris Wilcox’s defender was one of the players trapping Rondo, and Wilcox moved toward the hoop. Somehow, with three taller players defending him, Rondo was able to toss him the ball for the easy alley-oop. I still have absolutely no idea how he saw Wilcox.
- The Celtics out-rebounded Toronto on the afternoon 40-36, but it didn’t necessarily feel like a win on the boards, in part because the Raptors managed to keep the game close by grabbing offensive rebounds in the second and third quarters. Once the Celtics started hitting the defensive glass (a task that really shouldn’t prove to be that difficult against the Raptors), they were able to capitalize on empty Raptor possessions, which was big in helping them blow the game open. Also of note: Jared Sullinger was a beast on both ends, pulling down 11 boards (four offensive) and scoring 12 points on 5-8 shooting.
- Boston’s defense was really quite good. The Raptors struggled to get clean looks at the basket and shot 22 3-pointers as a result, making just eight. The most positive defensive sign was the trust that new players showed on defensive rotations. Pick and rolls were solidly hedged. Passes out of a double-team were immediately swarmed. After watching Jared Sullinger running away from a shooter to cover his man after a pick and roll, it was a welcome relief to see him staying on the P&R handler, trusting Garnett to pick up his man (which Garnett did).
- Lots of defensive positives, but there were a few negatives as well. The starters seemed to get too comfortable in the second quarter in particular as Toronto made their run back into the game. Very little is as aggravating as Boston’s habit of allowing inferior teams to make a game out of a blowout. Also of note: Toronto was given 31 chances at the free throw line. The Raptors made just 21 of them, but that many free throw attempts point to defensive lapses turning into drives at the basket.
- The Celtics hit a LOT of jumpers. Jeff Green, Jason Terry, Leandro Barbosa and Kevin Garnett were all connecting pretty consistently from outside the lane, and the C’s finished the game shooting 56.6% from the floor, 40% from 3-point range.
- Jeff Green watch: Positives: Green looked for his shot and knocked down a couple of mid-range jumpers, looking comfortable and fluid. Negatives: Green managed just two rebounds and two free throws. Make of that what you will.
- An interesting note: According to several people on Twitter, Avery Bradley sat on the Celtics’ bench in the first half in uniform. Just a reminder that we are getting closer and closer to his return.
- Ask me how many times I’ve typed “Tonight’s game” instead of “Today’s game” while writing this recap. Answer: A lot.
- Back-to-backs suck for this team, especially when the C’s have to travel for the second game. But if you HAVE to play a back-to-back on the road, it’s certainly nice if the second game is against the Detroit Pistons after a night when Garnett played just 19 minutes, Pierce played just 25, and Rondo played just 32.
Happy Saturday, everybody.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.