The Boston Celtics starters weren’t supposed to play in the second half. They were supposed to be granted some rest. But when a hapless first half ended with the Celtics trailing the Nets 55-48, plans changed. Eleven minutes later, the Celtics led 80-69 when the starters were substituted out after stunning an overwhelmed Nets team with a barrage of quick and powerful jabs. A 107-92 victory was well underway.
As the cheers rained down from an abnormally loud preseason crowd at the TD Garden, the message had been sent:
Miami Heat, the Celtics are ready for opening night.
- Game Notes:
- Shaq continues to fit in. The Great Wall of Massachusetts solidified his hold on the starting role, and keeps working to change the perception that his presence held Cleveland back. The Diesel has been nothing but helpful in Boston, where his rebounding, outlet passes and paint presence have been a welcome addition. Tonight, he even hedged a screen-and-roll and forced a turnover. I pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.
- Contrary to what most folks thought, Shaq’s presence doesn’t clog the lane for the Celtics — it opens lanes. On one play, Ray Allen came off a curl with a head of steam towards the hoop. Even though Allen was wide open and headed straight for a layup, the Nets’ center didn’t fully commit to helping out. Why? It could have been that the Nets are awful defensively. That makes sense. But more likely, the Nets’ center was afraid to leave Shaq because Shaq’s a bigger threat than Kendrick Perkins ever was. Well, that and the Nets are awful defensively.
- A couple plays into the third quarter, Paul Pierce sneaked around Kris Humphries and stole the ball. Pierce outlet passed the ball to Rajon Rondo, igniting the fast break. Rondo dumped it back to Pierce, who finished the play with a vicious dunk close enough to Johan Petro to make the Nets’ center blush. You can’t tell me Pierce had that type of rise in last year’s playoffs. You can’t.
- I’ll be shocked if Von Wafer isn’t chosen as the Celtics’ 15th player. He found his sea legs (C legs?), and for the past three games has provided the offensive boost the Celtics expected when they signed him. Stephane Lasme will remain an inspiration and a great story, but the Celtics will likely assign him to the Maine Red Claws — if Lasme agrees.
- Semih Erden isn’t your normal rookie. He makes at least two or three plays per game that scream “VETERAN!!!!” Today, he had two nice post moves around Derrick Favors. The second was a beautiful drop-step that was reminiscent of Kevin McHale. Okay, maybe not that veteran-esque.
- For what it’s worth, Tommy Heinsohn salivated when he first saw Rajon Rondo play for the Celtics. He had the same feeling the other night watching Avery Bradley.
- As Ray Allen tends to do, he got hot. The lesson, as usual: the only thing smoother than Ray Allen’s jumper is his bald dome piece.
- Tiny Gallon’s new number? 63. He said it made him feel like an offensive linemen. I bet looking in the mirror gives him that same feeling.
- Doc Rivers missed the game after having throat surgery. He couldn’t scream, he said. Lawrence Frank coached in his place. Frank has at least one thing he does better than Tom Thibodeau — unlike Thibs when filling in for Doc, Frank actually made substitutions.
- One of the subs he made was matching Glen Davis and Kevin Garnett together in the same frontcourt. That gives the Celtics an interesting lineup full of shooters. Something to keep an eye on.
- Mario West won’t make the Celtics, and he doesn’t deserve to. But if he ever defended me at the Y, I’d fake an injury.
- Rajon Rondo’s last on my list of notes, but not least. Every day, I marvel at the way he dominates games without scoring points.
- Kevin Garnett was aggressive. He was also whistled for a technical foul when he made an elbowing motion in the vicinity of Kris Humphries’ head. Even though the replay showed no malicious intent, I can’t fault the ref for calling a technical. When I saw the play live, I thought KG had plans to decapitate Humphries.