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Bucks-Celtics Review: Of Slow Starts and Blocked Shots

Doc Rivers [1] had a feeling the Celtics [2] were going to start slowly Friday night. It’s not something he planned on, necessarily, but let’s just say after the team got back after 4 in the morning from beautiful Oklahoma City, he wasn’t surprised that it took his team a little while to get going.

That was why, despite getting down by as many as 13 points in the first quarter, Rivers resisted the urge to call a timeout. “I just tried to burn minutes,” Rivers said. “I didn’t want to sub any of them out. Just thought it was a good way of getting them running.”

Rivers hunch paid off as the Celtics slowly took control, and with the aid of an energetic bench effort, knocked off the Bucks, 101-89. But what of this emerging pattern of early deficits?

“That’s up to the starters,” Paul Pierce [3] said. “We put ourselves in a hole and we have to understand that, especially going into Detroit and the teams we have coming in next week.”

Ah, yes. The Celtics are at Detroit on Sunday, and then have Toronto, Atlanta (that’s undefeated Atlanta) and Denver all at the Garden next week.  The Pistons, by the way, lost to the Nets [4], 103-96 Friday night, despite 24 points from Allen Iverson [5]. It promises to be the first referendum on where the Celtics are as a team, and where their opponents are as well, because the Celtics are the measuring stick.

Those teams would be wise to take note of another emerging storyline: The play of the Celtics bench. In a word, energy, defined the reserves run.

“These back-to-back games for the bench is really (about) turning the game around in the second quarter of the ballgame,” Eddie House [6] said.

House scored 11 points, many of them coming on leak-out layups which were the result of deflections on the defensive end, but he wasn’t the only one. Tony Allen [7] packed 13 points, four assists and two steals into his most efficient outing of the season, Leon Powe [8] did his usual number with 10 points and three boards and Glen Davis [9] added eight and four.

Then in the fourth quarter, the reserves plus Pierce put some distance between them and the Bucks. If it looks like Pierce is getting more run with the second unit, well, he is. His presence, as opposed to Ray Allen [10] (who often played that role last year) allows Tony Allen to stay at the two-guard. The difference, of course, is James Posey [11] who is doing his thing in New Orleans. A nice subtle adjustment by Rivers.

The other hero of the night was Kendrick Perkins [12], who had seven, count ’em, seven blocked shots, giving him 11 over the last two games.

“He’s probably a little more mobile than last year,” Kevin Garnett [13] said. “He’s taking a challenge night in and night out, whether it’s Yao (Ming [14]) or (Andrew) Bogut [15]. He wants that. He’s found his groove. He’s a beast right now. Seven blocked shots. That’s what’s up.”

The numbers:

Five different players scored in double figures, led by Pierce with 18 points (and 10 rebounds and 7 assists).

The Celtics dished out 28 assists, led by Rajon Rondo [16] with 8, including an absolutely gorgeous bounce-pass to KG on the break for an emphatic dunk.

Bill Walker [17] got into his first NBA game and scored his first two points of his career.

Richard Jefferson [18], who was ridiculous in the first six minutes with 14 points, settled down and finished with 20. Charlie Villanueva [19] had 13 and 12 rebounds. The great Ramon Sessions had an ordinary 11 points and a tough five turnovers.