This was the Celtics team we have grown accustomed to watching over the last few seasons. The passing was crisp, the open man was found and the Celtics played from the inside out. It’s been several weeks since we’ve seen that Celtics team on a regular basis and they picked a perfect time to rediscover the formula.
The result was loads of wide-open looks and four starters scoring in double figures (Kendrick Perkins had nine points) in a 95-89 win over the Clippers Monday night at TD Garden. The Celtics also clamped down defensively, holding the Clippers to just 15 points in the third quarter. It was their second-straight win, their first winning streak since Jan. 6.
It wasn’t all peaches and cream, to quote a favorite Kevin Garnett saying. They played uninspired basketball in the first 12 minutes, turning the ball over six times and allowing four offensive rebounds.
The Celtics also had trouble putting the Clips away in the fourth quarter, but give Los Angeles’ other team credit: They came to play. Former Boston College star Craig Smith was a beast in the fourth quarter, scoring all 13 of his points in the final 12 minutes, but none down the stretch after Garnett picked him up.
Player of the Game: If Rajon Rondo wanted to make one last good impression before the All-Star teams are announced he certainly stated his case well with 16 points, seven rebounds and 12 assists. Like the rest of his teammates Rondo started slowly, but he picked his game up early in the second quarter. It was one of his finest performances in weeks.
Turning Point: With the Celtics trailing by nine points early in the second quarter Doc Rivers subbed out his second team for the starters. That was when Ray Allen got hot, scoring 10 quick points and knocking down a pair of 3-pointers. The Celtics didn’t retake the lead until early in the second half, but that’s when they began to build momentum
* Kevin Garnett looked strong taking the ball to the basket on a couple of occasions. On one drive he made former Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Camby look foolish with a pump fake before jamming over a defenseless Clipper.
* There was a lot of talk about Rondo’s defense before the game, but none of it seemed to bother him before, and during the game. Rondo spent most of the pregame watching video of Baron Davis and talking strategy with assistant coach Armond Hill. He put that into practice keeping Davis in check, holding him to 5-for-13 shooting.
* Things got heated late in the game with Garnett going strong with Smith, Ricky Davis jawing with Ray Allen and Kendrick Perkins and Baron Davis also going at it.
* Speaking of Ray Allen, he scored 10 of his 14 points during a key stretch of the second quarter. He finished with a pedestrian 5-for-14 shooting line, but his hot streak was a big reason the Celtics were able to get back in the game.
* Perkins had a huge rebounding night with 15 boards. Paul Pierce led the scoring with 22 points and was a perfect 11-for-11 from the line.