Fast Break: Celtics win fourth straight, reach .500
|01.27.12 at 10:06 pm ET|
For 24 minutes against the Pacers, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett looked like a couple guys in their mid 30s playing consecutive nights of basketball, combining for 4-of-16 shooting in the first half, but The Truth and The Ticket made a combined 10-of-14 second-half shots to lead the Celtics to impressive victories in back-to-back games — this time 94-87 against Larry Bird‘s club.
Pierce approached a triple-double for the second straight night, compiling 28 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, while Garnett added 13 points and eight boards (as did Mickael Pietrus). Meanwhile, recently returned Chris Wilcox enjoyed a breakout night for the Celtics (9-9), amassing season highs of 14 points and six rebounds.
Danny Granger‘s 21 points led the Pacers (12-6), who had beaten the C’s in their two previous meetings.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Bench clearing: Led by Wilcox’s six points and three rebounds, the C’s bench played an inspired first quarter, making all four of their shots and taking an early 23-17 lineup when Garnett and Pierce came out flat on the second night of a back-to-back. A lineup of Wilcox, E’Twaun Moore, Marquis Daniels, Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus actually stretched a lead when the Celtics needed a lift most.
Sharing the wealth: The Celtics assisted on 21 of their 38 field goals in the first half — without starting point guard Rajon Rondo in action. For the second consecutive night, Pierce (10 assists in Thursday night’s victory) assumed the role as the offense’s main facilitator, recording more assists by himself (5) than the entire Pacers team (4) in the opening half.
Double the fun: Sure, Doc Rivers has a philosophy that his team is better off getting back on defense, but offensive rebounding was a concern for the Celtics last season, as they rarely outworked opponents on the offensive glass. Against the Pacers, the C’s pulled down seven first-half offensive boards and outscored the Pacers for the game in second-chance opportunities, 14-6.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Health: Once again, the Celtics played without Rajon Rondo (wrist), Ray Allen (ankle), Jermaine O’Neal (knee) and Keyon Dooling (knee, hip). It’s been an admirable effort, especially on consecutive nights, in their absence, but they should hope those injuries are more cautionary than lingering issues that could catch up with them.
Stiemer: Center Greg Stiemsma continues to struggle after his breakout game against the Wizards on Jan. 2. He saw four minutes and missed his only shot, a jumper, badly. Stiemsma has a grand total of two field goals in his last 11 games.
Outside of that, it’s hard to complain about a team that just a week ago looked tired and beaten before managing to rattle off four straight wins, battle back to .500 on the season and raise its record on the second night of back-to-backs to 3-2. It’s no surprise this sequence has coincided with Pierce’s gradual return to form.