Kevin Garnett, Celtics lay smackdown on Pacers
|01.04.13 at 9:53 pm ET|
Kevin Garnett was ejected after a flagrant-2 foul on Tyler Hansbrough, and unless you came to watch him dance during Gino Time, it didn’t even matter. The Celtics ended a four-game losing streak with a resounding 94-75 victory against the Pacers.
Combined with the Thunder’s blowout of the 76ers, the Celtics (15-17) leapfrogged Philadelphia (15-19) into the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Garnett totaled 18 points and seven rebounds before his ejection.
Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo combined for a triple-double (31 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds) while Courtney Lee (13 points) and Jared Sullinger (10 rebounds) showed positive signs. Here’s what else happened.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
A Courtney Lee sighting: In Bradley’s return against the Grizzlies, Lee tumbled down the depth chart, playing just eight minutes in the blowout. Maybe that lit a fire in him. He played eight minutes in the first half against the Pacers, making 3-of-4 shots, grabbing two rebounds and playing aggressive defense. Even after the whistle, when he threw down a ferocious dunk running a 2-on-1 alongside Rondo, Lee impressed.
A lineup that worked: Celtics coach Doc Rivers has juggled lineups endlessly, trying to find one that will make things a little more exciting. Enter Garnett, Rondo, Green (?!?!), Lee and Sullinger, who started the second quarter and turned a one-point deficit into a 31-23 advantage with a little thing called effort. The C’s never looked back.
Big Three: Rondo, Garnett and Pierce combined for 49 points on 22-of-40 shooting (55.0 percent from the floor) to go along with 18 rebounds and 14 assists. It goes without saying, but generally the Celtics will go as far as that trio can take them, and on Friday night they looked like the Celtics of old. And not just old Celtics.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Cold first quarter: Bradley missed his first five shots, Jason Terry missed his first four and the Celtics shot just 29.2 percent (7-24 FG) in the opening quarter. Thankfully for Boston, the Pacers weren’t much better (7-20, 35.0%), and the Celtics trailed just 16-15 after the first 12 minutes.
Pass on Bass: Rivers continues to search for his best option in the fifth starter’s role. He’s tried Sullinger, Jason Collins and Brandon Bass, who got the nod against Indiana. Bass grabbed eight rebounds but scored zero points through three quarters. Back to the drawing board. Maybe it’s time again for Sullinger, whose plus/minus numbers alongside Garnett are off the charts.
Project Green-light: Rivers also said following the loss to the Grizzlies that he wants to find more minutes for Green, but he might have been the only player worse than Bass against the Pacers. Green was scoreless through the first 34:41 and if not for garbage time he might still be waiting for his first rebound.