Celtics find the best road to an easy victory over Blazers
Sebastian Telfair could not stop smiling after playing the Portland Trail Blazers. Reflecting on his first game against his former team, Telfair sounded like he was in shock. He could not believe how well the game went, how it unfolded better than he dreamed. He could not remember participating in a more satisfying NBA victory.
Telfair wanted to prove something to the organization that traded him to Boston June 28. He wanted to show the Blazers what they gave up for Dan Dickau, Raef LaFrentz, and the draft rights to Randy Foye. While Telfair knew the Celtics' uptempo style presented a better opportunity to advance his career, the deal was a blow to his pride, especially since the Blazers had such high hopes for the point guard when they drafted him No. 13 overall in 2004.
"It went the way I wanted it to go," said Telfair (15 points, seven assists). "I wanted to play well. I wanted to be aggressive. I wanted to hit my jump shot. I wanted to get assists. I wanted to do everything the Portland Trail Blazers said I couldn't do."
In what amounted to Telfair's best all-around performance of the season, he helped the Celtics to a 118-90 victory. Before the game, Telfair let teammates know how much a win would mean to him. Whether playing or watching from the sideline, he was on his feet, cheering wildly every demoralizing dunk and defensive stop. He thrilled at the sight of Paul Pierce (29 points) and Wally Szczerbiak (19) hitting their shots in the third quarter, and his younger teammates doing the same in the fourth.
As the final buzzer sounded, it would have been understandable if Telfair and the rest of the Celtics pinched themselves because the victory was so surprisingly thorough and efficient. The starters did not play a second of the fourth quarter, resting for tonight's game against the Knicks while primarily Delonte West, Rajon Rondo, Gerald Green, and Tony Allen easily closed out the contest. With a 16-2 run early in the fourth quarter, Boston delivered the knockout blow. Throughout the final period, it was West who connected most often, going 5 for 6 from the floor to score 13 of his 17 points.
West scored the final 8 points of Boston's run, propelling the home team ahead, 96-70, when he nailed an 18-footer with 8:45 remaining. After that, Allen, Green, and Rondo went to work, stretching the lead to a game-high 35 (115-80) on a fast-break layup by Allen. The Celtics outscored the Blazers, 41-25, in the fourth. As Portland learned the hard way, few teams can pile on the points as quickly as Boston when playing well. And with two straight blowout wins, it can accurately be said the Celtics are playing well.
"Nothing has been different," West said. "We're just finding a rhythm as a team. The substitution pattern is becoming more stable. Guys know when they're coming in. Guys are kind of settling into their roles. That plays a big part."
As the Celtics settle into their roles, they also figure out what they need to do to win. That was evident in the fourth quarter as they showed patience on offense and hustled after every loose ball. There was Green leaning over the baseline to keep a ball inbounds. There was Brian Scalabrine chasing down a Green miss from the free throw line. On more than one occasion, there were three Boston players crashing the boards.
Boston did what it needed to in the third quarter -- stretch its lead from a 50-43 halftime advantage. After allowing its advantage to slip to 4 (62-58) with 4:36 left in the third, Boston worked toward establishing a double-digit lead. The Celtics did exactly that when Leon Powe scored on a powerful driving dunk with 2:15 remaining in the quarter. The basket pushed Boston ahead, 70-60. Pierce finished the quarter with a 3-pointer on the break and the Celtics took a 77-65 lead into the fourth.
"Everything positive is always good," said coach Doc Rivers, who earned the win with the third-largest margin of his Boston tenure. "Every time we do something good it's important to this team. It's important to each guy who does something well. They don't have a lot of positive history in their NBA lives."
The blowout gave Boston its first winning streak of the season, something they did not accomplish last season until Dec. 21. Now the Celtics have an opportunity to win three in a row, something they were unable to do all of 2005-06.
Shira Springer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.