The losing streak had reached six games; injuries, bumps, bruises, coughs, and colds were running rampant.
Not the best situation for coach Doc Rivers's Celtics, who needed something to get them out of their February funk, which had dropped them to 18-31 and looking for a bright spot.
No problem. Just bring the hapless Portland Trail Blazers (17-31) to TD Banknorth Garden for their only appearance of the season, let captain and All-Star Paul Pierce (game-high 35 points) show his talents, and insert rookie Ryan Gomes into the lineup for his first NBA start. That's a formula for success that turned into a 115-83 Celtic victory last night.
With the injury list as long as their losing streak, including guard Delonte West (hip, though he played last night), Al Jefferson (ankle), and Kendrick Perkins (shoulder), Rivers said it was time for ''everyone to step up."
The Celtics did that, with their efforts getting the sellout crowd of 18,624 smiling for the first time this month.
Pierce, as usual, led the way, but he received help from Wally Szczerbiak (21 points) and Raef LaFrentz (18 points) as the Celtics breezed to their biggest rout of the season.
''A great effort by everybody," said Rivers, whose Celtics expanded a 10-point halftime lead to 30 before pulling people near the end of the third quarter. ''Paul and Wally got us started early and they fed off each other for open shots."
The baskets came in spurts and from all over the court. LaFrentz, battling cold symptoms, was on target from long range, making 5 of 6 3-pointers.
''Doc changed a few things and tonight we followed through on it," said LaFrentz, who hit from the left corner, right corner, and the top of the key during one stretch in the first half. ''When they fall, it's fun playing on the 3-point line."
The Celtics came on gradually, building their lead from 10 points at the end of the first and second quarters to 34 in the final minute of the game.
Pierce scored 20 in the third quarter, when the Celtics blew past the Trail Blazers with ball movement that seemed to find the open man every time.
''We moved the ball to our shooters," said Pierce, who noted the Celtics shrugged off the frustration over the losing streak and the injuries that forced Rivers to dig deep into his roster for bodies. ''We kept our heads up and didn't get down on ourselves."
The Blazers were coming off a horrible performance Wednesday night against Indiana in which they shot only 27 percent in a 101-69 loss. They were so lackadaisical in that game, coach Nate McMillan gave his team a verbal spanking. However, it was more of the same last night; it just took a little longer to show.
''It was just terrible," said center Theo Ratliff (8 points). ''We've got to try to figure it out."
''We don't have fire," said McMillan. ''I don't know where our fire has gone. These last two games were basically a repeat. Just the fire, inner motivation, is not there."
Last night, the Celtics had enough for both teams. Gomes, making his first career start, was typical of the attitude the Celtics displayed. ''Ryan was great," said Rivers. ''I thought the rebounding was phenomenal. I thought his defense was phenomenal. I still think he can be more aggressive scoring."
Gomes, who scored 4 points but pulled down nine rebounds in 35 minutes, said scoring was not his goal. ''The main focus was on rebounding," he said. ''If you get rebounds, you get minutes."
With Jefferson and Perkins still battling injuries, Gomes figures to get his minutes.
And the Celtics, old and new, are getting used to each other. ''All of us are starting to feel comfortable with each other," said Szczerbiak, who is eight games into his Celtics career. ''It's a good feeling."
And one that has been missing for some time.
''I'm just happy with the win," said Rivers. ''I thought everybody played well, for the most part. The fans were happy. And we get the win.
''Can't beat it."