Kevin Garnett missed the newest Celtic, Sam Cassell, so much that he sang a lyric in appreciation last night that Peaches & Herb would have been proud of.
"It was good to see him over there. I hit him with, 'Reunited and it feels so good.' Other than that, it was good to see him," said Garnett, who played with Cassell in Minnesota from 2003-05.
Sitting next to Garnett was teammate Paul Pierce, who asked: "Are you all right, big guy?"
Garnett and the Celtics were definitely all right on this night, as they led by as many as 28 points while defeating the Chicago Bulls, 116-93.
The Celtics (48-12) have won seven straight games overall and 10 straight at home. All five Boston starters scored in double figures, led by Pierce's 22 points. The Celtics also made a season-high 38 free throws and never looked back after holding a 32-20 lead at the end of the first quarter.
"The No. 1 team in the East, and we got them [in the second of back-to-backs] at their place," said Bulls forward Drew Gooden, who was ejected by referee Scott Wall in the second quarter for arguing. "This is a tough game for anybody."
P.J. Brown, the other Celtics newcomer, made his debut against his former team. With Boston up, 90-68, and 1:24 left in the third quarter, Brown received a standing ovation when he checked into the game. His steal with 54.9 seconds left in the quarter led to a lay-in by Pierce that gave Boston a 94-71 lead. The Celtics finished the third up, 95-73.
Brown scored his first points as a Celtic on a 3-point play with 9:23 remaining to push the lead to 102-80. He had 3 points on 1-of-2 shooting, 6 rebounds, 1 steal, and 2 turnovers in 6 minutes.
"It made me nervous," said Brown of the standing ovation. "I was feeling like a rookie again, the way they received me and embraced me like that. I want to play hard and give it my best."
Said Pierce: "When he came to the bench, I asked him how he felt. He was a little tired. That first wind will always get you. I told him, 'It doesn't matter what you've been doing before that, when you step on the basketball court, unless you've been playing, the first couple times down the court you're going to be really tired.' "
Cassell, who signed Monday, took shots before the game, then joined his new teammates on the bench, wearing street clothes.
While Cassell said he is healthy and his conditioning is fine, he said coach Doc Rivers will determine when he makes his Celtics debut.
"When he tells me, I'm ready," said Cassell. "If he says, 'Sam, I need you tonight,' I'm ready tonight."
Said Rivers: "[Cassell's] loud, good [loud]. I don't think it's ever bad to add a guy with energy to your basketball team. He has energy, life energy."
With the 95-73 lead, Rivers felt comfortable sitting four of his starters - Pierce, Garnett (16 points, eight rebounds), Ray Allen (11 points), and Kendrick Perkins (14 points, 11 rebounds) - for the entire fourth quarter. That was good news for the Celtics since they traveled to Memphis last night for tonight's game against the Grizzlies. Rivers expected the Celtics' flight to land between 3 and 4 this morning.
"This is a tough one," Rivers said. "There is nothing worse than having a [late national] TV game and then back-to-back [games]."
With Boston up, 111-88, and 2:25 left, Celtics rookie Glen Davis sailed over the scorer's table in pursuit of a loose ball, making contact with a pair of officials.
"I was just trying to hustle," Davis said. "It was an opportunity for my team to get the ball."
Marc J. Spears can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.