Celtics keep the beat going
Sixers no match for this defense
PHILADELPHIA - The Celtics starters continued to play less and enjoy life more last night.
Another dominant defensive display led to another rout, this time the Celtics taking a 105-74 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. The starting unit produced a couple of impressive runs, then viewed the final quarter from the bench, getting much-needed rest for tonight’s visit to Minnesota.
The Sixers, who entered the game with a league-leading .526 shooting percentage, shot 36.3 percent, the fourth Celtic opponent out of five that has failed to hit 40 percent.
The Celtics, who are 5-0 and are outscoring opponents by an average of 22 points per game, won easily without significant contributions from Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Kendrick Perkins. Both Garnett (23 minutes) and Perkins (20 minutes) had 3 points and six rebounds, their teammates jokingly accusing them of taking the night off. Allen led the Celtics in playing time (30:53), but mostly acted as a decoy, scoring 5 points on 2-for-8 shooting.
“We’re going to win because of our defense, always, no matter how well our offense plays,’’ Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “We’ve got to get better each game. We did that the first three games. The New Orleans game [Sunday], I thought we won the game but didn’t improve.
“We took another little step with some of the little things we did tonight. We have a brutal stretch with eight games in 12 days. We’re just trying to get through these eight games.’’
But the logjam of games does not loom as difficult because of the second unit’s relief pitching.
After a slow start, the Celtics converted nine successive field goal attempts in the second quarter, and led, 44-36, at halftime. The Celtics scored on six of their first seven possessions to begin the second half, a Rajon Rondo 3-point play increasing the lead to 60-40 with 7:03 remaining in the third quarter.
The Sixers pulled within 15 after three quarters, but the Celtic reserves turned it into a rout.
Eddie House and Rasheed Wallace hit 3-pointers in the first 5:53 of the quarter, and a Lester Hudson trey increased the advantage to 95-61 with 4:59 remaining.
“They take a lot of pressure off us,’’ Paul Pierce said. “We saw it early, the potential of our bench. Hopefully, they’ll continue to do the things to make them play great.
“The more rest the better. That means we’re playing well, and, knowing it’s a long season, it’s going to pay off late in the season.’’
Pierce said the intrasquad scrimmages have improved both the starters and the second unit.
“It’s tough to stop them, actually, and that’s why I think our defense is so good,’’ Pierce said, “because if we stop them, we can pretty much stop anybody.’’
Wallace scored 20 points and was 6 for 8 on 3-pointers. He also made the final minute of the third quarter eventful, thanks to a dispute with official Haywoode Workman. Wallace was fouled by Jason Kapono with 38 seconds left, the Celtics receiving a side out. But Wallace contended he was shooting when he was hit about 8 feet from the basket on the low post.
With 4.5 seconds left, Pierce (21 points) drew a shooting foul, and Wallace received a technical. After Kapono missed the technical shot, Pierce sank two free throws for a 69-53 lead, Wallace leaving the ball on the foul line while eyeing Workman.
Andre Iguodala then attempted an off-balance, lefthanded 17-footer, drawing a foul from Shelden Williams just before the buzzer. Iguodala pulled his shirt up to mask his laughter before hitting one of two free throws.
“They are extremely unselfish,’’ Rivers said of the Celtic reserves. “This group is trying to get each other [going]. They help and talk on defense.
“The best part is, when one guy has it going, they make a concerted effort to make sure that guy is getting the next shot until somebody stops him. You don’t see that a lot from a lot of benches.
“They’re veterans, they understand the game, they’re playing to win, they have no agendas. Those three guys [Marquis Daniels, House, Wallace] kind of set the table.’’