Celtics rebuild in a rout of Pistons
In a way, it almost looked therapeutic.
Aside from Jonas Jerebko still darting up the court and scrapping for the occasional loose ball, the Detroit Pistons were practically lifeless — no Rodney Stuckey, no Ben Wallace, and, after he took a knee to the back about seven minutes into the first quarter, no Tayshaun Prince — and the Celtics kept pounding the Pistons until their pulse stopped.
And after losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers the day before, it felt good.
In the final moments of the Celtics’ 119-93 win last night, Tony Allen found himself out in front on a fast break with Nate Robinson trailing. Instead of dunking himself, Allen threw it off the backboard for Robinson, who caught it with two hands and polished it off with a finish worthy of a dunk contest.
Robinson hung on the rim long enough to draw a technical foul. But at that point the Celtics were ahead by 29 and basking.
Kevin Garnett was up off the Celtics’ bench with his index finger in the air. The fans left at TD Garden erupted. The Celtics had lost a measuring-stick game and responded by putting together their third-biggest blowout of the season and their second in two home games after picking the Pacers apart, 122-103, last Friday night.
“I think guys were mad about the loss we had and it showed,’’ said Kendrick Perkins. “I think you could tell from the jump ball.’’
From the tip, the Celtics won the rebounding war (13-10 in the first quarter), dominated the paint (18-8), and made the nets dance (52.4 percent), jumping ahead, 31-15, before the Pistons could get their bearings.
The Celtics had blown similar leads in the past, but they spent the next three quarters treating the Pistons like a one-armed sparring partner, holding them to 38.2 percent shooting in the first half.
“They were hungry for a victory,’’ said Pistons coach John Kuester. “They came out and took it to us.’’
The ball hopped from player to player, to the point that there was only one turnover in the first half compared with 15 assists.
“It reminded you of the time when we were playing at our best,’’ Perkins said. “That’s what we were doing.’’
Every time he drilled a jumper, Ray Allen (15 points) whipped his fist, like a judge dropping a gavel. He was one of four Celtics starters in double-digits, with Paul Pierce scoring 15, Garnett 14, and Perkins 11. Garnett matched Perkins with eight rebounds.
Wide-eyed and alive with a 22-point lead in the third quarter, Garnett and Perkins looked like a pair of eyewitnesses explaining the crash scene as they pointed out the things they were seeing on the floor defensively.
Energized after firing blanks the previous afternoon, the Celtics’ bench combined for 61 points, led by Michael Finley, who went for 15 on 6-of-7 shooting, Glen Davis (13 points, four rebounds), and Marquis Daniels (11 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists).
“After that miserable display yesterday,’’ said Rasheed Wallace, who knocked down three of his four shots, scoring 8 points off the bench, “we had to come back strong and just try to do it from here one game at a time with the few we have left.’’
The Celtics have started to make a habit of winning winnable games, going 27-6 against teams with losing records, even though they’ve struggled against the best (13-18 against teams over .500). But bouncing back from a letdown in Cleveland with a blowout at home was a welcome sign as they head toward the postseason.
“You know what you are and you know what you’re capable of,’’ Garnett said, still thinking about the Cleveland loss. “It doesn’t matter if it’s Cleveland or Detroit. Tonight, there was like an air to it. It was gritty and grimy. It’s got to be like that every night.
“We were a totally different team today. We came here with a lot more energy, a lot more aggressive. We talked amongst each other and we just played.’’
They face New York tomorrow before going on their last extended trip of the season, to Houston, Dallas, and Utah. This win was a bit of self-help.
Garnett said, “It was a great game for us to sit back and look at it and say, ‘Hey, this is what we are.’ ’’