Sizzling Celtics handle Heat without Garnett
It seemed like a gamble — youth and energy over age and experience. It seemed like “Glen Davis vs. Rasheed Wallace’’ was a decision Doc Rivers really had to think about once he knew his Celtics would have to play Game 2 of their first-round series against the Heat last night without Kevin Garnett, who Rivers says is their most important player.
Almost by default, Wallace was Rivers’s standby whenever Garnett had to sit during the regular season. But there was something about the way Davis had been playing that made the coach think twice this time.
But the call wasn’t a tough one at all. Rivers was playing the numbers more than a hunch.
Miami ran 36 pick-and-rolls for Dwyane Wade alone in Game 1, and Michael Beasley had been unusually silent, taking only eight shots. Knowing how much rotation is needed to defend the pick and roll, Rivers was using common sense. He couldn’t have Kendrick Perkins (280 pounds) and Wallace on the floor at the same time, knowing Wallace was a step slower than Beasley.
Davis seemed like the best bet, but the Celtics had no idea how big they’d cash in.
Reprising his role as Garnett’s understudy, Davis had 23 points and eight rebounds in the Celtics’ 106-77 Game 2 victory, doing all his damage mostly via energy.
Before he took the court, Celtics captain Paul Pierce took a look at the lineup he’d have around him.
“I said, ‘This is the same lineup we had going into the playoffs last year that pushed Orlando to seven games,’ ’’ Pierce said. “With Glen out there in the starting role, we all know what he’s capable of. He’s confident. He’s playing the type of basketball he knows we need him to play.’’
“Did I know he was going to have a big 23-point game with eight rebounds? Not at all. But I knew he was capable of filling in the role nicely and doing what the coaches asked him to do. With him out there, chemistry is fine. We felt like this was a game we were supposed to win with or without Kevin. So he did a great job with filling in.’’
Davis outworked the Heat all night, but in a way, he wound up the least of their problems. The Celtics had practically paralyzed them offensively, and there was nothing Miami could do to stop it.
Never mind the 21-0 run the Celtics went on in the second quarter. While they were dousing the Heat with basket after basket during that stretch, they also were forcing the Heat into a drought that spanned eight minutes and 13 straight misses.
From that point, the Celtics piled their lead as high as 32 points, and ran up their largest playoff victory since blowing out the Lakers in Game 6 of the 2008 Finals.
Boston posted one of its most dominant defensive performances of the season with Garnett, its defensive heartbeat, watching from the home of team president Danny Ainge, holding Miami to 38.2-percent shooting by letting Wade (29 points on 11-of-18 shooting) get his while putting everyone else in a lock box (48 points on 18-of-58 shooting).
Imagining what Garnett’s reaction could have been as he watched, Pierce said, “I could just see him in front of his TV. ‘Show! Show! Sink! Sink! Get there, Baby.’ That’s how he is when he’s on the sideline watching. Probably toward the second half, end of the third quarter, he started relaxing a little bit.’’
After going without a shot in the first quarter, Ray Allen scored 17 of his 25 points in the third quarter, including back-to-back treys that made it 62-37 with 7:07 left in the third, officially opening the floodgates.
Rivers’s call couldn’t have worked out better. Wallace played 21 minutes with the second unit, scoring 6 points and grabbing five rebounds.
“Doc makes his decision on who he wants to play, and he can,’’ Davis said. “Rasheed is a bonafide All-Star who can play the game and fill the role also. He decided to go with me, and that’s when you’ve just got to play. You can’t really worry about who’s in the game and who’s not in the game.’’
Ahead in the series, 2 games to none, with Game 3 Friday night, the Celtics have put themselves in position to win the series on the road, where they were 26-15 in the regular season.
“We have to have our focus,’’ Rivers said. “We have to understand all we’ve done is won two home games, and they haven’t had a chance to play at home yet. So we just have to come out and focus on our job. We can’t focus on what the series is right now. We haven’t been good at that. So it will be a good test for us.’’
The Celtics said repeatedly that they wouldn’t use the scuffle between Quentin Richardson and Garnett, which earned Garnett a one-game ban, as motivation. But after coming from 14 points down to take the series opener, the Celtics sent a message.
“I’m sure it motivated them. Why wouldn’t it? We have to be a lot tougher mentally than that. This is the playoffs. We’re both playing for the same thing,’’ said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.