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Celtics 104, Blazers 86

Cut and dried

Celtics make quick work of clearing out Trail Blazers

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By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / March 10, 2012
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The Celtics’ lack of consistency - two overtime wins and a 32-point loss this week - is keeping coach Doc Rivers up late.

At least that was Kevin Garnett’s assessment as the team routed the Portland Trail Blazers, 104-86, at TD Garden Friday night.

“Doc comes in and you can tell how he’s looking,’’ Garnett said of the team’s pregame shootaround. “He’s looking like he had no sleep. And his hair is standing on top of his head and he has the beer face, if you will.

“Some mornings we come in and you can tell it’s playful, a little relaxed. Other times it’s dead on, you can see it. It’s very quiet, it’s very deliberate. This morning was one of those very deliberate mornings. Every guy was locked in. Sort of intense, if you will. And that’s the way I like it.’’

At least the wild swing in performance levels left the Celtics with momentum going into an eight-game, 12-day road trip, starting Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Celtics’ 103-71 loss at Philadelphia, their worst defeat of the season, could go far in determining the Atlantic Division champion, but it also served to motivate the Celtics.

“What happened in Philly wasn’t us,’’ Garnett said. “But it happens and we’re the Celtics. And, like I said, to get back on track, it takes focus and I thought we did that.

“Any time you perform like that, running in mud or running in sand, whatever you want to call it, you want to come out and give a better performance and tonight was the epitome of that.

“Philly, they [beat us], plain and simple. So, tonight was more of a getting back on the right track, obviously take care of home and then, more importantly, creating momentum for this road trip.’’

The Celtics set season highs for points in a quarter (38 in second) and a half (65) in running up a 43-point advantage in the third quarter, while celebrating Paul Pierce’s 1,000th game for the team.

Although it was an impressive contest for the starters, one of their best of the season, it was also one of the most uneven appearances by the second unit.

Most of the positive Celtic plays were set up by defense, the Trail Blazers committing 28 turnovers, the most by a Celtic opponent this season.

“Again, I thought it was all [Rajon] Rondo’s ball pressure,’’ Rivers said. “I thought everybody was up. Kevin forced [LaMarcus] Aldridge way out away from the bucket. So, you know, maybe the other night [in Philadelphia], one of the smart things we did do is we pulled the plug early enough to have our legs for tonight.’’

The Celtics, who made only seven turnovers, went on runs of 10-0, 22-0, and 12-0 in the first half, which included an airball free throw by Rondo and two dunk misses by Greg Stiemsma.

The Celtics’ starters remained on the court through most of the third quarter, Ray Allen (22 points) upping the advantage to 81-38 with a transition jumper with 5:57 remaining.

The large advantage allowed Rivers to limit the starters’ playing time. Brandon Bass (31 ½minutes) and Stiemsma (27 ¼ minutes) were on the court the longest for the Celtics.

“I mean, obviously we don’t want to lose the way we lost the other night,’’ Rivers said. “I just thought we played extremely well and they struggled. You could see they missed shots early and they got frustrated.

“There was a stretch for us, our ball movement was absolutely sensational. One of the things we asked Rondo to do, and Avery [Bradley], is just push the ball up - make, miss - every single time.

“The only way to get that lead, though, is everybody has to be making shots, and we were. And, then, we got stops.’’

But the struggles of the second unit were not an encouraging sign for the Celtics. The reserves failed to find an offensive rhythm and were outscored, 20-3, over a 5:24 stretch of the final quarter.

“The game was a blur, to be honest,’’ Garnett said. “I thought, defensively, all of us were locked in. I could tell this morning we had a different edge. I like it when we come in like that.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.

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