The Wizards aren't a very good team without John Wall, but we knew that. Shaquille O'Neal can't be stopped by Washington's front line, but Shaq can't compete with Javale McGee and Andray Blatche for rebounds. We knew that, too.
So what did we learn from the Celtics soundly defeating the Washington Wizards 114-83 at TD Garden Wednesday night? That this year's Celtics can handle their business at home against weaker teams. That Delonte West adds even more depth to an already solid bench. And that Paul Pierce, on almost any night, can put up the quietest 23 points you've ever seen.
Pierce's scoring can be expected, though his team's 66-percent shooting for the game was not. The Celtics won't be happy with Washington's 14 offensive rebounds, but before harping on that stat, consider the larger point: These Celtics can win in spite of being badly out played in one area of the game.
Younger teams gave the Celtics fits last season, but tonight the Celtics neutralized any advantages the Wizards might have had. McGee and Blatche got their rebounds, but O'Neal and Kevin Garnett made the youngsters look foolish on the other end. Garnett's 18 points came mostly on a variety of easy dunks, while O'Neal (13 points, 6 rebounds) was simply too powerful to stop. As usual, Rajon Rondo was at the center of it all, his 13 assists propelling the offense forward time and again.
The Celtics also got a chance to show off a glimpse of what could be a true second unit. Delonte West (12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) didn't dazzle in his debut, but he formed an effective backcourt with Nate Robinson. That duo, combined with Marquis Daniels, Glen Davis, and Semih Erden, extended the lead against the Wizards in the fourth quarter. Sub in either of the O'Neals for Erden when Kendrick Perkins returns, and the Celtics got a first glimpse of a unit that could spell the starters later in the season.
The win moves the Celtics to 9-2 on the season with the wildly entertaining Oklahoma City Thunder coming to town Friday night.
2:48 4th quarter, Celtics 109-75 Paul Pierce finished with 23 points (shhhh).
8:36 4th quarter, Celtics 96-69: The unit of Nate Robinson, Delonte West, Marquis Daniels, Glen Davis, and Semih Erden has increased the lead. This unit (with either of the O'Neals subbed for Erden) could be a true second unit later in the season.
End 3d quarter, Celtics 89-69: The Celtics are still shooting 67 percent. Things to watch for in the fourth quarter:
-- Delonte West and Marquis Daniels. Who can be more effective?
-- Can Semih Erden stay on the floor long enough so Shaq doesn't have to come back in?
5:57 3d quarter, Celtics 75-60: Kirk Hinrich drives coast to coast for the layup, and Doc Rivers isn't happy. Timeout, Celtics. Again, this is a blowout after which the Celtics will likely gripe about their poor play.
9:44 3d quarter, Celtics 69-49: The lead is up to 20 on an alley-oop to Kevin Garnett. The Celtics are up to 70 percent shooting now. Javale McGee is still grabbing offensive rebounds, but it probably won't matter.
How? Offensive rebounds are killing the Celtics. The Wizards have 13 of them, 5 of them by Javale McGee, who is running around grabbing boards while the Celtics big men stand still.
Not that the game is particularly close, but Celtics players all left the court with sour faces. They know they can play better.
4:20 2d quarter, Celtics 47-38: Rondo continues to push the ball, this time finding Garnett for an easy slam. Shaquille O'Neal was also in on the play. He ran the lane and basically ran over Gilbert Arenas to get to his spot.
6:38 2d quarter, Celtics 39-34: This isn't coming easily. Just ask Semih Erden. He's got 4 fouls, which could actually be a big deal with Jermaine O'Neal out. Shaq (11 points) is having a great game on offense, but the Wizards big men are running circles around him on the other end.
9:54 2d quarter, Celtics 35-28: Delonte West steals a pass out top and drives the length of the floor for the finish. That's exactly the kind of play the Celtics are hoping for out of West. His energy can be infectious for this second unit.
End 1st quarter, Celtics 33-28: Good start from the Celtics, but it should have been better considering they're shooting 79 percent. Five turnovers were the problem in the first. The Celtics would do themselves a favor to put some distance between themselves and the Wizards before halftime.
3:12 1st quarter, Celtics 24-17: Delonte West checks in for his first minutes of the season. Nice ovation for him as well.
4:57 1st quarter, Celtics 19-13: Shaq takes a seat with 9 points and 3 rebounds already. He left to a standing ovation and was replaced by Glen Davis.
6:22 1st quarter, Celtics 15-12: Entertaining start. Rajon Rondo has a couple of early turnovers, but he's pushing the pace off both makes and misses. Imagine how fast the pace would be if John Wall were here. The Celtics have to match the energy of the younger Wizards, and they should be able to. They haven't played since the weekend. Washington played last night.
Pregame: It's cold in here. Just like the Celtics like it. Nice crowd for a Wednesday night, though the fans won't get to see John Wall.