The Celtics were 8-2 without Kevin Garnett last season. They’re 1-0 without him this season, and they hope they don’t have to play nine more without their defensive captain.
“Despite not having Kevin out there for us tonight, guys realize, even last year when we were able to play without him, we can go out there and get the job done with the guys we have,” said Paul Pierce, who led the Celtics with 22 points. “The bench really came through tonight. We were able to get the ball inside on their small lineup and take advantage of it.”
Leon Powe led Boston’s bench with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting, helping to fill the power forward role usually filled by Garnett. Brian Scalabrine had 8 points as the starter at the four.
“It’s always nice,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “Whenever you don’t have one of your Big Three and you win a game, it’s a bonus. I thought everybody was up for it, so it was good.”
For his part, Scalabrine went from caricature to legitimate contributor, nailing a 3-pointer with 1:14 left that proved to be the dagger. His 20 minutes of court time were by far his most of the season, and when the “Scal-a-brin-e” chants came from the rafters, they were well-deserved.
“I felt good for Scal all night,” said Celtics guard Eddie House. “He played good defense and hit two big threes and, you know, I just feel good for him. He got his number called and he was a true professional.”
Rivers also praised Scalabrine, who rewarded his coach’s faith in him with solid play all night.
“Scal’s going to help us this year,” said Rivers. “But he’s such a versatile player for us now, being able to play the 3 or the 4, being able to play teams when they go small. Scal can guard the quicker guy, you know (Wilson) Chandler in the one stretch. He hustles; he makes a lot of little plays.
“What we’re trying to get Scal to do is just keep the game simple. When you’re open, shoot it; if not, pass it. Don’t try to force it or make things happen; that’s what Paul, Ray (Allen), and Kevin (Garnett), and Rajon (Rondo) are for. And he’s starting to buy that and I think you can see it in his play.”