You almost had to rub your eyes to check what you were seeing. In the third quarter, the Celtics had their starting five on the floor.
Not a make-shift starting five. Not four starters and Rasheed Wallace.
The Starting Five.
And for 12 minutes they looked like the team everyone had pegged them to be before the season.
They outscored the Clippers 21-15 in the quarter. Each played got in on the action. They passed the ball around like there were explosives inside it, and they took control of a game that had otherwise been another grind.
That quarter was a large reason for the Celtics’ 95-89 win, but it was also a glimpse of what this team could be if all (or even most) of its pieces were healthy. They weren’t necessarily dominant. But they were effective.
They held the Clippers to 28.6 percent shooting. They made assists on four of their nine field goals. They took just two 3s. And when they got to the line they took advantage (3 for 4).
It all added to a win that gave them back-to-back victories for the first time since the start of the 2010 when they beat Toronto and Miami.
Kendrick Perkins (9 points) was the only starter who didn’t score in double figures. He was busy grabbing 15 rebounds. Paul Pierce scored a game-high 22 points, getting to the free-throw line nine times and hitting all of them. Kevin Garnett finished with 17 points on 7 of 12 shooting in 30 minutes. Ray Allen scored 15 points. Rajon Rondo had a 16-point, 12-assist double-double (plus seven assists), his 19th of the season, as the Celtics upped their record at home to 13-7.
86-80, Celtics: More evidence of how this team is different with Kevin Garnett.
With the Celtics up 6, Baron Davis was speeding toward the cup. Kevin Garnett decided to make it a drag race, harassing Davis the entire time, but not fouling him.
He chased him down until they got under the basket, leaving Davis with essentially no other option but to throw something up. Davis ended up throwing it out of bounds, crashing into a cameraman on the baseline. Meanwhile, Garnett’s over in the corner opposite the Celtics bench pumping his chest and barking at the fans in the front row (it was the stuff that “It’s Amazing”commercials are made of), pumped about getting the stop.
The Garden, of course, goes nuts.
83-76, Celtics: At the line with a change to stretch the lead, Rondo went 1 of 2. He’s 2 for 4 on the night.H He’s shooting 56.8 percent this month and 53.1 percent for the season.
80-73, Celtics: The Clippers cut it to 4, but Pierce drilled a three-ball — his first of the night — to push them back.
71-61, Celtics: The Celtics went up double-digits for the first time when Tony Allen broke up a pass intended for Mardy Collins and raced the other way for an easy dunk.
64-59, Celtics: For a night at least, the Celtics have resolved their third-quarter woes, coming out of the locker room and scoring six straight buckets to take command of the game. The strangest part was seeing how good the team looked with what was supposed to be the starting lineup on the floor. They combined for 19 of the 21 points the Celtics scored in the quarter, and Rondo, Pierce and Allen all played 12 minutes.
62-56, Celtics: The Celtics are running passing drills right about now. Four passes led to an easy Rajon Rondo lay-up under the basket. Then they connected the dots from KG-to-Rondo-to-Perkins for another. They got a little too pass happy the next time down, turning it over and then giving up an easy dunk to Rasual Butler
58-50, Celtics: The Cs have control for the first time all night, knocking down 6 of their first 9 shots this quarter. Everyone on the floor has scored.
53-48, Celtics: The Cs came out of the locker room and scored six straight (Perkins, Ray Allen, Pierce) to take control of the game.
Kevin Garnett got that two-handed flush he teased at earlier in the night, hitting Marcus Camby with an upfake, sliding by him baseline, cramming and hanging on the rim for emphasis/fun.
Before the game, Kaman was ragging on Camby his age, joking that “You’re older than KG.” Camby pretended like he couldn’t hear him. But on that particular play, the Kid had a step on the Cambyman.
So about Rondo’s jumper …
The Celtics had the last shot of the half, Rondo took the ball from Paul Pierce and had the option to use a Kevin Garnett screen, but he rejected it. Instead, he s
tepped back at the 3-point line, making a ton of room between himself and Baron Davis, and drilling the 3-ball at the
Or, as the officials ruled it, after the buzzer. The bucket would have p
ut the Cs up 2. They’re down 44-43.
40-39, Clippers: The lane was crowded, Garnett sliced through it, caught the feed and went up strong with two hands, and for a second it looked like
he was about to throw down one of those 1995 dunks. He laid it in to cut the lead to one.
40-35, Clippers: Kevin Garnett scored back-to-back baskets, sinking a ju
ok over Kaman and drilling an open jumper from his sweet spot on the elbow. But the Clippers have been able to keep the Cs at arm’s length.
34-29, Clippers: Ray Allen looks comfortable. He’s drilled two
3s already, including one up top off a screen from Kendrick Perkins that kept the game within two shots. A pull-up off a feed from Rondo gave him a game-high 10 points.
26-17, Clippers: Haven’t heard a lot of boos in the Garden the past two season, but after Mardy Collins broke loose for steal and a fast-break
dunk, the small shower started. It was the Celtics fifth turnover.
30-24, Clippers: Rajon Rondo just picked up his first foul, swiping at Al Thornton. He’s had a tough stretch defensively the past few games. Baron Davis has 7 points so far, but they’re kind of deceptive. He’s shooting 2 for 5, getting three points at the line. Kevin Garnett just stepped on the floor. The crowd approves.
Welcome to the Garden …
… where it’s already the second quarter Not to worry, you haven’t missed a ton of offense. It’s 24-17 Clippers in a game that looks like it could end a lot like that one in December.
One interesting thing though. Before the game Rajon Rondo asked a neat little question. If the season ended right now who would be Defensive Player of the Year?
Obviously, he’s including himself among the candidates. But if you could combine the Clippers’ Marcus Camby (2.05 blocks) and Chris Kaman (1.36 blocks), you’d have a nice little candidate. Camby, who’s played 42 of the Clippers 43 games this year, has already snuffed out one Paul Pierce nice looking drive, and he’s got seven rebounds.
The list would probably have to include Gerald Wallace, Al Horford, Josh Smith, Kendrick Perkins and so on … feel free to add more in the comments section.
For what it’s worth, Rondo came off the floor with 3 minutes left in the quarter. Not sure whether it was strategic or if it was an injury. Nothing serious. Also, Doc sent Bill Walker out for the last possession of the quarter.