Paul Pierce has clearly made a difference in the Celtics offense, but tonight was all about the defense for the Celtics, who held the Magic to 56 points on 24.6 percent shooting. Pierce tried to play it off like he wasn’t impressed with his team’s effort, but given their performance so far this season, he quickly changed his tune.
“A lot of this isn’t surprising to me,” said Pierce. “I guess when you hold a team to 24 percent, that is kind of impressive. I’m going to say it started with Avery [Bradley], and we fed off of Jermaine [O’Neal] also. Once he got into the face of Dwight Howard, he just said we’re not taking this. You’re not going to just come down and put your elbows in my face. The team kind of got sparked off of that, fed off of those two guys. Fed off of Avery not allowing them to get into their offense, and off of Jermaine not allowing Howard to get to his spots. And that was huge for us.”
The Celtics were already up by 15 points when O’Neal went at Howard, so Bradley’s defensive effort was what catalyzed the team’s performance.
“Avery Bradley set a great tone,” said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. “We had trouble even getting the ball into the scoring area. They were denying every pass. We struggled getting it there.”
Said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, “It’s hard work, I mean, Avery was dying out there. But two weeks ago we couldn’t have done this anyway, honestly, because of conditioning. We would never have lasted. So now it’s a good sign we?re getting in better conditioning.”