Defense keyed Boston’s 114-88 win over the Indiana Pacers tonight. The Celtics held Indiana forward Jermaine O’Neal to eight points on 3-for-14 shooting, led by the play of center Kendrick Perkins.
“The first play of the game I think I got a quick foul,” Perkins said in the locker room after the game. “I played kind of tentative and he scored a bucket on me. I was like, ‘He can’t score no more.’ I figured if I could take him out of the game we would do alright.”
Paul Pierce praised the play of his big man.
“He came out in the first quarter and really just took it to Jermaine,” said Pierce. “He wasn’t intimidated by him. Jermaine is a five or six-time All-Star, and Perkins didn’t care. He went out there and played tough. He kept his fouls down. That’s what Perkins can do.”
Celtics coach Doc Rivers also praised Perkins, but he made sure to credit the defense of his point guards as well.
“We did give him (Perkins) a lot of help,” said Rivers. “I thought Sebastian and Rajon did a great job because we were helping off for the most part.”
“In the first half we were a little on our heels,” said Telfair. “In the second half coach said we had to bring the defense from the point guard in, apply pressure, contest their shots, and get through screen and rolls. Everybody on the team just fed off of that.”
The Celtics overcame one of their chief weaknesses this season tonight against the Pacers: controlling third-quarter leads. Boston actually increased its lead by 12 points in the quarter.
“Oh that was the biggest thing,” said Ryan Gomes. “In the games that we played this year, that has been the weakness, the third quarter. We’re at home. We have to be the aggressors.”
“It’s one of our first games where we really out four quarters together,” said Pierce. “Being flat in the third quarter, that’s where we really put emphasis on. Once we move the ball and play defense, we’re tough.”
The Celtics are 2-6, but with Portland coming in on Friday, the team feels they can roll of several wins in a row.
“It does a lot for us,” said Telfair. “It starts us. We got some games coming up we feel real confident about.”
“It’s one win,” said Pierce. “But when you get one win you really try to build on it. Any kind of momentum you can get you want to try to start something.”
“I’m just settling down, being more relaxed,” said Perkins. “I think I’ve been too anxious. I’ve been trying to go block a shot before it leaves the guy’s hand. It’s something I’ve been trying to focus on. I’ve been watching a lot of tape to see what I need to do to get better.”
Perkins also sent out a mandate to his teammates to dig deeper on defense.
“It wasn’t the defensive schemes,” he said. “I thought the schemes were good. I thought it was just our defense, period. As personnel, I thought we needed to take more pride in shutting down our men. I thought tonight everybody took pride in playing defense.”
The Celtics big men will face another tough task when Zach Randolph comes to town on Friday.
“He’s tough,” said Perkins. “I just think the key with Zach is if you get in his head mentally you can take him out of the game. If he gets going early I think he’s going to be a monster.”