Just when you thought the Celtics would be challenged, they obliterate a team that looked so good the night before. Chicago was impressive in beating San Antonio on Thursday. On Friday the Bulls looked overwhelmed and pedestrian. Luol Deng, a force on most nights, was relegated to garbage baskets.
“That’s a good team,” he said after the Celtics 118-90 win. “They took us out of our rhythm and made us take shots we didn’t want to take. It’s like they didn’t miss a beat.”
Deng finished with four points on 2-for-8, his lowest point total since Nov. 24, 2008 when he scored just two. Joakim Noah tallied 16 points and 10 rebounds but he appeared to be the only one interested in playing. John Salmons finished 2-for-14, Derrick had just two assists in 24 minutes and Kirk Hinrich missed all five of his 3-point attempts.
Meanwhile, the Celtics struggled early, created some space because of the second unit in the second period and then Paul Pierce decided it was time for some brilliance with 20 points in the third quarter. He had two in the first half on 1-for-5 shooting, hit all seven shots in the third and didn’t play in the fourth quarter. Ray Allen added 20, Kevin Garnett a solid 16 and Eddie House came off the bench for 22 on one of his hot shooting nights.
And if Rajon Rondo had played more than 30 minutes, he would have reached his career high in assists. He finished one short with 16.
Paul Pierce — Hard to punch any holes in Pierce’s night. He wasn’t much of a presence in the first half and then exploded in the third. He also added eight rebounds, four assists and three steals in a masterful effort.
Kevin Garnett — Wasn’t as active under the boards but is beginning to hit that mid-range jumper and the alley-oops are coming more often. He looks comfortable on his surgically repaired right knee and he stayed out of foul trouble.
Kendrick Perkins — He got into foul trouble and was limited to 19 minutes but he did hit four of five shots and put a body on Brad Miller and Joakim Noah.
Ray Allen — His biggest contributions came in the first half, when Pierce was not a factor and Garnett sat almost 12 minutes. He hit two key 3-pointers and also swung the ball around the perimeter to open teammates, a strong performance.
Rajon Rondo — Of the Celtics’ first seven baskets, five were by Rondo assists. His assist-to-turnover ratio was 8-to-1 and he perhaps had his best regular season game in recent memory.
Marquis Daniels — Scored all of his seven points in the first half but that’s precisely when the Celtics needed them. He added four assists and two rebounds in 25 minutes and moved the ball around in the offense. The type of night the C’s need from their bench.
Rasheed Wallace — Of his nine shots, six were 3-pointers. The Celtics want Wallace to stretch the floor but not fall in the love with the 3-pointer and the “Sheeeeed” chant that follows each time he has an open shot. Wallace needs some more post-up opportunities but that will come against tougher opponents.
Shelden Williams — A double-double, his first as a Celtic and just his fifth since his rookie year. Williams is finding comfort in the Celtics offense but also showing some limitations. He is not all that smooth on the fastbreak, but that will come in time. Remember, he hasn’t played extensively in nearly two years.
Eddie House — When House’s jumper is pumping and he gets off that quick release, he is a joy to watch. That was the case Friday when he scored 22 points in 22 minutes with four 3-pointers and just one turnover. With the Celtics having a backup point guard, House doesn’t have to handle the ball as much as he once again, allowing him time to shoot and shoot again.
Lester Hudson — Scored three points in 10 minutes and is becoming a fan favorite.
J.R. Giddens — Played four minutes with one turnover, just a cameo appearance.