BOSTON – When Kevin Garnett arrived at the TD Garden as a visitor last season, he had a simple request: a chance to see “Gino Time,” the Celtics’ musical victory cigar for home blowout wins.
“I thought Gino was going to get cracking,” Garnett said back in January alongside Paul Pierce after a Nets win over the Celtics. Garnett had always enjoyed dancing along to Gino Time when it made an appearance on the Garden Jumbotron. “I should have asked [Rajon] Rondo, Rondo [would have] got them to throw some Gino up.”
On Wednesday night, Rondo made sure Garnett got a chance to see Gino this time around, but Garnett wasn’t exactly enjoying the moment after the Celtics dominated his Brooklyn Nets in a 121-105 blowout win.
“Listen, I was so upset I didn’t even get the really deep Gino in my system,” Garnett told reporters after the game. “My low moment for the night, you know what I mean? Gino is a big part of me and I didn’t even get to celebrate it. I’m still a huge Gino fan.”
Quotes like that only make Boston fans miss Garnett more around here, but unlike last January, the Big Ticket wasn’t the story Wednesday night. Instead it was the sensational display that Rondo (13 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds) and his teammates put together against an overmatched Brooklyn team for nearly 48 minutes of action.
In the season-opening beat down, all ten active Celtics players scored six points or more, and eight of them scored in double figures. If the Celtics had needed to put together a 2014-15 season-highlight DVD compilation, they probably would have had enough top plays to fill the video strictly from Wednesday’s night win. It was a superb performance by the entire roster, and it all started with Rondo.
The point guard returned to Boston’s lineup for the opener nearly two weeks ahead of schedule after undergoing surgery to repair a broken left hand in late September. Rondo making it back to the game action before November was impressive in itself, but his presence on the floor changed the game for his teammates.
“It’s huge,” Kelly Olynyk (team-high 19 points) said of Rondo’s impact. “You have a leader that’s commanding guys, telling them where to go, and just making the game easier for other people and that’s what it boils down to. If you can make the game easier for other people and make your teammates look good then everything works together.”
“Rondo was classic,” Garnett said. “I don’t know what he said, he was 89, 83 percent? That’s a hell of an 83 percent. He played well, and he led his team to a win tonight.”
Garnett also made a point of giving high praise to the rest of the team and Boston’s game planning on both ends of the floor.
“Their schemes were very clever. They do unorthodox things, like sticking a big in the corner, having the bigs roll, [they put] a lot of pressure on the smalls. My hat goes off to coach, Coach Stevens, and his schemes. They played well. Shot the ball really well,” Garnett said.
Overall, the Celtics hit 55.7 percent of their field goal attempts on the night and managed to score 101 points through just three quarters, pushing up their lead to as many as 29 points in the second half. To put it bluntly, Boston’s offensive play in one night may have been more impressive than any of the team’s 25 wins last year.
“Everybody was ready to play,” Rondo said of the effort. “The guys stepped up. We’re a tough team to scout when we have seven or eight guys in double figures.”
Strong pick-and-roll action led to easy layups, consistent ball movement produced open looks from beyond the arc, and heavy ball pressure by Boston’s guards helped to force 20 Brooklyn turnovers. Rookie Marcus Smart led the Celtics in that department, producing a game-high four steals which earned him some kudos from one of the best defensive players of his generation.
“The [Smart] kid is very impressive,” Garnett noted. “This is my first time seeing him live, playing against him and stuff. He and Rondo and Avery, that’s going to be a tandem. I can’t wait to watch some of the games. They played great tonight. They seemed to have a nice chemistry together. I hope they can be consistent with that.”
While the new pieces like Smart, Marcus Thornton (10 points in 14 minutes), and Evan Turner (10 points, seven rebounds, five assists) all appeared to fit seamlessly in Brad Stevens’ schemes, the return of Rondo to pre-ACL injury form was the biggest win of the night for Boston.
“[Rondo] kind of looks like what I’d seen on film before I got here,” Stevens admitted after the game. “I don’t think he ever looked like that at any time last year, because he was coming back. And that’s just the way it goes with that injury. But he is back to full speed. He had a couple turnovers yesterday in practice when we were going up and down, but he was flying. It’s good to see. He made some great plays today.”
With this version of Rondo back at the helm, the Celtics just may be a tough out for NBA teams this season after all.