In the first 12 minutes at the Garden last night, the Celtics shot 21 times and made 14 of them. The Knicks took 20 and made five.
It’s been said that in the NBA everyone makes a run, and while it’s conceivable that the Knicks could have staged an improbable comeback at some point, almost everyone in the building knew it wasn’t going to happen.
In truth, the Celtics could have named their score and it went in the books as a 109-97 victory (click here for the full recap), but the 12-point spread didn’t come close to telling how thoroughly one-sided this game actually was.
“We tried to do the best,” said Knicks forward Danilo Gallinari. “They had a really good team and they played really good, and that’s it.”
Pretty much sums it up.
For the Celtics, this was important in one respect: With a vicious three games in four days trip to Houston, Dallas and Utah staring them in the face, it was certainly nice to get a win and some fourth-quarter rest.
An Atlanta loss to Toronto also brought them into a tie with the Hawks for third place, which doesn’t mean much on St. Patrick’s Day, but they also can’t afford to let Atlanta get too far ahead if they are going to escape the dreaded second-round matchup with Cleveland.
“It was important to win tonight, for sure,” Doc Rivers said. “Knowing the three games that we have; that you can win all three, that you can lose all three. You’ve got to take care of your home and we did that.”
There were a few other important things of note that happened Wednesday, and here are three of them.
A GOOD NIGHT FOR KEVIN GARNETT AND PAUL PIERCE
Consistency has been the big watchword for the Celtics this season, and for their two superstars it has been in short supply. Injuries are obviously the biggest reason, but it’s worth noting that with 29 points from Paul Pierce and 22 from Kevin Garnett it was the first time since Dec. 4 against Oklahoma City that they both had over 20 points in the same game.
“I could care less,” Garnett said when asked about his night, which included making his first six shots and finishing 9-for-11. “I ran the floor as good as I’ve been doing this year and I just got to continue [to do that]. I care less about 9-for-11, 0-for-4, whatever. It’s the ‘W.’ It’s the win column I care about.”
Fair enough, and Garnett has never been judged on his scoring totals since he’s come to Boston. But for Pierce, this was a bounce-back game of a sort. For the second straight game he had to leave early in the first quarter with two fouls. For some players that’s a signal that a rough night is in the offing, but Pierce came back determined to make a difference.
“He came back in like he hadn’t missed a beat, so that was good,” Rivers said. “You know, you could see him even in the second half, he was forcing it, probably a little more than we wanted. But it was good for him.”
Rivers was also pleased that his team saw that Pierce was getting into a rhythm and kept getting him the ball. The word that kept coming up was “aggressive,” and against the Knicks defense, being aggressive is practically and invitation fill up the stat sheet.
After averaging nearly 21 points a game in January, Pierce managed to score just 11.7 per contest in February when he was dealing with foot and hand injuries. His March numbers have ticked back up, but as Rivers said, “He’s not there yet. But he’s getting there.”
“You know, there are going to be a couple of games where I’m going to have answer you guys: ‘Are they done?’” Rivers said. “Can they play anymore? And then we’re going to have nights like this too. And I’m starting to hope that we have more of these. That’s how our whole team has to think, though. We’ve just got to keep building.”
PERK ALSO ENJOYS A GOOD NIGHT
As everyone knows, Kendrick Perkins has a thankless job. He is often asked to defend the other team’s best low-post player and what offense there is for him usually comes from offensive rebounds and running the floor.
Earlier this season Perkins unveiled a solid low-post game to his arsenal and there was talk, not unfounded, that he might make a run at an All-Star berth. But from the middle of the season onward, it has not been a smooth ride for Perk.
His points and rebounds have both cratered and so Rivers decided it was time to remind Perkins of his job, thankless though it may be.
“I think we all had to look in the mirror,” Perkins said. “I had to check myself. I don’t think we were playing well as a team. Sometimes Doc has to remind us of who we are and what our roles are. He did that and that’s been helping us.”
Perkins also had the ideal opponent to throw his weight around, so to speak. Of the many things the Knicks are not, tough and physical are right at the top of the list. Rivers said that he made a decision before the game not go small, no matter how tiny a lineup Mike D’Antoni threw out on the court.
Perkins had nine points and nine rebounds by halftime when it was 68-49 and he finished 12 rebounds, his highest total since getting 14 against the Clippers in late January.
“Perk, just the last three, four or five games, his energy’s back,” Rivers said. “He’s doing all the little things that he did earlier in the season. He’s running the floor, running down the middle of the paint. He’s just been terrific.”
SHEED IN THE POST
There has been considerable angst shed over the amount of 3-pointers Rasheed Wallace has taken. More to the point, the amount of 3’s Wallace has missed.
He’s still not shooting them at a good clip — 28 percent to be exact. But he has taken fewer of them. Over the last nine games Wallace has launched just 13 3-pointers (and made just three), and during that span he is shooting 57 percent on two-pointers.
Rivers was asked before the game if Wallace is where he thought he would be at this point in the season.
“I didn’t know where he was going to be,” Rivers said. “Obviously he’s been up and down. As a veteran you just don’t know how he’s going to be during the regular season.”
As with everyone else there have been mitigating factors. He was probably asked to play too many minutes when Garnett got hurt and the second unit has remained in constant flux. Now that the Celtics are getting healthy there has been a lot of talk about roles attendant responsibilities reverting to their expected positions in regards to the starting five.
“The bench actually is a bigger concern,” Rivers said. “You have Michael [Finley] who’s new. You have Nate [Robinson] who’s new. You have [Glen Davis] who missed half the season. You have Marquis [Daniels] who missed half the season. And you have Rasheed who’s new to the team. That’s a lot of adjusting.”
Wallace has hinted that he’s saving things for the playoffs and it also seems that he is readying himself for the stretch run. His willingness to go down low is part of it. He also hasn’t picked up a technical foul since Feb. 19 against Portland, a span of 14 games.
As the regular season winds down, it seems obvious that Wallace will be ultimately judged on his playoff performance. That’s good for him since his regular season has not been up to anyone’s standards.
But then, the same thing could be said for the rest of the Celtics.