(Originally posted on 4SportBoston.com )
What a game last night in the TD Garden! The Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers got together for what was already planned to be a hard fought battle after the C's tough loss in Indy a few weeks ago. With the news coming, to both the team and fans, right before tip-off that Kevin Garnett would be sitting out, everyone knew this game would be a hard fight until the end.
This game was really a tale of two halves to the utmost degree. I can easily say this because I missed the first half, flipped it on for the second, and witnessed the biggest comeback that the Celtics have executed this season. I know what you are thinking, I will make sure I watch both halves from here on.
Down by 15 points at halftime and seeing a glaring "18" in the points column under Earl Watson's name after only 24 minutes, the Celtics knew something had to change. Into the locker room, the Celtics knew that two things needed to change quickly: defense and enthusiasm.
In his post-game press conference, Paul Pierce admitted that the first half was bad and the team knew it:
“We weren’t defending,’’ said Pierce. “That’s the thing. We looked up, we knew we shot a low percentage, we knew we shot good shots, but at the end, you look up and they have 57 points in the first half. We’re not a team that gives up 57 points in a half, especially with a team that’s been struggling lately. We wanted to knuckle down and come out more intensive in the second half.’’
And knuckle down they did.
The Celtics came out of the gate in the third quarter on a 13-2 run, backing the Pacers into a corner and I have to believe that a Grinch-like chuckle was emerging from Rajon Rondo's lips. The Celtics were seriously on top of their game in the second half and with KG out of the lineup, it was a very promising thing to see.
Perkins was an absolute beast on all ends of the floor in the second half of last night's game. Going 5-for-5 in the third quarter and finished with 19 points and 8 rebounds (and one technical foul called for a soft elbow after Roy Hibbert basically tried to rip his shoulders off). Perkins was all over the boards, all over the floor, making amazing pump fakes in the lane, and best yet, I think he is seriously one of the best dribbling big men in the game.
The props go to numerous players on this game for several different reasons. Pierce lit it up in the second half finishing the game with 21 points after starting out 0-for-10. Ray Allen scored 23 and went 9-for-9 from the charity stripe. Rajon Rondo got my "Charlie Hustle Award" on the night with six steals, 15 points, nine assists, and 5-for-6 shooting from the line in just more than 40 minutes of play. Rasheed Wallace held down the KG spot fairly well adding in nine points and 13 rebounds in just over 36 minutes.
It seemed like the explanation from Danny Ainge during last night's game was trying the hard sell on this being one of those "rest days" that are planned for Garnett throughout the season but it obviously wasn't since even Pierce stated after the game that he was surprised to get the news. The day off should certainly help KG since he last played on Sunday and will have the time off until the game in Orlando on Saturday.
The Celtics are also planning on bringing Glen "Big Baby" Davis on the road with them as well, though his participation is still said to be doubtful. His expected return has been planned for January 1st for some time now so we may get our first glimpse at him back home on the 2nd.
Looking at last night's big win, fans have to feel somewhat excited about the fact that this team can get the game won with Perkins and Wallace as their only real "big man" options. With Brian Scalabrine (22 minutes, 2 points, 3 rebounds last night) being the next closest option to a power-anything, both of the Technical Twins played a healthy 36 minutes.
Either way, this team is already known as a great second half team through these first 27 games. Last night showed both the fans and the players that they can also put that effort into motion when down big coming into the second half and that is a great motivator to have behind any team.
The Celtics held off the Pacers to improve to 10-4 at home this season. However, the C's are 12-1 on the road, and are headed out on their most mile-tastic trip yet.
The boys will pack up the wives and kids and head down to Disney World this week to enjoy Christmas Day with a 2:30pm game in Orlando (on ABC) against the Magic, then heading out West for games against the LA Clippers (Sunday), Golden State Warriors (Monday), and Phoenix Suns (Wednesday).
Should be an exhausting next two weeks for the boys, but hopefully this time off for KG will work in his favor. If Santa has anything left in his big bag-o-tricks at the end of the night, it'd certainly be nice if he dropped some extra kinesio tape in Garnett's stocking.