The Boston Celtics defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 109-96 Sunday afternoon to improve to 36-11 (0.766) on the season. They currently hold the best record in the Eastern Conference by 3.0 games over the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat (33-14), and the second best record in the NBA.
Coming off arguably their worst loss of the season to the Phoenix Suns, the Celtics gave one of their most well rounded and consistent efforts on the year. They shot 44-73 (60.3 percent) from the field and nine to 17 (52.9 percent) from three, despite their match-up against one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. The Lakers are allowing opponents to shoot just 43.9 percent per game so far this season, the fourth best mark in the league.
The Celtics continued their torrid pace of offensive efficiency. They have been right around 50% from the field all year, and they are far and away the most methodical offensive team in terms of wearing down the opponent and shooting a high percentage. They would have to miss roughly 200 shots in a row just to get down to the second best field goal percentage in the NBA (Phoenix Suns).
The clear star of the night for the Celtics was Paul Pierce. Facing little defensive effort, he proceeded to show why he is the second best small forward in the East, scoring 32 points on 11-18 shooting, including three to five from three. He also added five boards, three assists, one steal, and one block. He even was a perfect seven to seven from the free throw line.
The Celtics got equally impressive performances from Kevin Garnett—18 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, and Ray Allen—21 points, eight to 12 from the field, three to seven from three.
Rajon Rondo had a "quiet" night on the stat sheet, but his performance was just as important as anyone. Especially in the second half, he dominated the pace of the game, pushing the ball up the floor after Laker misses and getting easy buckets for his teammates. Doc Rivers described Rondo's performance as "absolutely perfect," saying Rondo called a perfect game on the offensive end. He even described him as the teams "pitcher."
Doc's comments brought up a great point that often goes overlooked when fans try to evaluate Rondo's abilities. 'Jon finished the game with sixteen assists and was five rebounds away from a triple double, and while he does put up some of the league's better individual stat lines, often times fans inaccurately judge him by his box score alone.
To really get an understanding of what exactly Rondo does for the Celtics, you have to watch him on a nightly basis. Trying to label him in terms of his mediocre jump shot or how many triple-doubles he accumulates doesn't do him justice and isn't very fair to him. He brings much more to this team then he takes away. Rest assured, the Celtics are Rondo's team on the offensive end of the floor.
Perhaps the most important development on the Celtics' end was the contributions of the bench. The Celtics' depth has allowed them to overcome a number of injuries and maintain the best record in the Eastern Conference. However, the injuries have severely messed with the chemistry of the second unit, as they've often times been asked to fill roles they wouldn't normally have to fill.
Tonight, we saw the Celtics bench play within the confines of their abilities. They didn't try to do to much, and as a result were able to extend the lead in the first part of the second quarter and maintain the lead in the late third and early fourth quarter.
Nate Robinson, whose recent contributions have been sporadic to say the least, had himself a very nice game. He went 3-5 from three and finished will 11 points and two assists in 14 minutes of play.
Glen Davis showed the NBA why he's in the conversation for sixth man of the year. In 23 minutes of play, he scored 13 points on five to 10 shooting with four rebounds and one assist. The league leader in charges took an offensive foul from Kobe Bryant late in the fourth quarter, all but sealing the Celtics victory. Despite being undersized in almost every one of his match-ups, Davis finds ways to sufficiently guard his man and finish around the rim on the offensive end.
Other game notes
- Shaq played just 13 minutes and was virtually in foul trouble the whole game. As a result, Perkins played 28 minutes, seven more than his previous effort against the Suns. Once he gets his basketball legs back under him, he should move back into the starting lineup.
- Kobe Bryant finished the game with 41 points, tying his season high. He registered 0 assists, however, and received little to no support from his teammates down the final stretch of the game.
- The magical mystery tour that is Ron Artest's season is in full swing. He shot just one to 10 from the field, and didn't seem to play any defense.
- The Celtics assisted on 34 of their 44 (77 percent) buckets. They lead the NBA in assists per game (24.4).
- The Celtics held the Lakers to 36-81 (44.4 percent) shooting. They are holding opponents to the third lowest field goal percentage (43.8 percent), and are in a virtual tie with the Hornets for fewest points allowed per game.
Dan is a Boston Celtics and Red Sox featured columnist. Follow him on Twitter @danhartelBR.