Celtics 105, 76ers 74. This was a very easy game to watch. Despite a slow start, the C’s took a lead into the second quarter and never looked back. They played stifling defense that forced sixteen turnovers. Paul Pierce followed up his 27 points against New Orleans with a solid 22 points last night. They also defended the three-point shot especially well, only giving up one three the entire game (and that was after the Celtics had already taken a 30 point lead). All in all it was a total blowout, an utter domination of one team by another.
What we’re beginning to see is how deep this Celtics team is. When you have shooters the caliber of Eddie House and Rasheed Wallace coming off the BENCH, you know you have a quality team. And both of their talents were on display last night. Wallace had 20 points on 6 3-point shots made, and Eddie House had 12, all via the 3-pointer. Wallace and House scored more than several starters for the Celtics. Both of them could probably start on other teams and dominate, but they decided to stay in Boston and be bench players. The best bench players. Right now I like both of them for the Sixth Man award, but my edge goes to Wallace because he also contributes to the stifling defense the Celtics are playing these days.
This might actually be a better team than the 2007 NBA Champion Celtics were. I know that’s saying a lot, but look at it position by position. Yes, the Big 3 are all getting older, however that hasn’t seemed to stop Paul Pierce, who has been in double digits for points every game so far (he’s actually averaging over 20 points in his first 5 games). Kevin Garnett can still move and defend with the best of him, and now he and Rajon Rondo are on the same page offensively. Look for more alley-oop passes and no-look passes from Rondo to Garnett. And Ray Allen is in a contract year. He’s actually averaging 15 points a game despite looking out of rhythm. So while he has had a slow start so far, a player with career numbers like his won’t stay quiet for long. And when he starts to heat up, the Celtics will be all that more dangerous. And Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins are both two years more experienced in the NBA, and this can only help their play. Rondo especially has come light-years from where he was in 2007 to where he is now. Then he was a player. Now he’s a leader.
Now compare the benches for 2007 and 2009. Eddie House is the same sharpshooter as he was in 2007, and he’s a veteran, so it’s not like the extra game experience will really help him. But we have upgrades along the bench everywhere else. Compare Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels with P.J. Brown and James Posey (and for good measure, Shelden Williams with Sam Cassell). Wallace is a more complete player than Posey was. He shoots the three just as well if not better and plays far better defense. Daniels is better than Brown both defensively and offensively, scoring more often and racking up the steals. And Williams is an NBA player, whereas Cassell is some kind of bug-like alien monster.
So there you have it: position by position, this 2009 Celtics team is stronger than the 2007 Celtics team. And that is kind of scary to think about.