The Boston Celtics played the Utah Jazz tonight. After enduring a grueling stretch of five games in seven days, the Celtics enjoyed three solid days off before having to take the court once again. The extra rest helped, as the Celtics simply trounced the Jazz, 105-86.
Offensively, the buzz words for tonight’s game were “balance” and “unselfishness.” All five of Boston’s starters scored in the double digits tonight, along with Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels from the bench. As a team, they shot better than 50% (53.2%). When you’re shooting like that, it’s easy to rack up the points. Not only that, but they passed as well as they shot. Already the league leader in assists per game, the Celtics recorded 30 assists tonight. One play in particular stood out for me as epitomizing the unselfishness of the C’s tonight. As the Celtics advanced the ball up court they executed a beautiful series of quick passes, moving from inside the paint to the perimeter over and over again. In and out, in and out. Every member of the starting five touched the ball during that possession, and it ended with a nice little layup to come away with two points. It was a gorgeous sequence to watch
Rajon Rondo especially had a strong game. He had a double-double tonight, scoring 14 and adding 11 assists. His assists were gorgeous, however, and they led to easy dunks for Kevin Garnett (18 points to lead all scorers) and Kevin Perkins, plus some easy threes for Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Ever since the playoffs last year, Rajon Rondo has been playing at an entirely new level of basketball than what he was at before this. He deserves every penny of his new contract, and the idea of seeing him in green and black for the next few years gives me what the principal in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” would call “a tingly feeling.”
Defensively, the Celtics were just as on as they were offensively. Not a week after getting torched by Phoenix from beyond the arc, the Celtics responded with the same stifling defense they’ve shown most of this season. They held the Jazz completely scoreless from behind the 3-point line, and with defense like that it’s easier to win games. They also forced 21 turnovers and converted them into 21 points, as opposed to their 15 which converted to 12. It’s defense that wins championships, and this squad proved it has what it takes.
It’s fascinating for me to watch the Celtics bench this season. The age of the starting rotation (or at least the Big 3) means that they will have to play more minutes, especially early on in the season as Doc Rivers tries to stretch out his starters’ legs and keep them fresher for the playoffs. Luckily, the bench is playing exceptionally well. Rasheed Wallace could be a starter on most teams, and Marquis Daniels and Shelden Williams are proving themselves to be very competent both defensively and offensively. We have yet to see the fireworks from Eddie House that we’ve come to expect, but it’s still early in the season. He took off his headband during the 4th quarter tonight, and his next few shots went in. Perhaps it’s the start of a trend, both in fashion and in shooting.