Points if you get the reference. Anyway, Boston 104, Washington 102. This was an interesting game, featuring a point guard battle between Rajon Rondo and Gilbert Arenas. The Celtics started slowly, then built up a 15 point lead, then allowed it to dwindle to nothing in the second half. The result was a back-and-forth 4th quarter that saw multiple ties. In the end, it came down to free throws, and the Celtics made just enough to keep the game out of reach from the pesky Washington Wizards. It was their ninth win in a row.
Offensively, the key to this game was distribution. There were 20 assists dealt out in this game (11 by Rajon Rondo), and the Celtics moved the ball well around the perimeter of the court, finding the open man for the open 17-footer. What was surprising was how little they went into the paint. The Celtics had a distinct size advantage over the Wizards, they just refused to exploit it nearly as much as they could have. This is not to say they didn’t go inside from time to time. They did, and the result was a series of mammoth dunks, most notably by Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Rondo. Props to Ray Allen, whose 18 points put him over the 20,000 point line. He is just the 37th player in NBA history to achieve this, and he should be commended for it. He is my favorite Celtic to watch. His shot is technically the most beautiful shot I have ever seen. He is lethal from the free throw line. I hope that when they teach little kids how to shoot free throws, they just show him shooting over and over again.
The distribution I mentioned earlier also played itself out in all five starters scoring in the double digits. Tony Allen, playing in just his second game of the season, also scored 8 and played with great hustle and effort. The offensive hero of the night, though, was without a doubt Rajon Rondo. He put up 21 points to go along with his 11 assists, the 9th double-double of the season. When he is on, the Celtics as a team are on. He has phenomenal court-vision, and this enables him to just rack up the assists. When he’s scoring, it’s like icing on the cake.
Defensively, the Celtics played in spurts. When they were building their 15 point lead, they were looking great. They were stuffing shots, forcing turnovers (13), and overall playing excellent defense. But they came out flat in the second half and allowed the Wizards to get back in the game behind the scoring power of Gilbert Arenas, Brendan Haywood, and Andray Blatche off the bench. This was a Wizards team that was hungry for a win, and they were playing at home. For these reasons I can forgive the Celtics for their defensive difficulties. They still held Washington to six three-pointers, and that has been their Achilles Heel in all of their losses. As long as they can minimize shooting from the perimeter, their natural size advantages will allow them to play successful all around defense. They also out-rebounded Washington, 30-26.
Overall, this was a nice win for the Celtics. It’s the start of the three-game road trip, and next up is Derrick Rose and his pesky Chicago Bulls. It should be another great point guard battle, and I can’t wait. If tonight was any kind of confidence builder for Rondo (and it should be), we should be in for one hell of a performance.