With a couple of days to stew on it, and with their coach questioning their toughness, you knew the short-handed Celtics would come out and play with some serious fire in the belly on Friday night. The intensity was there, the sharpness was there, and the Celtics gashed the Portland Trail Blazers early en route to a convincing win at home.
The win was arguably the best collective performance by the Celtics all season. Jeff Green, playing on a bruised knee, finally broke out of his slump. Green led all Celtics scorers with 19 points off the bench. How big was that? You gotta love the fact that Green showed up and balled. Jason Terry was 6-8 from the floor at one point through the third quarter. Portland didn’t manage a single offensive rebound in the first half. Jared Sullinger continues to impress – maybe not by putting up monster numbers, but we didn’t really expect that from him anyway. Sullinger is just playing smart, hard-nosed basketball around the rim.
The big question heading into this game was the point guard play. Without Rondo, who was going to step up and help distribute? And would the Celtics be able to execute effectively enough to take out the Blazers? Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa stepped up, with a little Paul Pierce thrown in for good measure. There were plenty of turnovers, at least too many for Doc Rivers’ taste, but for the most part the C’s were able to cover up for the absence of Rondo.
Critics are going to say that it was only Portland. In Boston. But I’m hear to tell you, this was a very important win for our Celtics. The team seemed to find an identity tonight – and an urgency that had been lacking in the first 15 games.
Now let’s see if we can take it on the road and get another W.