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The Boston Celtics and New Jersey Nets met up Wednesday night in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Celtics were in the midst of a four games in five nights series and had just suffered a difficult loss to the pesky Atlanta Hawks. Playing the hapless Nets, they of the 3-34 record, was just what the C’s needed to rejuvenate themselves. The Celtics shot 66% from the field in the first half, built up a 36-point lead, and then played their bench for most of the second half. While the shooting and defense diminished greatly because of the loss of the starters, it didn’t matter, as Boston coasted to an easy victory, 111-87.
The Celtics had seven players score into double-digits Wednesday night: all five starters, plus Tony Allen and Glen Davis. Rajon Rondo, trying to boost his credentials for the All-Star Game, put up yet another double-double, contributing 14 assists to go with his 11 points. The top scorer of the night was Paul Pierce, who had 24 points to go along with 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and one steal.
The Celtics offense Wednesday night worked like engine pistons, constantly moving in and out of the paint. Somebody, usually Rondo or Pierce, would penetrate into the weak New Jersey defense, then kick it back out to the perimeter for an easy bucket. The Celtics put up six three-pointers, but it was not as if they just were perimeter shooters. They put up 56 points in the paint, half of their total score. This means they split their time between the perimeter and the paint. And they put up 30 assists in total to go with their 43 total shots.
All of this points to a balanced attack that the Nets were powerless against. In the first half, they didn’t even look like they were trying to compete, constantly getting out-hustled by the Celtics.
The starters played phenomenal defense, but the bench did not. Hence, they limited the Nets to just 35 points in the first half but gave up 52 in the second half. Their first half defense was stifling. Every player covered his man to near-perfection, and the Nets were rarely able to get open long enough to take shots. Every shot was contested, and every rebound was fought for. They won the rebounds battle 47-36, rebounding better on both sides of the court.
When they went to the bench, things got a little sloppier. Instead of contesting shots, Boston played overly-physical. They committed too many second-half fouls and gave the Nets too many free throws. While this did not do much to get New Jersey back in the game (except in the third quarter, when they outscored Boston 29-19), against a better team this could prove costly. The starters have proven themselves, now it’s up to the bench to do the same.
Honestly, this was like playing a team from the NBA D-League. The Nets are a joke of a team, lacking the outside shooting, defense, and general energy necessary to compete in the NBA. If they go on to put up the worst record in NBA history, I would not be at all surprised. This was a nice warm-up for the Celtics: a chance to get an easy win, build some momentum, and then get their starters (especially Rondo) some much needed rest.
They will have a much tougher game versus Chicago on Thursday. Against the Nets, they played for 24 minutes and change, then turned it over to the youngsters to finish off an easy team. Thursday, they will have to play all 48 minutes if they want to win.