|And Then There Were 16: Celtics to Waive Four Players, Bynum Next?||Chandler Jones Out 1 Month With Hip Injury; Patriots Sign Alan Branch||2014 MLB Playoffs Expert Picks: World Series||Patriots Trade for Titans LB Akeem Ayers|
For the first half of the game, Paul Pierce was the Celtics’ primary offensive weapon, scoring 21 points to keep Boston ahead of the Sacramento Kings. Pierce didn’t play much in the second half (he finished with 25 points), but he didn’t have to. A 33-18 third quarter built an insurmountable Celtics lead, powering Boston to a 119-95 thrashing of Sacramento that snapped a Celtics two-game losing skid while extending the Kings’ road-losing streak to 12 games. The Celtics shot 52.1 percent, shooting 26 more times than the Kings (96-70) and draining twelve three-pointers.
As the Celtics built their lead larger and larger, Doc Rivers decided to give his bench players extra minutes and extra opportunities. They did not disappoint him, finishing the game with 56 points, just seven points fewer than the starters. Every reserve Celtic scored, and four reached double digits. Nate Robinson led the way, scoring 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter. Robinson also connected for four three pointers, tying Ray Allen (14 points, five rebounds, a steal and a block) for most in the game.
The other three reserves to score in double figures were Marquis Daniels, Semih Erden and Von Wafer. Erden fouled out after 33 minutes of play, a team-high. But Erden’s fouling out was emblematic of his aggressive play, which got him 10 points and nine rebounds, including two offensive boards. In the third quarter, Erden trailed Pierce on a driving layup, which Pierce missed. Erden jumped through defenders to slam it home.
The Incessant from the Fertile Crescent was especially big underneath the basket. After Allen picked off a pass in the second, he passed it to Daniels, who drove into the lane, passing it off at the last second to Erden, who dunked it, putting the Celtics up 37-31.
Pierce also found Erden under the basket for a layup and foul in the first quarter. Erden missed the free-throw, but Luke Harangody grabbed the offensive rebound and found Daniels for the layup, putting the Celtics up 23-19. Harangody had a solid all-around game, scoring two points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing out three assists in 22 minutes. On defense, he stole one pass, blocked one shot and drew two charges.
The starters were led by Pierce and Allen, but Glen Davis also contributed with 12 points and two steals. The Celtics stole the ball 16 times, with every player but Robinson stealing at least once.
The Celtics had no trouble moving the ball around the court on offense. They collected 29 assists on their 50 made shots, winning the assist battle 29-19. They also won the rebounds battle 38-37, most notably by collecting 12 offensive rebounds. The Celtics’ size advantage allowed them to dominate in the paint, where they scored 56 points.
Rajon Rondo scored 10 while dishing out 13 assists for his 14th double-double of the season.
Rondo seems far more comfortable passing the ball than shooting it himself, which is fine for an offense that has so many lethal scorers. In the third quarter, Rondo pushed the ball up the court on a fast-break following a Davis steal. Allen trailed him, and Rondo pushed up just enough to give Allen a clear three-point shot, which Allen hit without hesitation. Later on defense, Rondo knocked the ball free, and it rolled to Harangody, who threw a deep pass to Rondo. But instead of scoring an easy layup, Rondo waited several seconds for Daniels to catch up, and Rondo handed it to him for an easy dunk.
Although Rondo passed up that easy bucket, he was otherwise unafraid to take shots. When Shaquille O’Neal drew double-coverage from the post in the third, Rondo cut underneath the basket for the quick pass and easy bucket. When the Kings defense started playing off him in the third, he drained an 18-foot jumper without a second thought. And when time was winding down in the second quarter, he banked a shot high off the backboard for a driving layup with 0.6 seconds left in the game, getting to the line in the process.
When the Celtics are clicking, Rondo doesn’t have to score. They can score from anywhere on the court using their other four starters. O’Neal can body up underneath the basket, backing down opposing centers for close-range layups or dunks. Boston’s power forwards can either post up or shoot the mid-range jumper. Pierce can slash through the lanes, drawing contact and getting to the line even when he doesn’t score. And Allen is either hovering in the corners, or constantly moving without the ball until he can, where he is absolutely deadly. He will finish this season with the most three-pointers in NBA history, needing just 35 to break Reggie Miller’s record of 2,560.
As long as the Celtics continue to be able to shoot from all over the court, they won’t need Rondo to do anything but find the open man. Which is what he does best.