In a game where the Boston bench for the first time this season noticably underperformed, shooting only 4 of 12 from the field and largely contributing to the C's 13 point deficit at halftime, the Celtics' starters rose to the occasion to help lead the the green to a 119-111 victory over the Golden State Warriors.
All five Celtic staters played well above their season averages in minutes and the increase in playing time was reflected in the stats as Allen (25), Rondo (22), Pierce (21), and Garnett (21) all dropped more than 20 points. The story of the game, however, was two sided; the gigantic holes in Golden State's game showing in the second half and Rajon Rondo's offensive surge in the 3rd quarter.
The Warriors' large halftime lead was due in large part to their shooting 55% from the floor in the openning two quarters, and contrary to popular belief, that inflated fieldgoal percentage isn't necissarily a product of poor Celtics defense, but the Warriors' willingness to settle for long jumpshots and, at the same time, the ability to knock them down. On the fast break in the first half the C's played solid D by clogging the lane and forcing Golden State to take tough shots, and the trigger happy ballers from the west coast just happened to get them to fall.
That wasn't the case in the second half.
Golden State's inability to pass up long, open shots in exchange for developing a play to the point where they can get inside for an easy hoop hurt them, shooting only 39% from the floor and scoring a total of 38 points in the paint for the game (compared to the C's 66). In defense of the Warriors, their only inside threat, Andris Biedrins, was abused during the second half, forcing more ill-advised shots from perimeter players, but the fact that the Warriors are undersized isn't going to change without personel changes and their inside game (or lack there of) will lead to them being exposed game after game because they can't win unless they shoot out of their minds like they did in the first half last night.
Another drawback to the Warriors' lack of any inside presence is that they can't crash the boards on either end of the floor, ultimately resulting in the Celtics outscoring them on second chance points 24-6.
The Warrior's inability to stop the Celtics in the paint in the second half, interestingly enough, didn't lead to a big game for Garnett or Perkins, but to the Celtics' most consistant player so far this season; Rajon Rondo. In the third period the Celtics' point guard was able to drive the hole and match the entire Golden State team by scoring 16 points and singlehandedly erasing a 14 point hole. Rondo, along with putting up a season high 22 points, took down 8 boards and added 7 assists, all of which led to Paul Pierce saying after the game that, "I think when he's on [Rondo] like he's on tonight, we're unstoppable".
The Celtics, now 14-2, playing a strenuous schedule with more games against winning teams in a shorter length of time than a year ago, have the same mark as they did last season through their first 16 games. I know you're all thinking it, so, Is it too early to crown the Boston Celtics Atlantic division champions?