Celtics’ Inside Game Boxes Out Raptors in Friday’s Win

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November 28, 2009

All season long, there has been much discussion on the Celtics' tendency to take 3-pointers, whether good or bad.

Maybe it's about time we pay attention to the inside game, which is beginning to dominate on a regular basis. Friday's 116-103 victory over Toronto served up perhaps the best example yet.

Behind Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett, Boston pounded the interior against the soft Raptors and reaped the rewards from the beginning.  

Dunks, finger rolls, driving lay-ups — all were featured in eight of nine shots made just minutes into the contest. The easy points came in droves and a precedent was set.

"Before the game Doc [Rivers] said this needed to be a real power game," said Perkins, who finished 8-of-8 from the floor. "I just thought, you know, go attack early. We posted early."

The C's finished with a season-high 68 points in the paint and outscored their opponent in that category for the 12th time in 13 games (they tied New York 38-38 on Sunday). 

Garnett nearly matched Perkins by going 6-of-6. Paul Pierce had a handful of dunks (one of which led to a technical foul when he taunted Toronto forward Chris Bosh). Rajon Rondo consistently got inside for either a layup of his own or a pass to someone who had a better look. The interior passing was virtually flawless.

"Their starting bigs didn't miss a shot," said Raptors coach Jay Triano. "Both guys were perfect and we tried to come and double team and they found another guy, shared the ball well and shot a really good percentage."

There's an understatement for you. Boston finished at 62.3 percent (48-of-77) from the floor, easily its best mark this season. All but 14 of the buckets came inside the lane.

When asked again about 3-point shooting, Rivers was quick to point out that the Celtics are shooting the same amount they did during their 2008 title run. He also stressed how many good looks emerge when opposing defenders do what they can to clog the middle; after shooting just five 3-pointers in the first half, Boston was 5-of-12 in the second.

"It opens up everything," Garnett said.

And in Rasheed Wallace, the C's have that hybrid who can both score inside and be the beneficiary when the perimeter game opens up.

In a span of just over six minutes of the first half, Wallace sprinkled three layups in with a pair of long bombs. His third 3-pointer of the night, which followed six straight interior hoops for Boston, beat the buzzer in the third quarter and gave the Celts an 87-72 lead.

"I think Rasheed always gets going when he gets an easy bucket down low and then that kind of gets him going and gets his rhythm going with the 3-point shooting," Perkins said.

The Raptors never got closer than nine points in the fourth and were essentially done in by a 7-2 Celtics burst midway through. Ray Allen and Perkins both scored inside, and following a Wallace steal, Allen hit a 3-pointer as several Raptors camped underneath for a 108-93 lead.

Essentially, Toronto had to pick its poison.

"If I had the answer, I would've told you," Bosh said. "[The Celtics] just get into the paint at will."

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