The Celtics have had a lot of revenge games this season — whether it was revenge on the Raptors for beating them north of the border last week, or revenge on the Wizards for talking a little too much smack or revenge on the Hawks for sweeping them 4-0 last season. And whenever the C's come out with a little extra chip on their shoulder, they find a way to get the last laugh.
Sometimes, the C's get vengeance when Kevin Garnett puts the team on his back and carries them to a blowout win. That's been a running narrative this season.
But other times, it takes more of a complete team effort. Such was the case Tuesday night. Eager to get back at the Cleveland Cavaliers for beating them back on Oct. 27 at Quicken Loans Arena, the C's made a return trip and got even on Tuesday.
It wasn't all Garnett, although KG had a double-double despite leaving midway through with a tweaked ankle. It wasn't all Rajon Rondo, although the point guard did lead the C's in scoring with 23 points. And it definitely wasn't all Shaquille O'Neal, who was a non-factor for most of the night.
The Celtics got help from unexpected places this time, including a pair of bench players — Glen Davis and Marquis Daniels — who combined for 33 points and 15 rebounds to help carry the team back from an early deficit.
"I think the starters really got off to a slow start, but the bench came in and played well," Paul Pierce said after the Celtics' 106-87 win. "It started with Marquis and Baby, and we just fed off of their energy, really. They made the run in the second quarter and we never looked back."
"I thought the bench turned the game around," added coach Doc Rivers. "I thought when the second unit came in, they got into what we were trying to do to start the game. They pounded it down low with Baby and Marquis, and I thought those were the two guys who changed the game for us."
The Celtics got down early, trailing 17-8 in the first quarter. Rondo had a little scoring burst that got the Celtics close, but it was the effort off the bench that put them in the driver's seat in the second quarter. Midway through the second, the C's got a jumper from Davis and five straight points from Daniels that put them up 39-36.
Davis gave the Celtics big minutes when Garnett went down, and he finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds in 32 minutes. It was his first regular-season double-double since March 29, 2009.
"He was absolutely sensational," Rivers said of Davis. "Defensively, he got deflections, and he challenged shots tonight. Offensively, he was patient. I thought he set the tone early on. We got on them about quick shots, and in the first half, he passed up two quick shots, set another pick, and got someone else another shot. We were an extremely unselfish team. Our bench, our entire bench, they were great. It saved us."
Daniels' numbers didn't explode off the stat sheet, although he did finish with 16 points. It was more his hustle plays and his effort that saved the Celtics — his impact was a little more under the radar.
"Defensively, number one," Rivers said. "We put him on Ramon Sessions, he was guarding Mo Williams. He was moving his feet, and they couldn't beat him off the dribble. That was huge. We didn't know if we could stay in front of those guys, and the fact that Marquis could do it was a big deal for us."
The Celtics have found a new way to win: with depth. On a night when six Celtics scored in double figures — not even including Shaq, who finished with only six points — the C's proved that any one of them can beat you.
On the road, against a tough team that beat them last time, the C's took care of business.
"We just want to continue to be a good road team and beat the teams we're supposed to beat," O'Neal said. "We know we're supposed to beat this team every time, and we know we're supposed to be a good team on the road. We just did what we were supposed to do tonight."