That was what happened on Wednesday night for the Celtics, who snapped out of an early funk to utterly destroy the visiting Sacramento Kings in the second half, waltzing to a 119-95 win at the TD Garden. They had lost back-to-back games and four of their last eight since Kevin Garnett went down two weeks ago, and they responded by thrashing an inferior Kings team on their home floor.
They were perhaps especially peeved after a home loss Monday night against a Rockets team that had no business pushing them around. So 48 hours later, they decided to make a statement.
"We didn't come out with the same energy [Monday] that we did tonight against the Kings," said Marquis Daniels, who had another solid game off the bench with 12 points and three assists. "We've just got to find a way to do this every night, regardless of who we're playing. We've got to come in, continue to get back in transition, and rebound the basketball. We've been getting killed on the boards, so that's something we've got to focus on more. Just do things harder. There's always another level you can go to."
The Celtics got their jolt from the opening at the hands of Paul Pierce. With the team's other veteran leader (Garnett) again missing in action, the captain took it upon himself to lead the team early on, setting an example with his aggressive play. Pierce attacked the basket relentlessly early on, yielding 15 points in the first quarter on 6-of-8 shooting. It was his initiative that snapped the Celtics' out of their losing haze of the past two games.
"It was huge," coach Doc Rivers said of Pierce, who didn't speak to the media despite finishing with a game-high 25. "Paul knew last game that none of us, as a group, came with the right mental approach to the game. You know, that's what leaders have to do, and it's what he did.
"Paul was more aggressive. I thought last game Paul, the whole team, they didn't do anything hard. But [Tuesday] in practice, after showing them the film, we practiced hard [Tuesday]. The cuts were hard. You could see it. You were just hoping there'd be a carry-over [Wendesday], and there was."
The Celtics managed an eight-point lead at halftime despite a subpar shooting performance — just 46.9 percent, a cut below their season average. They did it with aggression and physical play on both ends of the floor.
"I thought we played well in the first half," Rivers said. "I thought our pace — I thought with [Rajon] Rondo and Nate [Robinson] offensively, we had an amazing pace. We were pushing the ball up the floor. I just don't know how many layups and wide-open shots we missed. I told them, don't worry about offense. If we just keep doing exactly what we've been doing, and keep the pace, we'd be good."
They wound up very good. The eight-point edge turned into a 24-point blowout, and the Celtics sent a resounding message that they were over their two-game losing streak. It may only have been a home game against an 8-28 Kings team finishing a back-to-back, but regardless of the setting or the opponent, the Celtics were focused on fixing themselves. Looks like they did that.
"We just wanted to get back on the right track," Glen Davis said. "Making sure that we do what we had to do to win the ballgame, and also just do what we need to do as a team to get better."