As is always the case when you're integrating multiple new pieces in the midst of the stretch run, the Celtics had to expect there'd be hiccups with the arrival of former Thunder Nenad Krstic and Jeff Green on Saturday.
But it would appear those hiccups only lasted for about 24 minutes.
The Celtic team that showed up for the first half of Saturday night's tilt with the L.A. Clippers was dramatically different from the one that emerged from the tunnel after halftime. The first-half squad looked sluggish, tentative and confused, and thus trailed 47-40 at the break; the second-half Celtics came out and annihilated the Clips from the opening whistle.
The Celtics' victory Saturday, 98-92 for their second win in three games on this West road trip, was an encouraging sign that things will be all right for the new-look C's. Kendrick Perkins is long, and Krstic and Green are here in his place. So far, the transition has been smoother than expected.
There were initially some issues when the C's took the floor at the Staples Center. Krstic came out a little overzealous in the opening minutes — while he did start with two points and two offensive rebounds, he also got whistled for two quick fouls. He was on the bench by the 9:04 mark.
Green showed signs of his impressive athleticism early, but he also looked confused in the Celtics' offense. Even executing a simple pick-and-roll play was a struggle for him. Coach Doc Rivers had told him before the game to "just go play," and he really wasn't able to do anything more.
The two OKC castoffs, plus Delonte West (back from injury) and Chris Johnson (newly acquired from the D-League) made a total of four relatively new players being added to the rotation. The small flaws were easily visible — poor spacing, awkward ball movement, broken plays, questionable shot selection. Throughout the first half, these problems came back again and again.
But whatever Rivers said in the locker room at halftime must have worked. The C's became a team in the second half — they executed on offense, they got stops on D, and they ran the floor for transition buckets at every opportunity.
It's still February, and the Celtics have already learned to play together. They've still got a month and a half to tune up for playoff basketball.
In Boston, the emotional reaction this week to Perkins' departure was powerful. But across the country, the Celtics remain focused on professionalism and winning.
Green, Krstic, West, Johnson and the rest of the Celtics will only get better with time, but they've already proven they can put together a solid team effort. That didn't take long.