Final, Celtics 94-75: Kevin Garnett must be disappointed he missed the end of this one. Playing with a fervor they have not had in the better part of a month, the Celtics took control in the second quarter and never looked back in snapping their four-game losing streak.
Rajon Rondo scored 18 points with seven assists and two steals, and Kevin Garnett had 18 points and seven rebounds before he was tossed for committing a flagrant-two on Tyler Hansbrough. Hansbrough’s 19 points led the Pacers, who saw their two-game win streak end.
Nothing statistical can really sum up what Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee and Jared Sullinger meant to this win, though. Those three reserves sparked the Celtics with their defense and hustle. Bradley finished with six points, Lee had 13 points and five boards, and Sullinger totaled seven points and 10 rebounds.
Fourth quarter, 2:35, Celtics 90-70: You cannot stop Orlando Johnson. You can only hope to contain him. The rookie guard out of UC-Santa Barbara has hit two of his three shots with a 3-pointer and two free throws to give him seven points in just nine minutes. It’s garbage time here at the Garden, which means it is time for the reserves to show what they have got.
Fourth quarter, 5:56, Celtics 84-62: Poor KG. He’s going to miss “Gino Time.”
Garnett gave Hansbrough a shot to the face that the officials deemed intentional. The resulting flagrant-two sent Garnett to the showers early, which might be a problem if the Pacers had not pretty much emptied their bench.
Even with Garnett back in the locker room, Sullinger and Bass kept the pressure on Indiana’s front line by attacking the glass and getting to the foul line.
Fourth quarter, 8:39, Celtics 78-55: It is tempting to look at this score and say, “Yeah, so what? The Pacers don’t have George Hill, and he’s been one of their best players of late.”
That may be true, but Hill’s absence did not seem to hurt the Pacers against Memphis or Washington — not that anything should hurt a good team against the Wizards. This might be a real turning point for the Celtics. Or with Atlanta and New York coming up, it might not. We guarantee it will be one or the other.
End of third quarter, Celtics 69-51: As one would expect, Garnett, Pierce and Rondo are leading the way. The Celtics’ top three players are the Celtics’ top three scorers heading into the final quarter, but they have not had to carry an extremely heavy load. Sullinger, who has nine boards, has joined Bradley and Lee in giving the Celtics quality minutes while Green, Terry and Bass have struggled.
Third quarter, 2:32, Celtics 64-46: While Rondo has taken over, Bradley has forced the Celtics to pick up the pace and Lee has ensured there is not much of a dropoff when Bradley leaves the court, Jeff Green still cannot seem to get on track.
The maligned forward is scoreless with less than three minutes to go in the third quarter, and he had his pocket picked by George as he tried to post up. In a little less than nine minutes of action, Green has yet to make an impact in a game that has seen contributions from just about every Celtics player.
Third quarter, 6:51, Celtics 58-41: Nobody seems to want the ball, as the teams are tossing the ball back and forth in the opening minutes of the second half. It looks like Bradley’s hustle and defense may not only be contagious to his own team.
Finally, after two minutes of exchanging turnovers, Pierce drilled a three to stretch Boston’s lead to 17 points, prompting Vogel to take a timeout. Garnett has been a standout (what else is new?), following a jumper by Bradley with two straight J’s of his own to help build the lead.
Halftime, Celtics 47-35: Rondo appears to enjoy the new look Bradley’s return has brought to not only the starting lineup, but the second unit as well. Playing in rhythm and without second-guessing himself, Rondo led everybody with 12 points in the first half. He also has four assists, tying Augustin for the game high, but there is also this: zero turnovers.
The Pacers typically do not force many turnovers, but they make up for it by playing good field goal percentage defense. They have done neither thus far. The Celtics shot a solid 46 percent from the field and turned the ball over just six times in the first 24 minutes. They also outrebounded the Pacers, surprisingly enough, 24-23.
Bradley and Lee seemed to bring the energy that sparked Rondo. Their defensive pressure was infectious, even if in Bradley’s case it did not translate to the offensive end. Lee did score six points by hitting three of his four shots.
Second quarter, 5:13, Celtics 36-23: Bradley missed his first five shots, but he finally made a bucket the best way he knows how: by playing defense.
Bradley forced a turnover and outraced Augustin down the other end for a layup. Rondo followed with a jumper to extend Boston’s lead to 13 points.
Second quarter, 5:59, Celtics 31-23: The biggest surprise in the Celtics’ second-quarter surge is that it has mostly happened with Garnett on the bench. Playing without Garnett has been a massive problem for the Celtics, who are great when he is in the ball game but horrible when he is out. Yet Sullinger, Collins and others were able to maintain a decent interior presence while Lee, Rondo, Terry and Pierce did their work from the outside.
Pierce gave the fans something real to cheer about by scoring an and-one three, then converting the free throw for a four-point play to give the Celtics their largest lead of the game.
Second quarter, 7:52, Celtics 25-20: Not sure who these guys are, but the Garden faithful will not complain if the Celtics continue to impersonate a real basketball team.
Sparked by Courtney Lee’s hustle and defense, the Celtics burst into the lead be opening the second quarter on a 10-4 run. Lee began the spurt with a steal and a dunk on the other end and also contributed a putback layup following some hard work on the offensive glass by Jared Sullinger.
End of first quarter, Pacers 16-15: These types of games could be the reason Danny Biasone invented the shot clock. Then again, a reluctance to shoot wasn’t really the problem for either team, but rather the inability to hit those shots.
The Celtics and Pacers combined to shoot 14-for-44 from the field, with “Psycho T” Tyler Hansbrough finishing the quarter as the game’s leading scorer with six points. It was, uh, good defense.
First quarter, 2:13, Pacers 14-10: Starting really has made a difference for Bass. Largely non-engaged in the last month, the forward played with energy for the first six minutes, grabbing four rebounds and blocking two shots.
Not all energy is good energy, of course, and Bass also picked up two fouls while committing three turnovers. Still, he was active, so that’s something.
First quarter, 5:41, Pacers 9-6: Lance Stephenson made some waves last year when he made a “choke” sign after LeBron James missed a crucial late-game free throw. Stephenson hastily apologized, probably not wanting to incur the wrath of the league MVP, but he may not have learned his lesson.
Stephenson drained a 3-pointer to give the Pacers the early lead, but he was slapped with a technical for taunting after the shot. In keeping with the way things have gone for the Celtics lately, Pierce missed the free throw.
7:16 p.m.: Roy Hibbert and David West are an imposing front line, but the Celtics have opted not to match pure size with pure size.
Brandon Bass moves into the starting lineup for the first time since Dec. 18. There are several rationales for the move, according to Celtics coach Doc Rivers. One is to jumpstart Bass’ offense, since the eighth-year forward has scored in double figures just twice in the last month. The other is to keep at least one “big” — Kevin Garnett and Jason Collins — on the floor to contend with Hibbert and West.
The Pacers’ starting five will stay the same as it has been the past two games for Indiana. Point guard George Hill is not expected to play, missing his third straight game with a strained groin. He was on the court about two hours before game time, working on his mobility with an athletic trainer and getting up a few shots.
The projected starters appear below.
8 a.m. ET: There is good news on the way, as the Celtics will welcome another top-flight defensive squad to the TD Garden on Friday to go up against the Celtics’ scuffling offense.
Hey, we never said the Celtics were the ones getting the good news.
The Pacers (19-13) come to town for their first of three matchups with the Celtics (14-17) this season, and one of last year’s Eastern Conference semifinalists is flying high after a rough start. Indiana has won nine of its last 11 games and appears to have figured out how to compete without All-Star Danny Granger, who has yet to play this season with an injured left knee. Since opening the season with six losses in their first nine games, the Pacers have steadily risen in the standings and now hold the fourth spot in the East. It’s a worthy debate as to whether the Grizzlies or Pacers are a better defensive team. Lucky for the Celtics, they get to play both in consecutive games.
Join us for updates and analysis from the TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 8 p.m. ET.
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