Celtics Overtime is a postgame feature providing extra news, notes and analysis from each game. Boston defeated the Toronto Raptors, 96-73, on Wednesday night at TD Garden.
When you're an aging team like the Boston Celtics, you'll take wins in any way you can. Considering that wins had been hard to come by entering Wednesday night's game with the Toronto Raptors -- Boston had lost five straight games -- it was especially important to beat a mediocre (if you can even call them that) squad in the Raptors, who were 4-10.
Not only did the Celtics get the win, but they did so in convincing fashion. For the first time in over two weeks, the C's put together a thorough effort from start to finish, and their effort clearly showed based on the final score, a 17-point win.
It helped that their opponent was a basement-dwelling club, but there were other factors.
RAJON RONDO THRASHES RAPTORS WITH HIS OFFENSE, BUT GETS HURT
It was a bittersweet night for the future of the Celtics' franchise. Rondo took the game over with his offense scoring a game-high 21 points on an impressive 7-of-8 shooting. The performance was as good as almost any this year. Rondo only had two assists in the game, which is an oddity consider he was averaging 10.1 assists entering the game.
"You want him to be aggressive most nights," Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said about Rondo's night. "I've said that, about a week ago. His assists are going to happen because he's a great passer. And tonight it was just one of those nights. He was basically just scoring; wasn't getting assists. But it was good for the team."
What wasn't good for the team was the fact that Rondo went down hard late in the third quarter after a flagrant one foul on Linas Kleiza. Rondo landed on his right arm and hand and was forced to leave the game with what was later diagnosed a sore right wrist. Thankfully, the injury doesn't appear to be serious, and Rondo said he is day-to-day.
Games like this from Rondo are encouraging, considering the Celtics' need for scoring outside of the Big Three. Rondo is clearly capable, but his inconsistency is discouraging. If and when he develops that consistent offensive game, the sky is the limit.
PAUL PIERCE AND RAJON RONDO DO A LITTLE ROLE SWAPPING
Paul Pierce is the scorer, and Rajon Rondo is the distributor. That's how it had always been ever since Rondo joined the Celtics. I guess those roles were getting boring, because Pierce and Rondo decided to trade responsibilities for the evening. Rondo had 21 points and Pierce had a game-high seven assists in the win.
"Paul kind of jokes and told me 'let's [swap] roles tonight' and he would make the plays and I'll just put it in the basket," said Rondo. "I got some wide open looks at the rim, made some easy ones, made some tough ones. I was just trying to stay aggressive. I wanted to pick and choose my spots and I think I did a good job with the pace."
As for Pierce, his scoring is always helpful, but his passing can make an impact, too.
"He was terrific," Rivers said. "My favorite play of the game by Paul - and I don't remember quarters right now; I think it was the third quarter - he could tell that Ray [Allen] was struggling a little bit getting his shot. And Paul clearly had the shot off the pick and roll. And he held it just long enough for Ray to free open and ave Ray a three. I thought that was just such a - those little plays, they just help you team later in such big ways. You know? Ray clearly appreciated that. And Paul knew what he was going. I didn't. I wanted him to shoot when he came off it. But then when you saw what he was trying to do, it was just - those little things, man, they really help team building."
Very high praise from Pierce' longtime coach. At any rate, it's good to see that teamwork.
FINALLY, THE CELTICS' BENCH SHOWS UP (AND ACTUALLY CONTRIBUTES)
Old or not, every team needs quality reserves. It's even more important when you have a group like the Celtics where the starters need rest, and lots of it. At the start of the season, there were glimpses of hope off the bench, with the brightest potential start being Brandon Bass. During the team's losing streak, the bench had all be disappeared.
On Monday, it came back with a vengeance. Mickael Pietrus scored 12 points and Bass added 13 points and nine rebounds to lead a second unit that scored 28 points on 13-of-34 shooting (38.2 percent). All in all, it was an encouraging performance considering the absence of two important backups in Keyon Dooling and Chris Wilcox.
"You know Keyon [Dooling] is still out and [Chris] Wilcox is still out, but Pietrus and Bass have been terrific," said Rivers. "Pietrus has already done far more than I thought he would do this quickly, and his energy is just infectious, and defensively he's unbelievable. You know, I remember not liking him when he was with the Magic when he came on the floor, because of his defensive toughness. And you've kind of forgotten about it. And he's reminding you why you didn't like him. He's terrific."
Outside of Pietrus and Bass, the young guns had solid outings. Avery Bradley scored eight points in garbage time while JaJuan Johnson had three points and two rebounds in just under six minutes and E'Twaun Moore totaled three assists.
"You know, just that they're young and athletic and they run around just as fast as they can," Rivers said about what he liked from his young players. "JaJuan [Johnson] is just so darn athletic. I mean, he had a blocked shot attempt that was just - it should be on TV. He didn't get it, but I don't even know where he came from. He's just, like I said the other day with him and Avery [Bradley] and E'Twaun [Moore], you know their minutes have been scattered, but they've had a great spirit, they work every day, and that's all you can ask as a coach."
BOTTOM LINE: It's a win that they were supposed to get, easily, and they did. Based off that, how can you not be happy? This doesn't indicate the end of the Celtics struggles. Quite the contrary, actually. But it's good to see that, when they absolutely need a win, the Celtics don't have any struggles getting the job done against a low-quality opponent.
NEXT UP: Steve Nash and the sort-of-rebuilding Phoenix Suns come to town on Friday night in a matchup that would have been on national television a few years ago. Instead, the Celtics and Suns are both aging teams whose glory years are likely behind them. Still, Nash is a dangerous player and it will be a solid test for the Celtics.