There are so many places to start with this one, and I'm gonna start with Leon Powe. With no KG and Big Baby getting tossed for a flagrant 2 (more on that in a minute), Leon Powe stepped up with a HUUUUUUGE game off the bench. 20 points and 11 rebounds in about 25 minutes of play. Every time Cleveland made a run, it was Powe who seemed to squash it.
Paul Pierce was, well, Paul Pierce. He flat out took over in the second half. He finished with 29 points (11-22 fg), 9 assists and 4 rebounds… easily out-playing LeBron James, who had 21 points (5-15 fg) 5 assists and 6 rebounds. The only reason LeBron's line looks respectable is that he was 9 of 12 from the line.
- I damn near messed myself when Rajon Rondo went down in the first quarter. You could tell he was on his way to one of "those games" before he got hurt. I'm happy to see that he not only came back, but eventually, he got back to playing like Rondo. 6 points, 10 assists, 2 steals and 1 turnover for Rajon.
- Ray Allen was scoreless in the first half but caught fire in the 3rd. Before Paul took over, it was Ray that got hot and carried the Celtics offense.
- Big Baby was having a huge game before getting tossed. In 17 minutes, he was already 5-8 for 10 points. He was playing some of his best ball of the year. He was even hitting that jumper that so much of you hate (but will come to love, I promise you that). But getting tossed on that flagrant 2 is questionable. I can see flagrant 1, but the flagrant 2 is reserved for a blatant foul without attempting at going for the ball. I don't think what was called a flagrant 2 tonight was what people thought a flagrant 2 would be when the rule was being drafted.
- Here's what I wrote on our Twitter page: "I can't help it. I can't look at Varejao without wanting to punch him in the jaw." When he got hit by Baby, he went to the ground like he was seriously hurt. Then he pops up after a second and a half on the floor like he wants to get into the scrum. Please, Anderson, save it for the World Cup. That crap doesn't belong in the NBA.
- I also wrote "This game, dare I say, is living up to the hype." I think this game lived up to the hype and more. I also think this sends a message to Cleveland. A very short-handed Celtics team just beat you. Keep that in mind when we meet at full strength. Gary Tanguay said it best in the post-game: Home court is more important to Cleveland. 12 of their 13 losses are on the road. The Celtics can win anywhere. This win was huge for the Celtics, but it was an even bigger loss for Cleveland.
Overall, the Celtics came out from the beginning and played like the defending champs should. When you consider the injuries, Rondo going down, a number of different guys stepping up… this was easily the best win of the year.
Game photos, after the jump
All photos courtesy NBAE/Getty Images and Associated Press