Weird game at the Garden tonight as the Celts topped the Nuggets by 16.
Many of the sick/delinquent Celts of the last few days were able to play — Rondo, Nate, Shaq, and Baby all suited up. The first 10 minutes were essentially perfect Celtics basketball as they scored 30 points and were up 18. Ray and KG were hitting everything, Rondo was putting the ball right where he needed to, and everybody was playing lockdown D. It was a clinic.
Things abruptly fell apart in the 2nd quarter — the bench couldn't hold the lead and the first unit offense stalled when they all got back in. I couldn't help but wonder if Rondo — who had an injury scare later in the game, but was only out for a minute — was hurt by the rest, whether his muscles tightened up or something. I'm not a doctor, and I've never even driven by a Holiday Inn Express, let alone stayed in one, so what do I know.
The seemingly boring game became interesting as the lead got down to one score in the 2nd, but Boston pushed it back into double-digits and rolled in the 3rd and 4th. The Nuggets looked disjointed all game. With Melo and Kenyon Martin out, they relied entirely on JR Smith jumpers with 17 seconds left on the shot clock and off-balance Chauncey Billups runners. This might surprise you, but that didn't suffice. Somehow, Ty Lawson led them in scoring with 24.
Shaq had another nice, useful game in the middle, keeping Denver out of the lane (minus a couple of sneaky Ty Lawson drives) and doing his part. Ray was the star points-wise with 28, and Rondo did his dime thing with 13 assists. KG was KG, and Paul quietly dropped in 17.
Rondo had a decent output — and how outrageous is it that 13 assists is just decent for him? — but his defense was lacking and KWAPT noted that his lateral movement was noticeably limited in person. You could tell that something was off on TV as well. It'll be interesting to see what Doc decides to do with him tomorrow against a lousy Philly squad on a back-to-back. I'm guessing he rests.
Big Baby was a nice jolt off the bench, drawing a few charges and tallying 16 points…while also getting in an odd altercation at the end of the game that may or may not have involved a Nene headbutt, depending on what color jersey you wear. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, David Stern has to say about the incident.