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This isn’t about O’Neal and the starters as much as it is Krstic and the second unit. The reality is that everyone looks better playing with the four All-Stars. But the reserve corps has been in a state of flux all season and this has a chance to rapidly become a strength.
Green has shown to be a much more effective player with two big men and both of the Oklahoma City transplants have shown a tendency to defer when playing with the big four. Of course, one of them will have to be on the floor with them, and Rivers used various combinations involving Rondo, Allen and Pierce. That will still sort itself out depending on the matchup or foul trouble, but finally a second unit has emerged and it’s certainly more talented than any they used even before the trades.
After an offensive-minded first half, the starters put together a nice defensive run to open the second and built a 10-point lead. Ten quickly became four, but the reserve unit pushed it back to double-digits by the end of the quarter and then expanded the lead in the fourth.
“That was huge for us,” Rivers said. “And listen, we’re getting healthier so our bench is starting to resemble a bench. That’s good.”
The starters need Jermaine more than the bench does right now. He'll rebound, he'll defend, he'll block shots, and he'll set picks. He's aware of what the offense is and does, even if there are some new wrinkles.
Meanwhile, Krstic and Baby are threats with Jeff Green in there and taking smaller guys on the blocks. Add Delonte and the one starter who drew the short straw (Pierce or Ray, most likely) and now you've got four shooters who range from capable to great.
So who are you going to leave to double Jeff Green?
The C's bench was SUPPOSED to be a strength this year. It has been revamped, and there are healthier pieces there now. With Delonte, Green, Krstic, and Davis, you have a very good bench. We'll see about Shaq coming back and what the does… if it does anything. But for now, we're finally starting to see something take shape.
Related links: CSNNE: Davis on bench: its coming together | Krstic plays freely in return from injury | Green answers Rivers' defensive challenge | ESPN Boston: Krstic clears his head | Herald: Krstic takes off his thinking cap | Jeff Green blossoms | Globe: Greens energy lights way
Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
On Page 2: Last night was about Rondo getting defensive
Sixers guard Jrue Holiday connected on all four shots he took in the first quarter, scoring 11 points as the 76ers raced to a two-point lead after one frame.
Holiday missed his final eight shots and didn't score another point the rest of the night.
"When he decided to guard and he decided to slow down Holiday, then [Philadelphia's] whole offense slowed down also," said Garnett. The 76ers mustered a mere 32 second-half points.
Added Rivers: "I don't even know what he had [for stats]. He was aggressive, attacking and shooting. He's getting himself ready, you can just feel that. But I don't know if he played with great focus all game, right now you can say that about any of our guys."
It's infuriating when an opposing point guard torches the C's when you've got Rajon Rondo… who can be the best defender on the floor… getting torched. When he puts his mind to it, he can stop or slow down just about any point guard in the league.
He's prone to lapse just like anyone. And he often will go for the big play rather than the safe one.
But man… isn't him locking someone down a thing of beauty? I hope this is just him getting ready for the playoffs… because having that in the playoffs will be pretty huge.
The rest of the links:
ESPN Boston: Short but sweet start for JO | Like old times with Celtics-Sixers | WEEI: C's take apart Sixers | Herald: Celtics regain balance | Rematch against Philadelphia close at hand | This "contributor" was at the heart of Celtics pride | Celtics, pals dish assist to ball boy | Globe: Celtics handle Sixers | O'Neal enjoys a fresh start | Pierce on Sixers as a possible playoff opponent | Souza: Jeff Green, Jermaine O'Neal finding their way