Wednesday night the Celtics faced the Cleveland Cavaliers in their second game of a back-to-back. Coming into tonight the team looked to stop their three game losing streak and regain a winning record. Cleveland also came into the night on a four game losing steak and looking for just their sixth win of the year. The Celtics came in clearly focused and firing on all cylinders. Paul Pierce lead the charge and helped Boston win the game 103-91.
After a rough road trip Doc Rivers knew changes had to be made to our line-ups as the bench has struggled. He decided to mix it up tonight moving Garnett back to the four spot and inserted Jason Collins to the starting line-up. Collins played well defensively and was able to clog the lane forcing tough shots for the Cavs players and took fouls as needed. Jason Terry also moved back into the starting rotation replacing Courtney Lee. The full squad was made up of Rajon Rondo, Jason Terry, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Collins.
Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce (34) drives against Cleveland Cavaliers forward Alonzo Gee (33) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012.
Rondo played the most minutes with 37 and faced the toughest match-up again the Cavs franchise player, Kyrie Irving. Rondo had another great offensive outing shooting 7-11 for 20 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals. In his first game back in the starting line-up, Jason Terry played well in 35 minutes finishing with 15 points on 6-9 shooting with 4 assists, and 3 rebounds. The highlight player of the night and top scorer was Paul Pierce who shot lights out, especially from deep. It achieved a season high 40 points on 13-16 shooting (6-7 from deep) added 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals. Finally was defensive anchor KG who had 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals.
The Cavaliers certainly aren't the best team in the NBA but night in and night out they compete and challenge opponents in tough games. The most positive takeaway came from the Celtic's overall defense holding Cleveland to just 40.9%. This marked the first time in a while the team held an opponent under 100 points and on the offensive end they scored at a tremendous rate shooting 59.7%.
Going into halftime the Celtics led 54-46 and took the momentum into the second half increasing their lead to as many as 20 points. This allowed Doc to insert our bench players in hope that they would maintain the lead acquired by the starters. Unfortunately this was not the case as the bench struggled again only producing 15 points on the night.
Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo (9) dribbles the ball after stealing it from Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (2) as Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson, right, watches.
Jeff Green shot just 1-4, finished with 3 points and Bass coming off the bench for the first time since the start of the season shot just 2-7 for 4 points. Courtney Lee provided the only efficient production off the bench shooting 2-3 for 6 points while playing much needed solid defense. Hopefully this means Lee has finally found his groove. His name has been mentioned a lot lately in trade rumors and clearly he's working hard to stay in Boston.
With the Celtics bench soaking up minutes, the Cavs were able to chip away at the lead and got it down to only five points. The masked Kyrie Irving has bounced back from his injury and had a solid night scoring 22 points on 9-17 shooting. The Cavs were also without their standout center, Anderson Varejao who's had a phenomenal year, yet remained sidelined with a bruised knee. This certainly benefited the Celtics as Varejao is averaging 14 points and 14 rebounds a game this season.
Once the lead and game were in jeopardy Doc Rivers quickly put our starters back in and the guys battled back and were able to stretch the lead back to ten points. From there it was basically smooth sailing as they relied on Pierce's hot hand to seal the victory.
The Celtics have a much needed day of rest tomorrow before they gear up to face the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. This will be the fourth match-up against the Bucks this year and the Celtics will look to even the score as so far the series sits at 1-2 favoring Milwaukee. It will be interesting to see what new mix of line-ups Doc will go with, especially with our starting five. Tip off is at 7:30pm in the TD Garden and will be the last game the team plays until Christmas day.
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