Celtics-Cavaliers review: Pierce, C's get it together

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Celtics-Cavaliers review: Pierce, C's get it together

BOSTON Facing a wounded team without one of their key players, the Boston Celtics did what you're supposed to do - show no mercy.

The Boston Celtics led the entire night in handing the Anderson Varejao-less Cleveland Cavaliers a 103-91 loss.

Varejao, the NBA's rebounding leader with 14.4 per game, did not play due to a right knee injury sustained in Cleveland's loss to Toronto on Tuesday.

His absence was clearly felt by the Cavs (5-22) who have lost five in a row.

But the way the Celtics were playing leading up to Wednesday's game, it didn't matter who they played - they were not playing good basketball.

And that more than anything else, is what they take away from Wednesday's victory that snapped a three-game losing skid.

Offensively, they steadily knocked down one shot after another before finishing with a season-best 59.7 percent shooting from the field.

And Boston had a strong game defensively in limiting the Cavs to 40.9 percent shooting.

"When you play like that it can be contagious," said Paul Pierce who had a season-high 40 points. "Offensively, guys knocking down shots, and then other guys getting up in there and defending."

Pierce's scoring along with solid play defensively were just a couple of factors contributing to Boston's win. Here are some other keys identified prior to the game, and how they played out for the C's in what players and coach Rivers agree was a much-needed victory.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Even though Boston has struggled, the Cavaliers still view them as one of the league's better teams. That's not necessarily a good thing for Boston when you consider the Cavaliers' best play tends to come against the best teams. Of their five wins, three have come against teams with a winning record at the time.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston didn't waste much time getting a firm grip on this game as the Celtics opened with a 7-0 spurt and spent the rest of the game with a lead or tied.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo and Kyrie Irving. Irving put Rondo and the rest of the NBA on notice a year ago with his late-game heroics against the Celtics, and has done more of the same this season when healthy. His speed, strength and ability to score in a variety of ways will be a good test for Rondo.

WHAT WE SAW: Rondo was a bit more assertive with his scoring as he tallied 20 points to go with eight assists. Irving once again more than held his own against Rondo, but he has to continue to improve as a playmaker. He had 22 points on 9-for-17 shooting, but Irving only racked up two assists while turning the ball over three times.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett continues to have the fullest plate of any Celtic, and the weight of all that has hurt his ability to have the kind of impact he wants and needs. With tonight being a back-to-back, it'll be interesting to see if Doc Rivers elects to trim his minutes some or sub him in and out differently than he has in the past.

WHAT WE SAW: Doc Rivers' decision to move Jason Collins into the starting lineup clearly benefited Garnett who was able to move back to his natural power forward position. Garnett had 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting with six rebounds, three assists a steal and a season-high three blocked shots.

STAT TO TRACK: How the Celtics defend in the first quarter will go far in determining whether they win tonight. This season, the Celtics are 4-1 when limiting opponents to 19 or fewer points scored in the first.

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics didn't lock down the Cavaliers as well as they would have liked in the first quarter. But to come out of the quarter with the lead has usually been a good thing for Boston. They led 27-25 after the first, and are now 9-3 when they're ahead or tied after the first quarter.

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