Bench delivers first-rate performance for Celtics

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Bench delivers first-rate performance for Celtics

BOSTON The Boston Celtics' second unit delivered a first-rate performance in Friday's 96-78 win over Portland.

With Rajon Rondo out serving a two-game suspension along with a few other players whose health status made them game-time decisions, the C's took control of the game in the first half with their bench playing a prominent role.

"I don't care who doesn't play," Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said earlier. "The guys that play have to be ready to play and ready to win."

That was indeed the case, with Jeff Green leading all Celtics scorers with 19 points off the bench.

For the game, the C's second unit outscored Portland's backups, 41-22.

Not only were they scoring, but their play was also important on the defensive end as the C's limited Portland to just 34.8 percent shooting and extended their losing streak to four in a row.

In addition to strong play from its bench, here are some other keys identified prior to the tip-off that played a role in the Celtics victory over the Blazers.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Boston and Portland are two of the most rebounding-challenged teams in the NBA. The C's are dead-last while the Blazers are 25th in the league.

WHAT WE SAW: Although Boston lost the rebounding battle 37-36, the C's controlled the action around the glass most of the night with a number of Portland's rebounds coming in the game's final moments when the outcome had already been well established.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs. LaMarcus Aldridge: Garnett's ability to stretch the floor won't do him much good against Aldridge who brings that same skillset to the floor. Both have strong all-around games, although Garnett's defense is better.

WHAT WE SAW: Garnett's 10 points and five rebounds was well short of equalling Aldridge's game-high 23 points, but there was no mistaking that Garnett's impact was greater. He set the tone with an early blocked shot that was among several plays made by the C's defensively. Aldridge's impact was minimal, at best.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Without Rondo, Courtney Lee will have more opportunities to score. That's exactly how things played out in the lone game Rondo missed this season. Lee had a season-high 13 points which is his only double-digit scoring game this season.

WHAT WE SAW: Lee was sniffing at a Rondo-like triple double before finishing with 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists. He has had just two double-digit scoring games this season - both coming with Rondo out of the lineup.

STAT TO TRACK: The second quarter has seen the Celtics at their worst far too often. They average an NBA-low 21.9 points per game in the quarter. That wouldn't be that big a deal if opponents weren't scoring an average of 24.8 points per game.

WHAT WE SAW: Not only did the Celtics play better than usual in the second quarter, the 31 points scored by the C's in the second was their highest-scoring quarter of the game. Fueled by the defense, Boston took a commanding 23-point lead in the half that was never threatened afterward.

Highlights: Devin Booker puts up 70 points but Celtics get the win

Highlights: Devin Booker puts up 70 points but Celtics get the win

Highlights from the TD Garden as Devin Booker had a historic performance where he scored 70 points, but it wasn't enough to get the win over the Celtics.

Thomas on Suns: 'We’re worried about the playoffs; they’re worried about the lottery'

Thomas on Suns: 'We’re worried about the playoffs; they’re worried about the lottery'

BOSTON – Stacking wins on top of wins is the mindset of the Boston Celtics right now, so the players who did speak to the media following Friday’s 130-120 win over Phoenix drove that point home emphatically.

But inside the locker room, it was unusually quiet, the kind of silence you expect following a loss.

Considering how the Celtics’ defense was absolutely thrashed by Devin Booker’s franchise record 70 points, there’s no question at a minimum the Celtics’ pride overall was stung.

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And when Suns coach Earl Watson began calling time-outs and having his team commit fouls at the end of the game, there’s no question it rubbed a few Celtics the wrong way.

“I don’t think anybody has ever seen that; continuing to call time-outs, continuing to foul when we are up 15. But I mean, it was obvious what they were trying to do. They were trying to get him (Booker) the most points possible. Hat off to to him (Booker). He played a hell of a game.”

Following the game, Watson defended his late-game decision making.

“Calling time-outs at the end kept the game close,” he said. “It’s basketball; I’m not coming to any arena to be liked. If people don’t like us while we build … so what? Do something about it.”

The Suns (22-51) never came any closer than 10 points, which was the final score margin.

Al Horford acknowledged that there was some aggravation following the game.

“You can be frustrated when somebody is doing that to you,” he said. “It’s not to one guy, it’s to the team so I think we’re probably more aggravated at ourselves, at least personally I feel that way. I probably could have done a little better, maybe done some different things to prevent it. We got to give him credit, 70 points, I don’t care it’s 70, he got 70. It’s impressive.”

But there will be some inside the Celtics locker room and among their fan base, who were bothered by the Suns’ late-game actions which seemed more focused on Booker getting numbers than anything else.

When asked about being disrespected by the Suns’ late-game strategy, Thomas wanted no part of that conversation.

“It is what it is,” Thomas said. “We won the game. We’re worried about the playoffs; they’re worried about the lottery.”

 Boom!