Big Four put on show in possible finale

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Big Four put on show in possible finale

BOSTON The Boston Celtics' Big Four won't be back at the Garden for more than two weeks.

And with the NBA trading deadline on Thursday, there's no guarantee when the C's do return, that the Big Four of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo, will all be back.

Well if this was going to be the last game played at the Garden by the Big Four, they certainly gave the fans in attendance something to remember with a 104-86 thumping of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Allen and Pierce led the way with 22 points each. Garnett, who only played 21 minutes, made all five of his field goal attempts and finished with 10 points and eight rebounds. Rondo, who played just 26 minutes, had eight points and five assists as the C's (21-18) won their fifth straight at home and improve their post all-star break record to 6-1.

Boston began to pull away in the first quarter after a lay-up by Garnett tied the game at 10.

From there, the C's went on an 8-0 run and took a double-digit lead into the second quarter.

Boston has one of the NBA's stingiest defenses.

But to start the second quarter, forget about being in shut-down mode.

The C's were more like in shut-out mode as they opened the third with a 16-0 run which propelled a comfortable win into an all-out crushing of a Blazers (19-21) team that has lost five of its last six games.

Portland got the lead down to 18 points in the fourth, but a jumper by Avery Bradley pushed the C's lead to 94-74, with 4:35 to play.

It was the kind of bounce-back performance that the Celtics certainly needed as they head out on an eight-game road trek that begins in Los Angeles on Sunday.

And while the mood among the players is certainly upbeat and optimistic, there's still the possibility that any member of the team - including the Big Four - won't be with the C's when they return home to face Washington on March 25.

While president of basketball operations Danny Ainge as well as head coach Doc Rivers have repeatedly said that there's no deal imminent, neither would rule out the possibility that a deal could be struck between now and the March 15 deadline.

And while players talked about the importance of chemistry and how difficult it can be to achieve, Rivers told Ainge to not worry about chemistry concerns if he can upgrade the roster, talent-wise.

"I'm not concerned with it, as far as on the floor," Rivers said. "Whoever we bring in, would have had one less practice than probably all of us, really. I told him (Ainge), 'if you think you can get a better talent this year, then the chemistry thing, is off.' Just go out and that's dangerous to tell Danny."

Blakely: Celtics not as feared as they were last season

Blakely: Celtics not as feared as they were last season

BOSTON -- On more than one occasion Monday night, the Boston Celtics were a discombobulated bunch with some players thinking they were running one play, while others were thinking the play called was something totally different.
 
You see that stuff in the preseason and to a certain extent in the regular season for a lot of teams. It is in those moments that we’re reminded that this Boston Celtics team is a work in progress on so many levels.
 
Because of that, we all need to hit the pause button when talking about them as a team inching closer towards Eastern Conference supremacy.
 
After the first month of the season, they have yet to show that they are going to be better than last season’s 48-win ball club.
 
The big problem a year ago was the offense bogging down and for the most part, not making shots. This year, it’s the team’s defense that has let them down on many nights.
 
And with that comes a sobering reminder this crew is good, but at best are maybe top-five in the East.
 
As a team on the rise, beating teams you’re not supposed to has to happen with some semblance of regularity.
 
There were only three teams on the Celtics’ docket this season thus far that they should have been beaten by without there being any argument: Golden State, San Antonio and Cleveland.
 
They were beaten in all three, two of which (Golden State and Cleveland) had final scores that did not indicate the level of dominance they had over the Celtics.
 
The average margin of defeat in the three games was 9.3 points, but two of them (San Antonio and Golden State) were at the TD Garden, which is supposed to be the equalizer for upset-minded teams.
 
But in each game, Boston put up a decent fight only to fail to emerge victorious.
 
The struggles against the upper echelon teams of the NBA has nothing to do with not having a superstar or a great rebounder or any of the kazillion reasons/excuses offered up as to why they’re not better.
 
It’s hunger.
 
It’s effort.
 
It’s about being blinded by the internet clicks that tout them as one of the best teams in the East, and them not seeing the danger that comes with embracing all that patting on the back.
 
It makes you soft.
 
It makes you fat and happy.
 
And maybe most significant, it creates a false sense of arrival before you’ve left the tarmac.
 
That’s where the Boston Celtics are right now: a team that seems to have forgotten why they were the team nobody wanted to play last year.
 
It wasn’t that teams feared playing them. It was the fact that they knew playing the Celtics would be tough, and it would force them to play a lot closer to their full potential than they were used to if they wanted to win.
 
It was because everyone knew that to beat the Celtics, you don’t have a choice but to play hard because you damn well knew they would.
 
Not anymore.
 
They bring that toughness to the game in small doses, like an intra-venous drip full of hope and promise, providing just enough to life to keep their fans optimistic but not nearly enough to kill the noise of their haters and critics.
 
And while the season is still young, the Celtics need to start racking up some quality wins.
 
Right now, their most impressive win is a toss-up between beating Charlotte 104-98 on Oct. 29, or a 94-92 win at Detroit on Nov. 19.
 
Boston plays at Orlando on Wednesday, a team that’s likely to be back in the lottery again. But after that, they travel back to Boston where they’ll host Toronto -- a game that they desperately need to not only to pad their win total but also provide a much-needed boost of energy and confidence going forward.

The Celtics have to find that hunger, that collective desire that we’ve seen in the past which has propelled them to greater heights than we’ve seen thus far.
 
Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford… you can go down the roster and the mission for all of them has to be the same: play harder, for longer, and be smarter about it, because this team has too much collective talent to be just three games above .500.
 
At 12-9, Boston is third in the East and trail conference-leading Cleveland by three games for the best record in the conference. But then you look at the teams behind the Celtics and realize that they’re only two games out of having the ninth-best record in the East.
 
It speaks in part to the season still being in its infancy stage. But it’s also telling as to how Boston does not have a huge margin of error when it comes to losing winnable games.
 
And as we’ve seen thus far, the Celtics can play with any team in the NBA and hold their own.
 
But beating them is a totally different narrative that this squad has yet to write.