Celtics get bench help to stop the Pacers, 92-80

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Celtics get bench help to stop the Pacers, 92-80

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Before Jeff Green was traded to the Boston Celtics and become a key backup, he spent more than 90 percent of his career as a starter with the Oklahoma City.

And just in case anyone forgot, games like Wednesday's 92-80 win over the Indiana Pacers serve as a reminder.

Green had 19 points off the Celtics bench, including 17 in the first half as the C's pulled away for a much-needed victory.

His play was part of a strong night for the Celtics' bench, which outscored their Indiana counterparts, 39-24.

"The second unit got our energy up," said coach Doc Rivers. "Second unit came and it just played."

And their play, particularly in the second quarter, seemed to inspire Boston's starters - specifically, the Big Three.

Green scored 12 straight points in the second that put the C's ahead, 31-29.

His one-man scoring binge was followed by some big shots from the Big Three - Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce - who scored all 11 points during an 11-2 Celtics run that put the C's ahead, 42-31.

"They the second unit were great today," said Pierce who led all scorers with 20 points to go with five assists.

One of the biggest questions with the Celtics has been how quickly can their second unit come together with a number of key players either out with injuries or, in the case of Delonte West, just coming back to the fold after being injured.

Even with all the changes and uncertainty as to who will play, Rivers can see their growth into a formidable unit.

"Well, they're more talented now, number one," Rivers said. "The talent is growing with that second unit. You've got Jeff Green in your second unit, Delonte West in your second unit, Glen Davis. Pretty good second unit."

And on Wednesday, their success began with Green, who acknowledges that his role with the C's is still a work in progress.

"I just go out there and just be aggressive," Green said. "I just go out there and play hard. You play hard and it makes up for a lot of things and leads to some good things."

One of Green's strengths has been his ability to beat most players, regardless of whether he's playing small forward or power forward, down the court quickly.

And his hustle has been rewarded with a lot of good looks in transition from Rajon Rondo, who had eight assists on Wednesday night.

He's also benefited from a small lineup that includes him on the floor with the man he was brought in to play behind, Paul Pierce.

"When me and Jeff are out there, it really causes a matchup situation," Pierce said. "He's so good in the post-up area, along with myself, teams have to decide who they're gong to match up with. Usually one of us is going to have the favorable matchup. It's great because teams don't know what to do. It makes us dangerous out there."

Indiana coach Frank Vogel, a former Celtics video coordinator, acknowledges that this new-look Celtics team does present a new set of problems for opponents.

"They got some different dynamics," said Vogel, whose team had its two-game winning streak snapped. "Jeff Green coming in and playing small forward is a different dynamic with him in the post. They now have two 3-point shooting power forwards they can throw at you. There's a little bit of a different dynamic."

And that dynamic in many ways makes this Celtics team one that keeps them in the conversation for winning an NBA title.

"They're going to go deep," Vogel said.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

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.