By Rich Levine
BOSTON Even great teams have imperfections, but as the season goes on and the Celtics keep winning (and staying relatively healthy in the process), its become more difficult to find legitimate faults in the 2010-11 squad.
Heading into Tuesday nights blowout win over the Cavs, however, the spotlight was fixated on Bostons record against far inferior opponents.
The Cs were 33-10 when the night began, but five of those losses had come against teams with sub-.500 records. And the trend of looking past, and playing down to, lesser competition reached a new low on Saturday, when Boston dropped a two-point decision to the whacked out Wizards.
"You have to treat every opponent with the same kind of respect," Marquis Daniels had said after that one. "These are NBA players. Everyone in the NBA can play."
We gave them a chance to see that they could to beat us, coach Doc Rivers said. When that happens, you lose games."
But that was then. On Tuesday, the Celtics never gave the sad-sack Cavs now losers of 17 straight games and 28 of their last 29 even a glimmer of hope and cruised to a 112-95 victory.
And the question was, how much did Saturdays loss play into Bostons unbreakable focus. Did the Wizards game serve as a wake up call?
I worry about everything, said Rivers when asked if, despite Saturday, he was still concerned about his team staying on point. You always worry about that stuff, but at the end of the day, I just worry about us trying to understand that whether we win or lose we just have to keep working and getting better and not getting into bad habits, because the more you do it, it becomes habit. So thats what we talked about before the game. I didnt mention Washington once.
He didnt have to.
Because even though the loss to the Wizards isnt something this team harped on, its one that they wont soon forget.
The game is behind us, said Ray Allen, who scored 18 points in only 25 minutes of action Tuesday night. "Its always something that you have a black mark, that box marked in your memory. Its a learning point and we have to make sure its always something that you dont go back to.
Another aspect of the game that helped the Celtics avoid going back to that underachieving state, and also make sure the Cavs never developed any delusions of staying with the Cs, was the first quarter outburst by Paul Pierce who scored 17 of his game-high 24 points in the opening 12 minutes.
Pierce said that fast starts have been a point of focus recently, and that when it came to moving past Saturday, he knew a big first quarter was key.
Its something Ive really been trying to do over the last two, three weeks. Just come out real aggressive from the jump, and try and get us off to a great start.
And he did, and then the Celtics stayed great against a less than great opponent.
Something they'd like to make a habit of as the season goes on.