Snow, sleet won't keep Celtics fans away
The spitting snow and crawling traffic all around the city made it a long and arduous trip for many fans who ventured Friday to the TD Banknorth Garden.
In recent years, there might have been a strong temptation to simply turn around and eat the cost of a couple of balcony seats. Nowadays, the promise of what almost assuredly is waiting for them when they eventually get to the game is enough to keep nearly all of the soldout crowd trudging toward the final destination.
The Celtics made it 10-0 on the homecourt with yet another overwhelming effort on the parquet in a 112-84 blistering of the defending Atlantic Division champion Raptors. Although injuries forced them to play without two of their top talents in Chris Bosh (groin) and Andrea Bargnani (knee), the Torontonians would have needed the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to match firepower with the sizzling Celts.
As has been the case in nearly every home game this year, Boston started warm and quickly turned the building into an incinerator for the opposition. Fueling the fire last night was Kevin Garnett, who torched the Raptors for 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting in just 25 minutes before taking a seat on the Celtic bench with 3:42 still left in the third.
"When I saw the double-team wasn't coming as quickly, I tried to make quick moves," said Garnett. "I haven't been happy with my last couple of weeks of play. Watching film of myself, I have been hesitating a lot. So tonight, I wanted to be a lot more aggressive with moves, getting my head up and finishing around the basket. They weren't trapping very fast. It was pretty much one-on-one and I was trying to take advantage of that."
Paul Pierce had a second straight all-around strong game with 18 points, six assists and five rebounds in 28 minutes, Ray Allen made up for his continued and largely inexplicable struggles behind the arc (0-for-5 on 3-pointers) with an opportunistic 13 points on drives to the basket to go with six rebounds in only 27 minutes. Rajon Rondo was on his way to a triple-double with seven points, seven assists and five rebounds in 24 minutes before the one-sidedness of the contest cut his night short.
The Celtics got another strong effort from the reserves as well as Eddie House lit up the Raptors for 10 points and two steals in 11 minutes in the first half (13 points for the night) when the game was in doubt, and James Posey had 10 points and a season-high 10 rebounds. None of the starters played a second of the fourth quarter with a flight to Chicago for tonight's second half of a back-to-back slated for 90 minutes after the final buzzer.
"They deserve it," Posey said of the light night for the starters. "If you come out there and take care of business early, then why not? When we go in, we can't get in a downward slide. We keep our end of the bargain up and we can play more, (the starters) can rest more."
The Celtics stretched the lead to 24 late in the second quarter (they have led by at least 20 points in 12 of their 16 victories this year) and buried the Raptors with a 10-2 run to start the third. Back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers from Pierce, Posey and Tony Allen made it 91-55 after three.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Celtics enjoyed a 39-point bulge and were determined to get looks for rookie Glen Davis while the crowd chanted for Brian Scalabrine. Even the forgotten Leon Powe got into the act with back-to-back dunks on feeds from House and Posey late in the game.
This was not like last Thursday's 45-point brow-beating of the disinterested Knicks or the similar 119-93 lashing of the uninspired Nuggets back on Nov. 7. The Raptors were coming off a 123-point output in a loss to Phoenix on Wednesday, yet were held to just 16 points in the first quarter and the paltry 55 (on 39 percent shooting) through three.
"Even without their two main guys," said Pierce, "with all the shooters they have, for us to hold them to that percentage, we feel great about that."
Meanwhile, the Celtics rewarded the hearty crowd with the active defense and strong passing that earned the hosts another romp at home and a seven-game lead in the Atlantic Division over the second-place Raptors.
This has gone beyond a fast start from a revamped team benefiting from opponents not knowing how to defend or attack it. The test run is over. The Celtics have arrived as the top team in the Eastern Conference and one of the elite teams in all of the NBA.
The only thing cooling off around the Garden last night was the weather. As has been the case with this team for the past six weeks, everything else sizzled.
Scott Souza is a Daily News staff writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 781-398-8006.