For one night, it felt like 2008 in Boston again.
The Celtics played with tremendous defensive energy, shutting off driving lanes and seeming to choke off whatever the opposing offense wanted to do. They contained Dwight Howard and chased down a lot of three-point shooters. Boston set a franchise record for fewest points allowed. The offense wasn’t great — with Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo out it wasn’t expected to be — but it was good enough.
Boston routed Orlando 87-56.
That said, don’t read too much into it. Yet.
In this up and down season we have seen more than our share of one-off results — the Wizards beat the Thunder for crying out loud. This was Orlando’s off night and it was certainly not all the Boston defense.
The Magic were just missing shots — Ryan Anderson started went 0-8 and 0-4 from three (where he hits 42 percent on the year); Glen Davis was 2-9 in his return, even Dwight Howard was 4-15 on the kind of running hooks and shots he has hit 57 percent of the rest of the season. The Magic shot 24.6 percent for the game and the best three point shooting team in the land started 2-11 from deep.
It was that kind of game for the Magic. On one kick-out to a wide-open Jameer Nelson in the third quarter he tried to go up and the ball just slipped out of his hands, and when he caught it when he landed he was whistled for traveling. The whole night just seemed to go like that. The play started to effect their effort, which got worse as things wore on. It happens, especially this season. Wash it off in the post game shower and move on.
Maybe this (and the win the day before over Washington) are things Boston can build on. They were scrapping and being physical on defense. Contesting everything, diving for balls on the floor, trying to take the charge. Particularly Jermaine O’Neal, who stood in tough and took some abuse.
Play like this every night with Rondo and Allen back and the Celtics are going to win some games. Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass had 19 points, Kevin Garnett had 14 and 10 rebounds. It was impressive.
But the Celtics played bad for nearly a month at the start of the season and they are going to have to play good for a while longer before we — and more importantly Danny Ainge — really start to believe. Still, every journey starts with one step.