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THE NITTY GRITTY
The Celtics produced their best defensive effort of the season, limiting the Pacers to a mere 31.8 percent shooting (topping their previous best in limiting Portland to 34.8 percent back in late November). Kevin Garnett scored a team-high 18 points on 8-of-16 shooting with seven rebounds before being ejected for a flagrant-2 foul with 8:24 to play, while Rajon Rondo added 18 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Paul Pierce and Courtney Lee (13 points apiece) joined the double-figures party, while Jared Sullinger chipped in seven points and 10 rebounds before he inevitably fouled out. Tyler Hansbrough scored a game-high 19 points, while David West added 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Pacers.
It was a one-possession game midway through the second quarter, when the Celtics embarked on a 17-4 burst over a four-minute span to open a 15-point cushion. Not only did Boston's defense harass the Pacers into 2-of-8 shooting with three turnovers, but Boston made 7 of 8 shots at the other end, spearheaded by four buckets from Rondo. Pierce added six points on the burst that left Boston out front 42-27 with 3:14 to play in the first half.
KG EJECTED FOR FLAGRANT-2
Garnett earned an automatic ejection after being tagged with a flagrant-2 foul for making contact with the face of Hansbrough with 8:24 to play in the game. The Celtics were already up 23 at that point. Hop here to read more.
The Celtics not only snapped a four-game losing streak -- avoiding what would have been the third five-game losing streak of the Garnett era (two five-game skids last year) -- but did so in convincing fashion. Gino Time rolled on the JumboTron with Boston out front 90-70 with 2:35 to go. You get the feeling Garnett was being held down in the back, unable to enjoy the American Bandstand montage after being ejected.
WHAT IT MEANS
There's the defense everyone's been looking for and it came against an Indiana team that had won nine of its last 11 entering Friday's game. All that said: 1) The Pacers are an atrocious offensive team and aided Boston's cause with their allergy to making shots, and 2) before anyone gets too excited, let's see the Celtics build off this one. Boston had a solid Christmas Day effort before embarking on a four-game stinkfest. Alas, a win is a win is a win. And this was a pretty one that the Celtics desperately needed. Doing it with their preferred lineup should deliver a nice confidence jolt. The Celtics don't get much time to savor this one, as they are off to Atlanta to play the Hawks on a second night of a back-to-back. Boston is 4-5 on the tail end of consecutive games this season and a mere 2-5 on the road in those situations.