Denver's George Karl is one of the most animated coaches in the NBA, and usually roams the sideline throughout the game. But with his Nuggets not showing much fight last night against the Celtics, he didn't get off the bench other than during timeouts, to go to the locker room at halftime, and to leave after it was over.
The way the undefeated Celtics were playing, who could blame Karl for watching from his great courtside seat during Boston's 119-93 victory at TD Banknorth Garden?
The Celtics' field goal percentage of 64.5 was their best since they shot 65.1 percent during a 118-103 victory at Detroit Nov. 24, 1993.
"I don't think I should make any excuses for my team," Karl said. "I think you just have to say the Celtics won. They played better than we did. They played more together than we did."
The Celtics (3-0) had 77 points by halftime. Seriously. Instead of an NBA game, it seemed more like the Harlem Globetrotters against the Washington Generals. Boston was only 8 points shy of tying the franchise record for points in a first half, which happened twice, both against Denver: Feb. 5, 1982, and Dec. 30, 1982.
For the game, the Celtics' star trio of Kevin Garnett (23), Ray Allen (22), and Paul Pierce (26) combined for 71 points. Garnett also had 13 rebounds, 7 assists, and 4 steals. Coach Doc Rivers returned to the bench after missing Sun day's game in Toronto because of the death of his father, Grady. A moment of silence was observed for Grady Rivers prior to the game.
"Every time we come out there for Doc," Garnett said. "Just what he's going through has some emotion with it."
Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, and ex-UMass star Marcus Camby make the Nuggets look like a Western Conference contender on paper. But Denver, which lost at New York the night before, didn't look like that last night.
Boston nailed 17 of 24 shots, had 12 assists, and collected 22 points in the paint in the first quarter, ending it with a 38-22 lead. A layup by James Posey put the Celtics ahead, 52-25, with 7:31 remaining in the second quarter. Posey, however, left with about six minutes remaining before halftime with lower-back spasms and didn't return. Nuggets reserve big man Nene also left in the first half with a sprained left thumb. He didn't return.
A 3-pointer by Eddie House gave the Celtics a stunning 77-38 lead at halftime. Boston shot 72.1 percent from the field, making 31 of 43 field goal attempts, five 3-pointers, and 10 free throws. The Celtics had 19 assists in the first half, scored 16 points off 13 Denver turnovers, 36 points in the paint, and won the rebounding battle, 20-9.
"Well, it's human nature to look at the score and think that everything is going to be great and just kind of slide into it," Allen said. "You just have a real laissez-faire attitude. It was important that we came out [strong]. I didn't even want to look at the score."
Anthony, who had just 11 points on 3-of-13 shooting, said: "They beat the [expletive] out of us tonight. But you have to take your hat off to them because they played extremely well."
The Celtics were up as many as 41 points twice in the third quarter. Garnett wowed the crowd with a ferocious one-handed alley-oop dunk from Pierce with 4:25 left in the third to push the lead to 91-50.
"I don't think I was ever beat like that," said Iverson, who had 22 points. "I don't ever think I was down 40 points in my career."
With four seconds left in the third quarter, Allen nailed a jumper to give the Celtics a 103-66 cushion. Boston shot 71.2 percent through three quarters, but eased off the throttle from there, with just 16 fourth-quarter points.
"We played well, but I'm telling you guys, we're better than that," Rivers said.
Said Pierce: "We are just scratching the surface of what we can be."
Trying to stay entertained, Celtics fans starting chanting, "Let's go, Vrabel," as Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel exited the building with about four minutes left. With three minutes to go, they let out the familiar "Youk" for Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis, who was calling it a night. Maybe Karl should have followed Vrabel and Youkilis, but he did have that good seat for the Celtics' show.
"They were good. They were on," said Karl.
Marc J. Spears can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org