Celtics 122, Pacers 103

Celtics turn the switch

They’re on all night vs. the defenseless Pacers

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / March 13, 2010

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He couldn’t hide how much it bothered him. The boos rained down late in the first quarter of the Celtics’ blowout loss to Memphis Wednesday, the fans left early, and Paul Pierce took the sights and sounds home with him.

Two days old, they were still echoing in his mind.

“Nobody wants to be booed at home by the home crowd,’’ he said. “That really sat with me that night ,to be honest, and I think it sat with everybody.’’

Before they crushed the Indiana Pacers, 122-103, at the Garden last night, the Celtics met to air thoughts and feelings. Some players talked, doing self-analysis in cliques.

They had gathered to watch movies for inspiration, a form of long-term motivation more than short term.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers sat them in front of the videotape. They looked at the first quarter of the Memphis game — not specific edits as they had become accustomed to, but the game as it unfolded — and watched as the wheels fell off, missed shots leading to hollow defense.

“We just had open dialogue,’’ said Kevin Garnett. “Just general conversation . . . I think the best thing about this team since I’ve been here is that we’ve all been able to talk to one another, critique each other and be positive and get results out of it.’’

To say that those boos, that meeting, and last night’s performance were related would be storybook rather than truth. The Pacers had lost seven of nine games coming in and were already looking forward to the summer, when they’d be all but assured their first lottery pick since 1988.

The bounce-back win was as close to a lock as you could get with these Celtics.

But to say pride played a part, no matter how large, in a performance in which the Celtics put six players in double figures, held the Pacers to 40.5 percent shooting in the first half and built a lead that grew to 25 points would be more than fair.

“We got our butts kicked the other night,’’ Rivers said. “So, I thought everybody had a sense of urgency and you could see that. But listen, I told them one game doesn’t fix anything. But it’s good that they know what they can do.’’

Led by Pierce, who was 13 of 32 the past three games before scoring a team-high 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting, the Celtics shot 63.2 percent in the first half, and the defense the Celtics abandoned early against Memphis strangled the Pacers, forcing Indiana to miss 22 of 37 first-half shots.

Without having to worry about clawing out of a double-digit deficit in the first quarter, the Celtics bench looked comfortable.

Nate Robinson and Glen Davis worked the two-man game, with Robinson coming off Davis’s screens and springing for four first half 3-pointers. Davis and Robinson scored 15 points each, sparking a 24-11 run that spanned the end of the first quarter to the start of the second.

With a 13-point cushion, the starters’ job was to pile on. The ball moved fluidly, allowing Ray Allen to get 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting while also allowing Pierce to be more aggressive, doing everything from converting tough 3-point plays to finishing off an alley-oop from Rajon Rondo, who put together his 31st double-double of the season (16 points, 11 assists).

Troy Murphy’s double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds) couldn’t help the Pacers.

“We were playing a wounded tiger,’’ said Pacers coach Jim O’Brien. “They came out and pounded us and we never recovered from that.’’

The Celtics were trying to clean up the mess they made two days prior before leaving for tomorrow’s marquee matchup with Cleveland and LeBron James, who returned to the lineup last night and put up 23 points and 10 assists after sitting out two games with a right ankle injury. The Cavaliers defeated the 76ers, 100-95,

“It wasn’t about the talking,’’ said Garnett, the only Celtic starter that didn’t reach double digits in scoring, going for 9 points and six rebounds and resting the entire fourth quarter. “What we talked about, we actually did tonight. I think we played with 200 percent more energy tonight than obviously the other night.’’

Having lost 12 games at the Garden, home started to feel like the place Gil Scott-Heron sang about. It was a feeling no one in the Celtics locker room was comfortable with.

“You never want to be in a position where you’re getting booed at home,’’ Garnett said. “Home is supposed to be where you lay your head at and where you’re most comfortable. We had to reestablish that here.’’

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