BOSTON -- There was a collective sigh of relief in Celtics Nation following Friday night’s 115-87 thumping of the New York Knicks.
But the problems that have plagued the Boston Celtics won’t be cured with just one game, which is why you won’t find them going into tonight’s game against Indiana thinking it’ll be another cakewalk.
The Pacers (4-5), coming off a 109-105 overtime loss at Philadelphia on Friday night, will certainly look to avenge a bad loss to the then-winless Sixers (1-7).
While it’s easy make the (humungous) leap and believe that their defense is back on track now, players and coaches on this team know better.
Friday night’s game was a victory that still exposed many of the symptomatic conditions that have factored in Boston (4-4) being a .500 team thus far.
Boston got smashed again on the glass, being out rebounded 57-53 which would not have been that close if not for both teams clearing the bench in the fourth quarter which allowed Boston to close the rebounding gap some as the Celtics were +5 (19-14) on the glass in the fourth.
You can add head coach Brad Stevens to those who see plenty of room for improvement despite the win.
“We started off well,” Stevens said. “And we gave up 11, I think … did we give up 15 rebounds, offensive rebounds in the first half?”
Nope, but he wasn’t that far off as Boston gave up 14 offensive rebounds to the Knicks who have been one of the worst offensive-rebounding teams in the NBA this season.
The Knicks came into Friday's game averaging 9.1 offensive boards per game which ranked 22nd in the NBA, and had a rebounding percentage of .482 which was 25th in the league.
No shocker, the Celtics came into the game as the worst rebounding team in the league with a rebounding percentage of .453 which is dead-last in the association.
“So we’re not where we need to be,” Stevens said. “We’ve got to be better. Regardless of resolve, we have to play better.”
But the way Friday’s win came about, was certainly a good start towards Boston getting back to playing the kind of basketball that made them one of the better defensive teams a year ago.
On Friday Boston had its best start in four games, a beginning that came about courtesy of a lineup change in which Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk replaced Jaylen Brown and Tyler Zeller with the first unit.
Smart brought about added toughness, experience and an edge Boston desperately needed to inject into that first unit with Al Horford (concussion) and Jae Crowder (ankle) still out with injuries. Smart finished with his first double-double of the season, tallying 12 points and 10 assists.
Olynyk’s ability to help space the floor and be in great position defensively to contest shots was also huge for the Celtics.
But maybe more than anything else, Boston played with a level of physicality and attention to detail that had been missing in so many games recently.
“We came out on a mission,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley who had his fourth double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds. “We wanted to play defense for one another and that’s what we did and that’s what won the game for us.”
Now comes to hard part -- doing it again tonight.
“I thought that our whole team played better (on Friday),” Stevens said. “But we still have work to do.”