Especially against the lowly Washington Wizards.
Behind Pierce’s 26 points and nearly perfect shooting, the team with the best record in the NBA roared back from a rough road trip and beat the team with the worst record in the Eastern Conference 108-83 on Friday night.
The Celtics were determined to play well after going 1-3 on the West Coast.
“It always leaves a bad taste in your mouth,” Pierce said. “Knowing that we’re going to spend a large amount of this month on the road, it’s good to get back home and finally get a taste of some winning.”
After an overnight flight Wednesday morning, coach Doc Rivers figured his players might be tired Friday. But they took a 10-point lead with 4:15 left in the first quarter and stayed ahead by double digits the rest of the way.
“I asked a lot of guys this morning. They said they couldn’t fall asleep (Thursday night) so I was concerned with the start,” Rivers said. “They fought through it and they were great.”
The Celtics struggled on their trip after the best 29-game start in NBA history, 27-2. They were in charge from the start Friday on their homecourt where they’re 18-1.
“A buzzsaw. A buzzsaw,” Wizards coach Ed Tapscott said. “They jumped on us.”
Pierce made his first nine shots and all five 3-point attempts before missing his final shot, a 3-pointer, but Kendrick Perkins converted the offensive rebound with 1:20 remaining in the third quarter. Pierce left the game with 48 seconds left in the period with the Celtics ahead 81-55 and never returned.
Washington’s 2-13 road record and 6-25 overall record are the worst in the East.
Caron Butler returned for the Wizards after missing three games with a sprained left ankle, but their leading scorer managed just eight points and missed six of eight free throws.
“They came off a West Coast trip and didn’t get the results they wanted to and they handed it to us,” Butler said. “We just weren’t making shots. We weren’t making free throws.”
After going just 10-for-27 from the field in his previous two games, Pierce made all five shots, three of them 3-pointers, to lead Boston to a 28-14 advantage after one quarter. Those 3-pointers gave the Celtics leads of 13-8, 20-10 and 23-10.
Pierce converted just one 3-pointer in the second quarter, putting Boston ahead 54-30. He made his last one with 6:32 remaining in the third. That gave the Celtics a 75-45 lead and came during a 12-4 run in which he scored seven points.
“I was just playing in the flow of the game,” he said. “I got a lot of open looks because of the way we moved the ball. Rondo got into the lane, penetrating, and that really opened things up.”
With only one Boston starter, Allen, on the floor to start the fourth quarter, they took their biggest lead, 88-55, on Tony Allen’s short one-handed flip 23 seconds into the period.
“When you go home, it seems that a couple of different things click in for you,” Ray Allen said.
The Celtics had won a club-record 19 straight games before a Christmas Day game at the Los Angeles Lakers. Los Angeles won 92-83 then the Celtics lost the next night to weak Golden State 99-89. They routed Sacramento 108-63 two days later then faltered in Portland 91-86, although Pierce scored 28 points.
Had Pierce made his last shot Friday, he would have tied current Celtics general manager Danny Ainge and Walter McCarty for the club record for most 3-pointers in a game without a miss.
That would have been meaningful to Pierce.
“I guess so,” he said with a grin, measuring his words carefully, “because I know he (Ainge) doesn’t hold many records. It would have been nice to erase his name.”
Then, he looked into the camera and said, “I’m just messing with you, Danny.”
Wizards guard DeShawn Stevenson missed his first game of the season, suffering from a back injury. … Patriots QB Matt Cassel sat in the front row next to Celtics owner Steve Pagliuca. … Washington was 2-for-12 on 3-point shots after going 1-for-9 in its previous game, a 97-85 loss to New Orleans on Tuesday night. … Boston’s Kevin Garnett moved 20 points behind Walt Bellamy for 26th place in NBA career scoring. Garnett has 20,921 after scoring 10. … Wizards center Andray Blatche limped off the court with an ankle injury midway through the first quarter and played just 2:02 after that. Tapscott didn’t think it was serious.