Commentary

Celtics stars put party behind them

Updated: February 21, 2011, 2:52 AM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

LOS ANGELES -- They were polite party guests. But the party is over.

Despite the size of the Boston Celtics' contingent on hand for the festivities surrounding the 60th annual NBA All-Star Game, the Green did their best to blend in with the scenery. Boston's stars played nice with their Eastern Conference brethren and didn't try to upstage their chief Western Conference rival, Kobe Bryant, as he threw a backyard bash, producing an MVP effort in Sunday's weekend-closing tilt at the Staples Center.

[+] EnlargeKobe Bryant & Ray Allen
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillRay Allen could smile despite Kobe Bryant's 37 points, but he and the Celtics won't take losing so lightly from here on out.

But essentially from the moment the Celtics' quartet walked onto the floor together Sunday, there was a general air of "OK, it's been fun, let's get back to the real thing."

Celtics captain Paul Pierce confirmed as much after the West topped the East, 148-143.

"This was one of the better All-Stars just to be a part of," Pierce said. "I got to share it with three other teammates, got a chance to go to my school [Inglewood High School] and do a dedication. This was a great week, I had a lot of fun.

"And now, it's back to business."

Holding true to his promise, Celtics coach Doc Rivers inserted his four players, all East reserves, together. They entered with 6:37 to play in the first quarter, a nice moment that essentially lost its luster when Ray Allen air-balled a 3-pointer just seconds later.

Allen & Co. could laugh it off. Those type of things don't matter in exhibitions. After all, you don't wrap up a top seed at All-Star Weekend. If the same thing were to happen Tuesday night in Golden State, that'd be a different matter.

Boston's All-Star quartet logged limited court time and did little to distinguish itself among the rest of the league's elite. Rivers let the likes of New York's Amare Stoudemire and Miami's own Big Three run themselves ragged, the Celtics reduced to spectators for nearly all of the game's final eight minutes.

Fourteen-time All-Star Kevin Garnett logged a vacation-like 7:32 of action and wasn't complaining at all.

"I told Doc there was no urgency," Garnett said. "They're here to see the young guys. I understand that. It's all good. I played enough minutes, enough times. It's all good. It's nothing personal. If he needed me, I was right there. If not, it's all good."

The four Celtics stars arrived at the Staples Center en masse Sunday, strutting down the "magenta" carpet together looking like some sort of cross between mobsters and a tall R&B boy band. They proved to be more of a supporting act, letting the Heatles take center stage (all three of Miami's players finished in double figures). LeBron James fueled a feverish fourth-quarter rally as he and Stoudemire finished with matching 29-point efforts. James added 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

The Celtics' contingent? The foursome combined for a mere 28 points, generating the same number of field goals (11) as Stoudemire. Boston's troops were a combined minus-21, and only Allen made a late-game cameo to hit a 3-pointer that added a little excitement by making it a one-possession game in the final seconds.

Allen finished with a Boston-best 12 points over 17:09, while Rajon Rondo chipped in six points and eight assists over a Boston-high 20:34. Pierce missed four of the six shots he took for six points over 11:12, while Garnett added four points and five rebounds in his limited action.

[+] EnlargeCeltics
AP Photo/Matt SaylesThe Celtics' quartet of All-Stars enjoyed their time in Los Angeles, but now it's back to business.

"I was just trying to enjoy myself and enjoy the moment," said Rondo, a second-time All-Star. "I haven't played pickup in so long. I was just trying to enjoy myself."

Boston's players enjoyed a mixed response, each pregame intro peppered with boos from a pro-Lakers crowd. Poor Rivers looked most ill at ease, offering a smile and a wave after being the first to be introduced.

They had already posed for countless group photos over the four-day respite, but the weekend's crowning moment came as the four Celtics lumbered to the scorer's table together and stripped off their warm-up gear before entering as a unit little more than five minutes in.

And again, they were serenaded with boos.

"You've got to expect it," Pierce said. "We're in L.A., playing against [the Western Conference]. We've been getting boos all weekend, but it really doesn't bother us. We wanted to have fun, enjoy the moment, regardless."

The Celtics spent a forgettable minute with Orlando's Dwight Howard before a brief tour with Chris Bosh. After four minutes, Garnett was off the floor and rarely seen again. Boston's players spent most of the game gabbing with their Eastern counterparts.

It's probably the last time they'll acknowledge their presence until June. Their focus has already shifted back to the real games.

"I think everybody will be refreshed," said Allen. "Everybody got rest, so I look forward to reconnecting with the guys."

Added Garnett: "Obviously we can enjoy the night, we'll take our flight. But [Monday is] a workday and we're just going to [set up for] what we want to be in the postseason."

Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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