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Rivers concedes conference race

03.18.09 at 7:15 pm ET
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There are 14 games left in the Celtics regular season, and while it is not within the realm of the likely that they will catch Cleveland in the Eastern Conference race, it is also not outside the realm of the possible that it could happen. Still, it was a little jarring to hear Doc Rivers say, unprompted, that, “we’re not going to catch Cleveland,” as he did before Wednesday night’s tip with Miami.

It was less than two weeks ago, after all, when the Celtics put on such a galvanizing show in beating the Cavs. But then Rajon Rondo got hurt, Big Baby got hurt, Leon Powe got hurt and finally Ray Allen got hurt. “We’ve earned the record that we have,” Rivers said. “We’re not going to catch Cleveland but we have a chance to hold on to that second spot.”

That’s all it is now, a chance. The C’s entered play tonight a half game ahead of Orlando and tied in the loss column for second place, a development that has been as a quick as it has been inevitable. The starting five last night included a player who joined the team at the beginning of the month, two guys who have missed time with injuries and Paul Pierce and Kendrick Perkins. The bench is even more bare as it has Eddie House and Mikki Moore and three guys who don’t play much, if at all.

Not that it’s going to get better anytime soon. Kevin Garnett is not a sure thing to return this weekend by any stretch of the imagination and Allen is “day to day.” Whether Big Baby has anything to give also remains to be seen.

“If we can get through this week somehow and be in striking distance of the second seed,” Rivers said. “That would be great.”

Read More: Cavs, Celtics, Doc Rivers,

Wade out against Celtics

03.18.09 at 6:34 pm ET
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Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade will not play on Wednesday night against the Boston Celtics with an strained right hip flexor.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat,

Scal cleared for exercise today

03.18.09 at 6:31 pm ET
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Brian Scalabrine (post concussion syndrome) was cleared by doctors today to begin a monitored 12-day workout regimen. The program breaks down into three days of easy exercise on the bike, three days of hard exercise on the bike, three days on the bike, weights, and treadmill, and three days on the bike, weights, treadmill, and shooting. After addressing the media, he planned on heading to the training room to get back on the exercise bike.

Powe out two weeks

03.18.09 at 6:17 pm ET
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Leon Powe will miss the next two weeks with a sprained right knee, according a statement issued by the team. He suffered the injury on Tuesday night against the Chicago Bulls.

Skinner: It’s not a track meet, it’s basketball

03.18.09 at 11:12 am ET
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As they wing their way westward toward Minneapolis and a Friday night date with USC, the Boston College Eagles will be thinking about their first round opponent and how to go about beating them.

Those with concerns about BC’s chances point to the fact that Southern Cal is on a hot streak, winning the Pac-10 tournament just to get a ticket to the dance.

They also point out that USC is an athletic team that loves to get up and down the court and DeMar DeRozan will be a handful for the Eagles.

But BC coach Al Skinner isn’t looking at it that way.

“I’m not overly concerned about athleticism because when I last checked it’s not a track meet, it’s still a game of basketball,” Skinner said. “It’s about skills, you’ve got to be able to put the ball in the basket, dribble, pass. So, we concentrate on those areas. Athleticism can help but it’s still a game of skill.

“They like to get a little bit in transition. They have a lot of quick hitters. They have some individuals that are physically talented. We’re going to have to deal with that. They really like to attack the basket. They’re pretty athletic. They get around the rim and they do some good things.”

DeRozan, who scored 25 in the Pac-10 title game, is a quick hitter, as are Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett. The Trojans feature a three-guard set under coach Tim Floyd, which points to Skinner’s belief that they will try to out-manuever the Eagles, who will try to run the flex offense.

This Trojans team erased a 15-point halftime deficit in the Pac-10 championship against Arizona State and won, 66-63. In other words, BC must bring it all game long and not let up.

“You just see what a little urgency does for a team,” Eagles point man Tyrese Rice said. “They realized they had to win a tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament and they went out and made it happen. We’re going to have to be aware of how hard they’re playing right now.”

Then there’s someone like Tyler Roche. He is a junior now, two years removed from advancing to the second round in 2007, when BC lost to Georgetown.

“It’s a big excitement,” Roche said. “I haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since my freshman year and I’m just really excited to be back this year, and hopefully we’ll make some noise.”

Read More: Al Skinner, BC, NCAA, Tyrese Rice

Luck of the Irish runs out

03.17.09 at 11:29 pm ET
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The Luck of the Irish had been on the Boston Celtics side on St. Patrick’s Day. On Tuesday night, it ran out in Chicago (RECAP HERE). In spite of this loss, the Celtics have enjoyed success on March 17 over the last 10 years:

2009: Chicago Bulls 127, Boston Celtics 121
Already undermanned, the Celtics lost Leon Powe (knee) in the first half. Paul Pierce tried to keep the Celtics alive with 37 points and seven rebounds, while Rajon Rondo posted 26 points, 10 assists, and five rebounds.  The Celtics, however, could not overcome injuries and foul trouble. They fell 4.5 games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for first place in the Eastern Conference.

Look ahead: The Celtics will take on the Miami Heat on Wednesday night in Boston.

2008: Boston Celtics 93,  San Antonio Spurs 91
The Celtics overcame a 22-point deficit to top the Spurs and jumpstart their sweep of the Texas Triangle. Sam Cassell stepped up his game in place of Ray Allen (ankle) to contribute 17 points off the bench. Despite a scoreless evening from Kendrick Perkins, the Celtics starters outscored the Spurs starting five 67-39.

Flashback: A day later, the Celtics snapped the Houston Rockets 22-game winning streak.

2007: Boston Celtics 91, San Antonio Spurs 85
In the midst of a dismal season, the Celtics won in San Antonio for the first time in 17 years. And this wasn’t the Big Three version of the Celtics. Paul Pierce (30 points) got help from Delonte West (23 points) and Al Jefferson (20 points) while Rajon Rondo added 14 rebounds. It was just the Celtics 20th win of the season.

Flashback: The Celtics had not won in San Antonio since February 14, 1990.

2006: Orlando Magic 84, Boston Celtics 77
The Celtics blew a fourth quarter lead and gave up 18 points and 13 rebounds to a then-20-year-old Dwight Howard. The Cs went cold in the final 12 minutes, shooting 3-for-23, and no one on the team made more than five field goals. They also had six shots blocked by Darko Milicic.

Flashback: Raef LaFrentz was the Celtics starting center.

2004: Boston Celtics 104, Denver Nuggets 100
Paul Pierce, Chucky Atkins, and Mark Blount combined for 68 points, 27 rebounds, and 16 assists while Walter McCarty added 17 points off the bench. Then-rookie Carmelo Anthony posted 20 points, nine rebounds, and six assists in his Boston debut. But the Celtics got hot from long-range (10-16 3PG) and a jumper from Pierce iced the win with less than 30 seconds to go.

Flashback: John Carroll was the interim head coach.

2000: Boston Celtics 114, Atlanta Hawks 90
Antoine Walker scored 30 points to lead the Celtics to a 24-point victory. Paul Pierce and Vitaly Potapenko scored 16 points apiece. Pierce picked five steals from Dikembe Mutombo and the Hawks.

Flashback: Less than 12,000 people attended this game in Atlanta.

1999: Boston Celtics 118, Los Angeles Clippers 84
The Celtics outshot the Clippers 57% to 37% from the field in their commanding win. Kenny Anderson led the Celtics with 21 points. Then-rookie Paul Pierce scored 12. The Celtics outrebonded the Clippers by 19 boards.

Flashback: Future Celtic Michael Olowokandi posted 17 points and eight rebounds for the Clippers.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Paul Pierce,

BC hoops: A reason to believe

03.17.09 at 11:40 am ET
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Al Skinner simply wants one thing out of his practices before his Boston College team takes on Southern California on Friday night in Minneapolis.

“I think we’re in a good place but I think,” Skinner said, acknowledging there’s still some reservation. “Whether I really feel that, We’ll find out in practice. I’m looking forward to it and I think they’re looking forward to it. I’m just curious as to what the results are going to be. I’ve been pleasantly surprised. They’ve responded.”

Responded and how. The Eagles are 22-11, a No. 7 seed in the Midwest after entering this season picked for next to last in the ACC, and facing USC on Friday night in Minneapolis. However, the Eagles didn’t get to this point without learning a lot about themselves.

While there was some genuine disappointment in losing to an inferior St. Louis team, 53-50, back in November, the B.C. Eagles first really learned how to respond when they dropped an unconscionable 82-70 decision to Harvard at Conte Forum three days after beating No. 1 ranked and unbeaten North Carolina on their home court.

“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs with big wins and dropping (games) to the Harvards of the world,” Rakim Sanders said. “But it’s been a good year. And the experience we’ve had, beating Carolina, knowing we can play with anybody. Having that confidence in our heads has been good for us.”

But confidence can be a funny thing. Just ask their head coach.

“I should have a little more confidence in them but I also know the history,” Skinner said. “I thought we were prepared for the ACC Tournament. Mentally, I thought guys did what I wanted, I thought they were ready to play. I really should, they’ve probably earned that but I’m not quite there yet.”

If Sanders’ shot goes through the basket on Friday instead of ringing off the iron, you could certainly make the point that it would be the Eagles who would have been dancing around the Georgia Dome floor with nets around their necks on Sunday.

“We lost to Duke by a point,” Skinner said of the loss in the ACC quarterfinals. “What they (Duke) did in the championship game is just an indication of where we are because we obviously had a chance to win that game. I’m pleased but not satisfied and so we’re going to continue to work hopefully till I get satisfied.”

Helping the team in its goal of satisfying the coach and themselves is Tyrese Rice. The senior point guard, who scored 34 points in a half against North Carolina in Feb. ’08, has matured into a leader of men. The kind of leader you need come tournament time.

“I’m expecting a lot,” Rice said. “I’m expecting everyone to step up and do what they’ve been doing all year, and a little bit more. I feel like I can step my game up a little bit more, I feel like there are some other people on the team who could step their game up some more and I feel like they feel the same way.”

Skinner said on Monday he can already sense other players responding to Rice and picking up their game.

“We’ve continued to improve and that’s the most important thing, especially for a young team,” Skinner said. “A lot of times, a team hits a plateau and we have not done that. We’re edging upward and obviously I’m very pleased with that.”

Rice has had a first-hand view of the growth on and off the court.

“Everybody’s playing with a lot of confidence,” Rice said. “You see when guys come into a game, they’re coming in to make a difference. We saw Biko Paris come in and probably have the best game of his career against Duke. He came in and was ready. A guy that didn’t play a lot or probably as much as he thinks he should have and comes in and gives us 15 big points.

“Everybody has a certain swagger to them, a certain confidence,” he added. “We’re just trying to bring it all together.”

Read More: Al Skinner, Boston College, NCAA, Tyrese Rice
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