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Game Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards

01.01.09 at 10:21 pm ET
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Last week the Boston Celtics headed out West on a 19-game winning streak and seemed unstoppable. On Friday night they will return to the TD BankNorth Garden looking surprisingly vulnerable after going 1-3 on their road trip. The Celtics (28-5) will look to snap out of their skid against the Washington Wizards (6-24). On paper this looks like a guaranteed win for the Cs, but after falling to the sub-.300 Golden State Warriors and Brandon Roy-less Portland Trail Blazers, suddenly no team can be counted out.

The Skid in Review
The Christmas Day loss to the Los Angeles Lakers was, just like any other loss, tough for the Celtics to swallow. But more worrisome than falling to a title contender was losing to the then 8-22 Warriors. Follow that up with an unexpected defeat to the shorthanded Trail Blazers, and their 45-point rout over the Sacramento Kings meant nothing. The trio of quick losses has put the Cleveland Cavaliers just one-game back for first in the East and the Orlando Magic are right on their heels.

Wizards Looking for Some Magic
The last time the Celtics and Wizards met up, the Cs handed their injury-ridden opponents a 122-88 loss. The Wizards have looked tougher in the past week – they upset the Houston Rockets without Caron Butler, nearly knocked off the Cavs, and hung close against the New Orleans Hornets. Even though Butler (ankle) is expected to be back in the lineup on Friday, his 19 points were useless in their last meeting.

Do the Wizards have enough momentum to shock the Cs in Boston? Don’t count on it. The Celtics may have been rattled but that’s even more motivation to come out swinging on their home court. They avenged two consecutive losses with a beat down on the Sacramento Kings and the Wiz shouldn’t expect any less fire.

Tip-off is at 7:30pm. Stay with WEEI.com’s Celtics Game Day Blog for all the latest from the Garden.

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Join Big Baby’s Birthday Celebration

12.31.08 at 9:01 am ET
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Join Boston Celtics forward Glen “Big Baby” Davis as he begins his birthday celebrations a day early. Davis, who turns 23 tomorrow, will be at Fanuiel Hall Marketplace from 5-7pm today to enjoy cake, shoot hoops with fans, and sign autographs to benefit the Pitching in for Kids Foundation. Davis’ teammates Tony Allen and Leon Powe will also celebrate birthdays in January.

Celtics-Blazers Instant Analysis

12.30.08 at 10:57 pm ET
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After losing 91-86 to Portland (recap can be found here), there is only one big picture thing you need to know about this one: For the first time all year the Celtics will have questions to answer. Questions about the bench, questions about the offense in the fourth quarter, questions about playing teams in the Western Conference, questions about playing on the road, questions about the minutes, etc.

Now, at 28-5 those aren’t terribly difficult questions, but with Cleveland giving the C’s very little wiggle room in the race for the best record in the East, they will have to find answers to a few of them. This is the first difficult moment Boston has encountered this year, and it will be fascinating to see the response.

Now, here’s one more. Will the Celtics protest the game? I haven’t been able to find, or hear, a coherent breakdown of the ruling for what happens when you allow six guys to be on the floor and a team scores a basket, as happened at the end of the second quarter, when the Blazers scored a bucket with an extra man on the court, despite the wild protestations of Kevin Garnett. Could the refs have replayed it? Could they have simply disallowed the basket? I’m still finding it hard to believe that allowing it to count was the correct call in that situation, but we’ll find out.

The Celtics head home, a little chastened perhaps, and probably a bit more ticked off. Jess and I will be back on Friday when the Wizards come to town. Until then, Happy New Year everyone.

Celtics-Blazers Game Blog: Fourth Quarter

12.30.08 at 10:02 pm ET
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Twelve minutes, two teams, one dream. Or something.

Fourth Quarter Observations

– Tick, tick, tick… The bench has to give them quality minutes here.

– What is wrong with the Celtics second unit? Bad spacing, standing around, no real semblance of an offensive set besides get the ball to Ray. What isn’t wrong, would be a better question.

– KG is back in, and he immediately gets a steal and a rebound. (Credit where credit is due: Good box out by Baby on that last Portland miss.)

– The Celtics are shooting just 40 percent tonight, but they are 19-for-19 from the free throw line. Portland has also had 19 attempts, but the Blazers have six misses.

– So what are we going to see down the stretch? For Boston, it’s got to be Pierce. He can get that mismatch on the top of the key whenever he wants it. For Portland, Steve Blake has been the man, but I think it might be Aldridge.

– OK, I’ll bite: Why isn’t Rondo in the game with six minutes left? It’s not like Eddie House has been lighting it up.

– Exactly.

– Oden has no idea how to give a foul. He should watch tapes of PJ Brown who was (is?) the all-time master. You can tell the Celtics know this by the way they’re reacting to his fouls. They’re selling it, but they’re not getting carried away because it’s so obvious that he can’t play help-side defense without fouling.

– Great play by Pierce to strip Travis Outlaw of the ball. He’s played another solid all-around game tonight.

– That’s why Aldridge kills me. He is good now, but he could be great if he went to the basket more. Speaking of going to the basket, Pierce is doing exactly what smart veterans do in these situations, getting fouls. Just keep grinding it, grinding it out, and then try to steal it at the end.

– Bad read by Rondo. He had Blake on KG but he tried to force it into Perk when Aldridge cheated. And now it’s a 4-point game as Aldridge knocks down a turnaround.

– How does Pierce keep getting Blake on the switch. I mean, I know how he keeps getting it, but why aren’t the Blazers fighting through it?

– Outlaw’d.

– Take this down: Paul Pierce is the mo$%%$*&^$%ing Truth.

– 89-86 with 17.9 left. So, do you go for 3, or a quick 2 here? I say quick 2, but it’s close.

–They went for 3, and I don’t have a strong argument against it. It was right on the borderline in terms of time, but they could have had a better one than a contested three. But that’s the ballgame. Portland 91, Boston 86. Bad trip, man. Bad trip.

Celtics-Blazers Game Blog: Third Quarter

12.30.08 at 9:31 pm ET
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I spent the better part of halftime going through the NBA rule book and I couldn’t find the rule on what to do if you have six guys on the court and you don’t know it. Apparently you allow it. Crazy.

THIRD QUARTER WRAP: Not a good quarter for the Celtics. The Blazers have managed to tie it at 64 and suddenly Greg Oden looks like a young Shaq. Here’s the test for Doc. How long does he keep Garnett on the bench? Big Baby has had major struggles tonight and Perkins played the whole third quarter.

Third Quarter Observations

– I’m about to say something I thought I’d never say: The Rondo-KG alley-oop is better than the Sherman Douglas-Derrick Coleman combo at Syracuse.

– The Blazers alley-oop combo is more like the one we had at Drew University, where no alley-oop has ever been completed to the best of my knowledge.

– Big shot by Rondo. He’s looked comfortable shooting his jumper tonight.

– Good effort by the Celtics to weather that little storm. The crowd really wanted to explode, and they wouldn’t let the Blzaers get going. Have to say that I’m not a fan of LaMarcus Aldridge’s game from what I’ve seen this year. It’s more perimeter-oriented than I had figured. Of course, so is Garnett’s game, but Aldridge isn’t the defender Garnett is, and KG didn’t move outside until later in his career.

– Upset night in the NBA. Milwaukee won at San Antonio. Don’t look now but the Bucks would be the eighth seed if the season ended today, which it doesn’t.

– I would have bet you most of my life savings (or about $47) that Kevin Eastman would not have gotten a technical tonight.

– Everyone but Perkins is in double figures… and everyone but Perkins has played more than 25 minutes already.

– I guess it’s safe to say that KG isn’t worried about making Big Baby cry again.

– Baby is getting abused down low. Not sure what he was complaining about there.

Celtics-Blazers Game Blog: Second Quarter

12.30.08 at 8:37 pm ET
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Your five on the floor are Eddie House, Tony Allen, Paul Pierce, Leon Powe and Big Baby.

SECOND QUARTER WRAP: You know how they say that if you go to the ballpark you still might see something you’ve never seen before. I’ve been watching hoops for a long, long time and I’ve never seen a team with six players on the court be allowed to score a basket. That just can’t be right.

At any rate, the Celtics have a 45-40 lead and the gift two points sort of counted as one because Ray Allen hit a technical free throw. Portland got back in the game because they stopped shooting 3′s and the Celtics started turning it over.

Outside of the Oden freakout and some boos for KG it’s been a pretty calm atmosphere, which I have to say I’m disappointed in the Blazers fans. I didn’t expect blood, but I thought it would be a more hyped arena tonight. Oh well. Should be a good second half.

Second Quarter Observations

– There’s your key stat: One turnover. It’s their Achilles heel. Make that two turnovers.

– The refs look like they’re trying to clean things up off the ball. Adjustment time.

– Interesting note from Basketball Prospectus that is found on 82games.com. The Celtics dominate in the first and third quarters and are every good in the fourth quarter. The second quarter? Decent, but nowhere near as good. That’s almost always a bench-dominated quarter.

– Eddie House is picking up fouls like he’s Wendell Ladner. He just got up his third foul on a 50-50 call down low where he wound up guarding Ike Diogu.

– So KG played 10 minutes in the first quarter, and he’s back at the 8-minute mark of the second. That’s an 18-minute half (quick math, kids!) which does not seem like managing minutes.

– Good veteran move by House to step in and knock down that jumper. Portland is going for every head fake tonight.

– Whoa. Didn’t see that one coming. Oden just shoved Ray Allen and got a personal and a tech. Mike Gorman is wondering why it’s not a flagrant. It’s not a flagrant foul because the personal foul wasn’t flagrant. The technical came on the shove.

– Just before that Tech on Oden, Donny was cracking on Dikembe Mutombo’s age. I’m trying to remember a story about Yinka Dare, the one-time New Jersey Net who was apparently a 30-something rookie when he got to New Jersey, the details of which escape me now, but it’s never a bad time to work Yinka into a game day blog.

– Billy Hoyle, aka Steve Blake is keeping the Blazers in the game.

– Oden is playing pretty well tonight. I know everybody expected him to be Tim Duncan right away, but jeez give the kid a chance to play a little bit first. Remember Duncan had four seasons in the ACC before he got to the league. Remember also, just cause Oden looks like he’s older than Mutombo doesn’t mean he actually is.

– Rondo’d III.

– Hey, so explain this to me. How can the Browns talk to Scott Pioli and Eric Mangini? I don’t know a lot about the dynamics but I can’t imagine those two ever working together. That’s like saying, hey we’ll talk to Pat Riley and Stan Van Gundy.

– They can’t really count that can they? Really? You can get points for having six guys on the court. That doesn’t seem right. Somebody check on Heinsohn and make sure he’s on a seven-second delay at halftime.

Celtics-Blazers Game Blog: First Quarter

12.30.08 at 8:08 pm ET
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Looks like Greg Oden is going to be a go tonight. It will be interesting to see if he’s limited by his ankle. Donny Marshall just pointed out that Kendrick Perkins has better numbers than Oden, which is true. Perk’s emergence has been dwarfed by Rajon Rondo’s rise, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to call him one of the best young centers in the league.

There is good news for the Celtics before it even begins. The Miami heat just hung a nine-point loss on Cleveland, despite 38 points by LeBron James. Florida is apparently the new Bermuda Triangle for NBA teams.

Lots to look forward to in this one tonight. It’s a fitting way to cap what has been a memorable 2008 for the Celtics.

FIRST QUARTER WRAP: After a slow start, the Celtics kicked it into gear and have a 23-13 lead after one. Portland has been dreadful so far, shooting just 33 percent (6-for-18). Not having Brandon Roy is a problem, but the Blazers are settling for jump shots. Good start for the C’s. Time for another bench check.

First Quarter Observations

– KG and LaMarcus Aldridge are already dropping elbows on each other. No question, KG is the villain thanks to the Jarryd Bayless incident.

– My prediction rate is atrocious, but I’m fairly confident in this one: The Celtics will make a shot tonight.

– Steve Blake is what Billy Hoyle, the Woody Harrelson character in White Men Can’t Jump could have been if hadn’t hurt his knee.

– The Blazers are not bashful about hoisting 3′s, they average 20 a game. Unless they pull a Golden State and make about 50 percent that won’t help them tonight.

– Timeout by Portland with the score, 10-9, Celtics. Garnett is off to a solid start and has that baseline jumper working. The Blazers are a different team without Brandon Roy (obviously). Everyone besides Oden and Batum, who doesn’t look to shoot at all, is jump shot-oriented.

– Rondo’d.

– Donny just made a good point that Perkins is going to the basket much more aggressively lately (i.e. not bringing the ball down to the floor before he makes his move.

– Rondo’d, II.

– Joel Przybilla didn’t waste any time getting into it with Perkins, apparently. Years ago when he was a rookie, young Joel came into the Target Center and talked some junk, to which KG responded: I hate a fake thug. So there’s a little history there.

– Stat geeks have been waiting for Ike Digou for years to make an impact. We’re still waiting.

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