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Celtics-Raptors Game Blog: Third Quarter

01.12.09 at 6:56 pm ET
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The Celtics have some work to do in the second half. Toronto’s deep bench played very well in the second quarter, shooting 7-for-12 and scoring 25 points, while keeping the starters on the bench for the most part. Toronto, which is one of the worst rebounding teams in the league also owned 23-16 edge.

The start of the second half will be critical for the C’s. There were some encouraging numbers. Boston turned the ball over just three times, which allowed the Celtics to get up 41 shots. That’s a pretty high volume of shots for them. Let’s see what they have left.

THIRD QUARTER WRAP: I’m officially running out of superlatives to describe Paul Pierce. The Captain scored 14 points in the third quarter and made about five or six huge defensive plays. I don’t know what winning this game means in the long run but in the short run it’s pretty obvious that it means an awful lot to Pierce.

I was about to write them off at about the 6-minute mark and Pierce completely turned the thing around. Brian Scalabrine was also huge with eight points and a couple of 3-pointers. This is going to be a fun fourth quarter.

Third Quarter Observations

– Two big 3′s by Scalabrine have brought the Celtics back. That was exactly the kind of energy boost they needed. But on the other end Jamario Moon knocked one down. Paul Pierce is cheating very heavily toward Chris Bosh in the middle which left Moon wide open.

– Everything but the finish right now for the C’s. They had three or four quality looks, but the shots just aren’t going down.

– Love it when I type something about shots not falling and Pierce sinks a 3-pointer. The Raptors are shooting 56 percent by the way.

– When Will Solomon is bombing three’s it might be a sign that tonight is not your night.

– A big problem the Celtics are having tonight is that they are a pattern team offensively and since Toronto saw the patterns just 24 hours ago they are easier to snuff out. The KG alley-oop play is an example.

– Got to give them credit though. They are playing really hard.

– There are times to get technical fouls. Up eight on the road with momentum on your side is not one of them, Chris Bosh. That was a four-point swing. Amazing.

– Pierce is absolutely amazing tonight. Howe does he have an extra gear after getting kneed and playing 40+ minutes the day before? The guy is an absolute freak of nature.

– Buzzkill thy name is Kris Humphries.

– Scal used the old Red on Roundball pump fake there.

John Smoltz got a huge ovation when he was introduced to the crowd after the quarter, by the way.

Celtics-Raptors Game Blog: Second Quarter

01.12.09 at 6:11 pm ET
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At the half … Raptors 54, Celtics 45

For Paul’s first quarter recap, click here.

- Doc’s going with Pierce and the bench to start the second quarter. Interesting that Pierce, who was questionable for tonight’s game (knee), is still on the court and showing no hesitation driving hard to the hoop. The Celtics have been looking for an offensive spark in the second unit. Will it be Leon Powe and Big Baby to get it done down low or will Eddie House and Gabe Pruitt get hot from long range?

- Joey Graham is in with Scal on the bench. At least that altercation is avoided for now.

- Leon Powe vs. Chris Bosh. This could be a problem. Bosh’s arms are about 10 feet long (ok not quite) and he’s flailing them all over the place at Powe. The challenge for Powe will be stopping him without getting into foul trouble. The Celtics are shorthanded at the five spot and can’t afford to lose anyone tonight.

- Who’s that guy on the Raptors? That point guard is Roko Ukic and he was drafted by Toronto back in ’05. He had been developing his game in Europe (Croatia, Spain, and Italy) before coming to the NBA to back up Jose Calderon this season.

- Andrea Bargnani’s shot chart will be interesting. So far he has hit a long-range jumper, driven to the hoop, and tapped in an offensive rebound. It is a versatility that is often heard but not always seen.

- Down 45-37, the starters are back on the court. Pruitt was scoreless and House only had three points, so the offense will have to come from somewhere else.

- Will Solomon is standing attentively at the Raptors bench. Over on the Celtics bench, Big Baby is sitting with his head in his hands. The Celtics are down 12.

- Huge dunk and some full court press from KG. He also threw in a few extra words for Kris Humphries.

- Ray Allen capped off the first half with a putback of his own missed layin. At the half … Raptors 54, Celtics 45.

Celtics-Raptors Game Blog: First Quarter

01.12.09 at 5:39 pm ET
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Greetings from the Garden where the Celtics host the Toronto Raptors on the back-end of their home and home series. The home and home is a curious thing, is it not? A friend of mine who knows nothing about basketball wondered if the two teams flew back together from Toronto after the game yesterday. You laugh, but think about it. Doesn’t that make sense? Why waste the gas when you get two teams on one plane, right?

At any rate, they are here, you are there and Kendrick Perkins and Tony Allen are on the bench in street clothes. For how long? Doc, and remember it’s just a nickname, speculated they could be out all week, if not longer. What does it mean? A few things.

1. Brian Scalabrine starts again tonight, but don’t be surprised to see Leon Powe in there against teams with bigger centers.

2. Patrick O’Bryant could get meaningful minutes. Could.

3. Sam Cassell will not, however. “He’s kind of like a carton of milk,” Doc said. “He’s got an expiration date.” In other words, Doc doesn’t want to break Sam-I-Am out of the fridge just yet, lest he curdles by April.

4. Bill Walker is in uniform, but when asked if Walker and JR Giddens could play, Doc kind of shrugged, so don’t bet on it.

Jose Calderon is not playing tonight either, by the way. Will Solomon goes in his place.

So, away we go…

FIRST QUARTER WRAP: After one, it’s about what you would expect. Both teams are struggling from the outside and the pace is kind of sluggish. Paul Pierce is off to a strong start, but Kevin Garnett is having trouble getting his jumper going and Ray Allen has yet to attempt a shot. The Celtics got Toronto in the penalty at the 4:32 mark but failed to capitalize.

The Raps came back from a 12-5 deficit and take a 23-19 lead into the second, where Jess has you covered.

First Quarter Observations

– Doc thought it was probably 50-50 that Paul Pierce could play tonight. But there was no doubt when got to the arena. “Paul is tough,” Rivers said. “He scuffed it off. ‘Of course I’ll play.’ That’s just Paul.” And he has the first five points of the game for the C’s.

– Chris Bosh is just deadly with that 20-foot jumper. I’m curious to see how he and Kevin Garnett match up tonight. I really thought KG got the better of it (second item down), considering the amount each player means to his team offensively. The Celtics can win when Garnett shoots 3-for-16. It’s much tougher for the Raptors to win when Bosh struggles, especially with Calderon out.

– Great start for the Celtics up 12-5. Energy is going to be a huge thing tonight, and the more the Celtics bring at the outset the better off they’ll be in the long run. So far, so good.

– Interesting trade note to pass along. That three-way deal between the Bobcats, Mavs and what used to be the Sonics? Looks like it’s off. That’s what ESPN’s Marc Stein is reporting. Any move with the former Sonics is worth monitoring because that’s where Joe Smith is for the time being. That deal would have cost the team that’s not in Seattle Earl Watson and got it back Jerry Stackhouse, which wouldn’t have affected Smith very much

– Every player in the Toronto starting lineup has a foul now and the Raps are in the penalty at the 4:32 mark.

– The shots aren’t going down but the ball movement is crisp. Translation: Tired legs.

– The Raps are forcing Andrea Barganini in the post, probably because he’s matched up with Brian Scalabrine, but he is 1-for-6 from the floor tonight. Jess reported on the Facebook campaign to put Scal on the All-Star team, how about one for the All-Defensive team?

Celtics fans donate Seats for Soldiers

01.12.09 at 5:38 pm ET
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Over 600 Boston Celtics fans donated their tickets for members of the U.S. Armed Services to attend Monday night’s Celtics-Toronto Raptors game. In partnership with the Massachusetts Army National Guard, the second annual Seats for Soldiers provides an opportunity for soldiers and their families to watch the Celtics in action. At halftime 40 members of the Massachusetts Army National Guard will take part in a special re-enlistment ceremony. One member will also be honored with the Celtics “Heroes Among Us” award.

Perkins out through this week

01.12.09 at 4:40 pm ET
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Boston Celtics starting center Kendrick Perkins will miss at least the next three games with a reoccuring left shoulder injury. He did not play in Sunday’s game against the Toronto Raptors, is inactive for tonight’s game against the Raptors, and is not expected to play in Wednesday and Saturday’s games against the New Jersey Nets.

“Once it goes out we basically are going to have to be just lucky,” Doc Rivers said before the game.

Rivers sited Perkins’ injury for his lack of productivity on the glass. He said Perk has not been able to effectively rebound since he hurt his shoulder on Christmas Day against the Los Angeles Lakers. Perkins is averaging 8.8 points and 8.1 rebounds in 27 games this season.

Game Preview: Minutes Up for Grabs

01.12.09 at 12:13 pm ET
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There may be plenty of minutes to go around when then Boston Celtics take on the Toronto Raptors on Monday night at the TD BankNorth Garden. Both teams are banged up and will rely on their reserves for major PT. Here is a look at the Celtics and Raptors injury reports:

Paul Pierce (knee): questionable
Tony Allen (ankle): questionable
Kendrick Perkins (shoulder): questionable
Rajon Rondo (shoulder): expected to play
Jermaine O’€™Neal (knee): out
Jose Calderon (hamstring): out

In Sunday’€™s match up between these Atlantic Division foes, Glen Davis played 30 minutes off the bench for the Celtics. Joey Graham and Jason Kapono combined for nearly 50 minutes for the Raptors. Eddie House, Leon Powe, and Gabe Pruitt each played less than 10 minutes and will have fresh legs for the Cs. Everyone on the Raptors except for big men Jason Voshkul and Kris Humphries played at least ten minutes.

Will Celtics rookies J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker get on the court? Better yet, will Sam Cassell play his first minutes of the season? With a game coming up on Wednesday and their starting lineup worn down from yesterday’€™s contest, the Celtics can’€™t afford to burn out their healthy players tonight.

Celtics-Raptors: Statement Game

01.11.09 at 2:26 pm ET
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Two weeks ago, Doc Rivers wouldn’t have rushed the starters back on to the floor after a 20-point lead became fourteen following a couple of quick baskets. As early as last week, Rivers wouldn’t have left Kevin Garnett out on the floor for 39 minutes. But a lot has changed in the last 15 days or so for the Celtics, and so Doc took a page from the KC Jones circa 1987 playbook and employed the last option he had left: Ride the starters until they dropped.

The Celtics had to win Sunday’s game against the Raptors. (Go here for a recap). It didn’t matter that they’ll play again tomorrow night or that the Celtics were on their fourth game in the last seven days. When they got up by 20 points after three quarters, a win became even more imperative. There was no way they could drag themselves back to Boston after getting hammered by the Cavs on Friday and then blowing a 20-point fourth quarter lead.

So Doc called on Garnett, Ray Allen and Brian Scalabrine a mere two and a half minutes into the fourth quarter. He brought Rajon Rondo back a few minutes later and he left Paul Pierce in for the entire second half. Doc watched the final quarter with his arms folded like a man being fitted for a straitjacket. Really, what else could he do?

Kendrick Perkins didn’t play because his achy shoulder acted up again after getting whacked by Ben Wallace. Brian Scalabrine fouled out after 25 energetic minutes. Big Baby Davis was active, but set an unofficial record for most misses within two feet, and Doc must have been unhappy with Leon Powe’s defense, because he barely had time to break a sweat.

Doc has been reluctant to use the KC option, and for good reason. The Celtics best players aren’t pups anymore, and after Sunday’s game they have now played 147 times in 14 and a half months. But a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do, so we had this:

Rajon Rondo: 38 minutes

Ray Allen: 43 minutes

Paul PIerce: 41 minutes

Kevin Garnett: 39 minutes.

The Celtics had to make a stand Sunday. For 36 minutes they were aggressive and nasty defensively and, if not entirely pretty, then at least efficient on offense. If the final 12, just surviving was enough.

A few more observations on a snowy Sunday afternoon:

1. People have been shoveling dirt on the career of Walter Ray Allen for so long, you think they would have learned by now. Please, the next time he goes in a shooting slump could everyone just take a deep breath and exhale?

Allen bailed the Celtics out all afternoon, and it wasn’t like he was getting wide open looks either. The other day in mentioning that Allen had passed the 900-game mark for his career, I noted that his improved field goal shooting was directly related to a huge jump in his two-point field goal percentage. In fact, Allen is down from 39 percent last year to 36 percent in 3-point shooting.

Credit him with making an adjustment in his game. He has worked the pump-fake, two dribble pull-up jumper into his arsenal with obvious benefits. But a 36-percent 3-point shooter is still a darned good shooter. Allen went 8-for-10 from distance and made two huge three’s in the fourth quarter. Whatever ails the Celtics, Allen’s occasional slumps are about ninth on the list.

2. Kevin Garnett was 3-for-16 from the floor and he was awesome. Garnett stayed outside for most of the game, drawing Chris Bosh out with him and leaving the middle wide open for Rajon Rondo to drive at will. Consequentially he took a ton of 20 footers.

That he only made one shot from outside the paint is far less important than the defense he played on Bosh, who has been killing people lately. Bosh was 5-for-14 and so obviously flustered by KG that he spent most of the Raptors hell-bent fourth quarter run on the bench. In 39 minutes, Garnett made one noticeable mistake when he bodied up on Bosh and got beat, but that was about it.

KG’s crazy-man persona sometimes obscures the fact that he is an excellent defensive technician. Witness the way he overplayed Bosh and gave him the baseline with his right hand. Bosh is about as comfortable going to his right as Big Baby is around the basket. It was a phenomenal display by Garnett.

3. Rajon Rondo has to shoot. Has to. Everyone wants him to make open jump shots, but that’s not as important as simply finishing in the lane once in a while. It wasn’t until he took the hand-off from Pierce and went baseline and dunked at the end of the second quarter when it finally dawned on Rondo that he could score. Fourteen points are great, 12 shots are even better.

4. If Big Baby Davis could have made a layup, the Celtics would have won by 20, but it’s hard to fault the guy after he gave them 30 minutes, 11 rebounds and tons of energy. OK, it’s not that hard.

Like Kendrick Perkins, Baby has one major mechanical flaw in his game. In Perk’s case it’s his insistence on putting the ball down on the floor. For Baby it’s when he worries more about drawing contact than making the basket. Because he is a physically, let’s just say, odd player, Baby rarely gets the benefit of the doubt from the officials when he goes to the basket. If he concentrated more on the finish than the contact, the calls would go his way.

Still, an inspired effort by Davis defensively.

5. Loved the decision by Doc to start Brian Scalabrine. As soon as Andrea Bargnani saw Scal opposite him instead of Perkins he wanted to play a post-up game. Thing is, Bargnani has been playing some of the best ball of his career lately by hanging out at the 3-point line. It took him until late in the game to get back to that.

Scal did more than mess with Bargnani. He also made his shots, spaced the floor, played solid defense and got in the face of Raptor tough guy Joey Graham.

There is a thought that the Celtics are frontrunners, classic bullies who talk the talk when they’re up 20, but fall apart when things get tough. Charlotte rookie DJ Augustin said as much last week. Graham, who looks like he is chiseled out of marble, tried to punk Scal, who looks like he is chiseled out of fluff, and Scal not only didn’t back down, he got right back in his face. It’s time the Celtics got ornery again.

Five more…

6. Graham is what the Celtics hope Tony Allen can be.

7. Don’t sleep on the Raptors in the second half. Bosh is a legit star and if Jose Calderon can get himself healthy that’s a great 1-2 punch. Now, do they make a move with Jermaine O’Neal, and, are they any takers?

8. Paul Pierce’s jumper that made it 90-83 was the biggest shot of the game and KG was the guy who set it up with a Zaza Pachulia-esque screen.

9. Been meaning to get to this. The problem with the Stephon Marbury thing is that it doesn’t look like the Knicks are in any hurry to do him any favors, and really, why should they?

The reason there’s so much focus on Marbury is that the Celtics are really hamstrung from a roster standpoint. They don’t have any big expiring contracts, and while their young guys might have some value they don’t make enough to have any trade value.

If the Celtics are going to make a move it’s looking more and more like it will have to be a street free agent, which is why no one has given up on the idea of wooing PJ Brown back to the fold. Joe Smith would of course make a lot of sense, but OKC GM Sam Presti is no dummy and he’s not going to cut him just so a contender can be happy.

10. So, free BIll Walker?

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