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Rondo or Harris?

01.14.09 at 10:52 pm ET
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Now that Jason Kidd is in Dallas and Chauncey Billups is in Denver, the Eastern Conference is set to anoint a new king of the point guards. The two leading contenders for the throne were on the floor last night at the Garden: Rajon Rondo and Devin Harris.

The debate, at least this season, comes down to what you want in your point guard. Harris has the dazzling numbers–23 points per game and 7 assists–that Rondo can’t match. But Rondo has the wins, 32 after last night’s victory over New Jersey, (click here for the recap) while Harris and the Nets are sitting on a 19-20 record.

Neither of those sets of figures are entirely fair. Harris has the big scoring average thanks to a team that has him and Vince Carter as the primary scoring options and an offense that plays to his strengths. Rondo has the wins in large part to who he has around him. Both players are having breakout seasons and both deserve to be on the All-Star team, which may not happen since neither will be voted in as a starter.

Choosing between the two comes down to a question of semantics. If you prefer overwhelming numbers on a talent-challenged team that is overachieving in large part because of those overwhelming numbers than Harris is your man. If you prefer your point guard to do a little bit of everything for a team that doesn’t have a real need for scoring, then Rondo is your guy.

Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus had a solid breakdown on the situation (he also included Orlando’s Jameer Nelson in the discussion) and he ultimately came down on the side of Harris, but not by much.

Pelton wrote:

Choosing between Harris and Rondo is more challenging. Using very different skill sets, they’ve nonetheless managed to be nearly identical in terms of per-minute performance and value. One could say that both players are perfectly suited for their team’s needs, Harris offering the shot creation the Nets so desperately need and Rondo leading his superstar-filled team with his ability to distribute the ball while playing a key role in the league’s best defense.

Ultimately, I’d give the slight edge to Harris.

I agree with Pelton’s reasoning, if not his conclusion. Harris thrives in the Nets offense, which has been compared to the dribble-drive offense that the University of Memphis popularized last season with Derrick Rose at the point. It’s not quite that in practice. It’s more of a hybrid which makes great use the old tried and true pick-and-roll. Still, the ball is in Harris’ hands quite a bit and ultimately the Nets fortunes rise and fall with his decision making.

Rondo doesn’t quite have those kind of responsibilities, but he is obviously very important to the Celtics offense. When Rondo is clicking, as he was in the second half against the Nets, the Celtics are essentially unstoppable. He makes defenses react to his ability to get into the paint, and despite his outside shooting difficulties, Rondo’s shooting percentage in the lane wouldn’t be out of place for an accomplished four-man.

Interestingly, Pelton’s numbers showed Harris to be a more impactful defensive player for the Nets than Rondo is for the Celtics, but I think that has more to do with the Celtics defensive dominance, which can obscure individual accomplishment, and the Nets defensive shortcomings, which can make a decent defender look better than he really is.

Last night Harris clearly had the edge in the first half when he scored 13 points, and got to the free throw line seven times. Rondo picked up two quick fouls and was hesitant to pick up a third. Harris’ biggest strength is his ability to vary the speeds at which he attacks the basket and that’s an uncomfortable place to be for a defender watching his fouls.

Rondo has a lot of respect for Harris. “He’s having an All-Star year,” Rondo said. “He’s playing exceptionally well.” Rondo knew that he would have his hands full with Harris once he got the ball, so his plan was to try to keep him from it once he passed halfcourt.

Freed from foul trouble in the third quarter, Rondo was able to show all his skills and he responded with a six-point, four-rebound, six-assist line, while holding Harris to four points and one assist. Not surprisingly the Celtics blew open a 10-point game and turned it into a rout. Paul Pierce was a perfect five-for-five from 3-point range with three of them coming on assists from Rondo.

That’s the kind of impact Rondo can create.

In a weird twist, this was the first meeting between the Celtics and Nets, but they won’t have to wait long for a rematch. The two teams play again Saturday afternoon in Jersey and Rondo and Harris can continue the debate. It’s really all in the eye of the beholder and in the eyes of this one it’s Rondo, but it’s close.

Celtics-Nets Game Blog: Fourth Quarter

01.14.09 at 9:37 pm ET
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What better way to kick off the final 12 minutes of a blowout than by introducing one of the Red Sox newest pitchers? Brad Penny helped Lucky out with a dunk in between quarters just as David Ortiz has done many times.

Bill Walker is on the court for his first minutes since being called up from the D-League. Fellow rookie J.R. Giddens is inactive tonight. Check back later for more on Giddens’ call up.

– Split screen on the Jumbotron of Walter McCarty and Tommy Heinsohn. McCarty mouthed, “I love Tommy” … a true Celtic.

– If you are looking to stay occupied during this blowout, check out Chris Douglas-Roberts’ arm. That’s some serious reading material.

Gino Time. Celtics 105, Nets 78.

– It only took Walker eight minutes to become and instant replay. Patrick O’Bryant scored, too. The Nets have a lot to learn from this game.

– The Garden is clearing out with two minutes to go. This game was over in the third quarter.

Eddie House limped off the court with under a minute to go. More details as they become available.

Final Score: Celtics 118, Celtics 86

Celtics-Nets Game Blog: Third Quarter

01.14.09 at 9:02 pm ET
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I referenced the Swamp Dragons in the first quarter and now seems like a decent time to tell one of the weirdest stories in the history of what has been a very weird franchise. The year was 1994 and the Nets had just drafted Yinka Dare despite the objections of just about everybody who wanted them to take Wesley Person, the sweet-shooting wing man from Auburn.

The Nets were getting hammered on the radio for the choice when something very odd happened. WFAN’s Mike and the Mad Dog said they had a source who claimed the Nets had filed paperwork with the league to change their name to the Swamp Dragons. For five hours Mike and the Doggy just killed them. It was probably the most they would ever talk about the team until the Jason Kidd run earlier this decade.

By the time the show was over the Nets claimed that they would do no such thing and thus would remain the Nets. And now you know. Back to the game…

THIRD QUARTER WRAP: It looks like the Celtics of old are back. The ones that put the clamps down on the other team’s offense and kill you with ball movement. Rajon Rondo had a big quarter and is now just three boards shy of a triple-double.

The numbers are pretty staggering for the C’s in the third: 37 points 12-for-20 from the floor, 6-for-7 from 3-point range. The rout it on..

Third Quarter Observations

— A few technical difficulties on this end. Apologies. Quick start for the C’s and an even quicker timeout by Lawrence Frank. It goes without saying that a nice 10-15 point win would be just what the Celtics need right now. Looks like they’re going for the knockout punch.

— This is when you know you got it going: Rondo just threw the alley-oop to KG and it went right in the basket. The thought had crossed my mind in the first half that the alley-oop was getting very close to being goaltending. Maybe Rondo should shoot alley-oops?

— If you’re a young big man and you want to learn how to defend the post, just watch tapes of Kevin Garnett. The man is a pure technician down there.

— The Celtics are just shredding the Nets “defense” right now. Good move by Lawrence Frank to bring in Eduardo Najera who will at least put a body on someone who cuts right to the basket.

— So at this point this game can go one of two ways. It can become a total blowout, or the Nets can make it interesting by keeping it within 15 points or so, which would mean a few more minutes for the starters than Doc Rivers would probably like. They’ve got two whole days off before playing New Jersey again on Saturday so a little extra rest would be like a mini-vacation.

— Walter McCarty is here, ladies and gentlemen. Walt-ah!

— KG is out after scoring 20 points and grabbing nine rebounds in 23 minutes. Is that it for him tonight?

Celtics-Nets Game Blog: Second Quarter

01.14.09 at 8:14 pm ET
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FIRST HALF NUMBERS: Celtics lead 51-41 at halftime thanks to 52.6% shooting from the field. KG leads all players with 14 points (6/8 FG) and Ray Allen has 10. The Celtics have also attempted 12 treys (4/12 3PG) compared to the Nets four (1/4). They slowed down Devin Harris in the second quarter (5 points) and limited his passing to just two assists.

Second Quarter Notes

– The second quarter gets underway with Ray AllenPaul Pierce … Big Baby smiling from ear-to-ear after draining a three from way past the arc. That was Davis’ first trey of his NBA career.

– Pierce is in with the second unit (Davis/Powe/House/Pruitt). Vince Carter, who threw himself on to the Nets bench earlier in the game, is on the court. He’s a little hobbled but still aggressive at the hoop.

– Kudos to Big Baby for his effort on the boards. He may not be grabbing every missed shot but he is in the mix each time the ball goes up.

– Back by popular demand (allegedly), Celtics Slow Dance 3. It’s another slo-mo video montage of memorable dance moves from the Garden set to LoneStar’s “Amazed.” I’ll give the prize to my personal favorite, Soulja Boy Junior.

Brook Lopez is back in with Davis and Powe as the Celtics big men. Doc Rivers, who has been watching Lopez since high school, said the key to guarding him is keeping him off the glass rather than trying to get your own rebounds.

– No look pass from KG to Big Baby for a three-point play. I hope the fans sitting courtside were looking when Davis jumped into them chasing a loose ball. Davis has four fouls in 12 minutes, not including barrelling over spectators.

– Who said Rondo didn’t have a jumper? He drained a 20-footer as the shot clock expired. If only he could do that every night …

– KG ended the second quarter with huge “think about this at halftime” dunk.

- At the half … Celtics 51, Nets 41

Read More: Big Baby, Boston Celtics, Glen Davis, New Jersey Nets

Celtics-Nets Game Blog: First Quarter

01.14.09 at 7:38 pm ET
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We are live from the Garden for tonight’s game between the Celtics and the New Jersey Nets. We are at the midway point of the Celtics season and oddly this is the first meeting between the two teams. The Celtics have already played Toronto four times, the Knicks three times and the Sixers twice, but no Swamp Dragons so far. Curious.

We’ll be following the matchup between Rajon Rondo and Devin Harris all night, but there’s also an intriguing situation with 7-foot rookie Brook Lopez and Brian Scalabrine, who is most definitely not 7-feet but is starting in place of Kendrick Perkins.

Away we go… Read the rest of this entry »

Rhythm key for Perkins

01.14.09 at 7:27 pm ET
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Before Wednesday night’s game against the New Jersey Nets, Kendrick Perkins broke a sweat working on his post moves. He banked shots over Patrick O’Bryant and then sprinted down the court at the orders of Sam Cassell. This would seem like just another night, except Perkins is injured. That isn’t stopping the big man, though, from keeping his rhythm.

‘€œI’m just trying to stay on top of my conditioning,’€ Perkins said prior to the game. ‘€œI don’t want to lose my rhythm so I’m working on my post moves, doing a lot of shots, I did some jump roping, and a lot of court running, and stuff like that. I don’t want to be too far off.’€

Perkins will miss at least a week with a reoccurring shoulder injury. It has plagued him since a Christmas Day game against the Los Angeles Lakers, according to Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, and is the explanation behind his recent inconsistency on the glass. As a precaution, Perkins is avoiding physical contact. Other than that, he’s following the same routine.

‘€œI just [can’t] play basketball, contact, that’s it,’€ he said. ‘€œI hit the weights earlier today so it’s getting better by the day … You’ve got to scale back but it never really fell off. I’m pretty much on the same page, I’m just doing different type of exercises now to work different parts of the muscle, so that’s really what I’m concentrating on.’€

Perkins hopes to play next Monday against the Phoenix Suns, but said he is not going to rush his return. As for Brian Scalabrine, who has been filling in for Perkins, his return against Shaquille O’Neal would be perfect timing.

‘€œWow,’€ said a wide-eyed Scalabrine, unaware of the upcoming match up. ‘€œI’d like the opportunity to start but Perk is the guy who should be on the Diesel.’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brian Scalabrine, Kendrick Perkins, New Jersey Nets

Game Preview: Twin Tower

01.14.09 at 9:15 am ET
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Boston Celtics (31-9) vs. New Jersey Nets (19-19)

It is never easy when a starting center goes down. With Kendrick Perkins out at least a week, Doc Rivers will have to use an undersized rotation of Brian Scalabrine and Leon Powe at the five spot. The Celtics caught a break in the past two games when the Toronto Raptors were without Jermaine O’€™Neal, but on Wednesday night the New Jersey Nets could pose a sizable challenge ‘€¦ a 7′ challenge to be exact.

Brook Lopez, the twin brother of Phoenix Suns center Robin, is emerging as a rookie to watch this season. He is coming off of a career-high 31 point, 13 rebound performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder and is averaging 10 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks in the last ten games. Lopez isn’€™t just beating up on lottery teams either. He posted 17 points, 10 rebounds against the Los Angeles Lakers and 15 points, 13 boards against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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

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