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Game Preview: A Tall Task

01.19.09 at 11:02 am ET

On Monday night the Boston Celtics (33-9) will take on the Phoenix Suns (23-15) at the TD BankNorth Garden. They enter the game 4-0 without starting center Kendrick Perkins and have found success with a smaller lineup. The Celtics may have handled Chris Bosh and Brook Lopez, but at 7’€™1, 325 pounds, Shaquille O’€™Neal is another species of player altogether.

Kevin Garnett will be given the task of handling O’€™Neal without Perkins in the lineup. Once Garnett heads to the bench, though, it will be up to Leon Powe, Glen Davis, and Brian Scalabrine to man the front court, which also faces a towering Amare Stoudemire. Despite the size disadvantage, they are learning how to handle these tall tasks.

‘€œ[The key is] doing what we know is best for our team,’€ said Davis. ‘€œWe can’t go out there and do our own thing. We have to stick to our strategy and what we do best. And when we do that best and go out there and play defense, it’s hard to beat us. So we just stick to what we know and we’re good.’€

If the Celtics know one thing, it’€™s defense. They have held their opponents to an average of 92 points over the last four games and outscored them by an average of 16. It is a fundamental they will have to live by against the offense-driven Suns (104.8 ppg).

‘€œWe’ve got to go out there and play defense as soon as they cross half court, even before,’€ said Powe. ‘€œPut pressure on the ball, deny passes, we’ve just got to be active ‘€“ all of us ‘€“ as a group. When we do that, good things happen. We can’t just rely on one person to take care of all the defensive work.’€

Scalabrine takes a realistic approach to his role as the Celtics fill-in starting center. He can’€™t change his game overnight so he sticks to what he knows.

‘€œNothing different,’€ he said of his gameplan. ‘€œI’m not going to block his shot so I’m just going to fight him for position.’€

Davis (6’€™9) and Powe (6’€™8) have adjusted their game to use their size in their favor. O’€™Neal may be bigger, but he certainly isn’€™t faster.

‘€œI just try to use my body to my advantage,’€ said Davis. ‘€œThat’s basically it, use my quickness, just use that to get my game and my advantage at the top.’€

Powe has his own techniques for outplaying his opponents ‘€“ draw the foul. This season he is one of the NBA’s leading reserves in free throw attempts and ranks second on the Celtics behind Paul Pierce.

‘€œI get to the line a lot anyways so I try to take away their shot blocking a little bit by getting into their body a little bit or making my moves a little bit quicker, that’s what the coaching staff told me,’€ said Powe. ‘€œI’ve been doing this all my life so either I get into the body or I make my moves quicker and it works out for me. I use a couple fakes KG taught me and other than that, play basketball.’€

Perkins is not expected to return until Wednesday against the Miami Heat. In the meantime, he has liked what he has seen so far from his teammates.

‘€œI just think you’ve got to be physical,’€ he said. ‘€œBe extra physical as far as just like they’ve got to make sure they take their legs, just keep a body on them at all times. [Davis and Powe] are both pretty physical players so I don’t really think height really plays a difference as long they be physical, beat them early, and use their body, I think they’ll be alright.’€

Tip-off is just after 8pm EST. Stay with WEEI’€™s Celtics Game Day Blog for all the latest from the Garden.

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