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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.

Game Blog: Celtics-Blazers Preview 12.30.08 at 7:17 pm ET
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So, we’re going to do a little TV blogging tonight. The big news is that Brandon Roy is said to be doubtful for tonight’s game and Greg Oden apparently sprained his ankle in practice and is questionable. Oden looks like a better bet to play than Roy.

The Blazers don’t need any more problems because since starting the year 14-6 they have been a little erratic, a slide that began with a thumping at the hands of the Celtics back on Dec. 5. Since then they gone 5-6 and lost three straight at one point. Steady-handed coach Nate McMillan even threatened a rotation shakeup last week and an Oregonian columnist took Oden to task. Nate told the big man “to have fun.” I still think he’s going to be big-time, but I’m not sure he would have been able to handle Boston, judging by his early troubles.

This is a big game for Portland, who many still see as a dark horse threat in the west, but it’s shaping up to be a big one for the Celtics too. The Golden State loss seems to have gotten everyone’s attention and they do not want to come back from the coast with a losing record.

Doc Rivers told reporters that he wants to monitor Kevin Garnett’s minutes, which have been steadily increasing as of late. That’s a positive thing in the long run, but it’s awfully hard to sit KG while a fourth quarter lead is being frittered away. Blazers fans really don’t like Garnett, by the way.

Speaking of the much-maligned bench, the C’s got some bad news when the Rockets announced they were bringing back Dikembe Mutombo. The Celtics had interest there.

We’ll start the blogging at 10-ish so check back early and often. While you’re waiting for tip-off check out my long digression of how I wound up in Oregon way back when. It’s a page-turner.

My Oregon Trail 12.30.08 at 6:56 pm ET
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While waiting for the C’s and Blazers to get underway, I happened upon the bowl game they play in Boise, Idaho (ah, the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl. Thanks Google). That, plus the University of Oregon playing in the Holiday Bowl got me thinking about how it came to pass that I wound up in Oregon, as it says on my bio, which was really Idaho, which I’ll get to a minute. It’s kind of a convoluted story, but I thought I’d share.

The year was 1997. A rookie shortstop named Nomar was winning over the town. The Celtics were in the middle of the Brett Szabo era and hoping to draft Tim Duncan when they brought in a savior named Rick Pitino (whoops). The Patriots had just hired Pete Carroll and the Bruins were terrible too. BC had a gambling scandal rock the football program and Jim O’Brien split for Ohio State after some nastiness with the admissions department. Those were not good times (except for Nomar).

At any rate, I was about to graduate from BU’s journalism program and I needed a job. At nights I was answering phones at the Herald and covering Waltham sports under the watchful eye of Tom Curran (yes that one). The people at the News-Tribune thought I had done enough to warrant a shot, which meant that if I went underground and learned how to do agate pages for six months, I could have a gig. Tommy, or Tom E. if you prefer, was heading off to cover the Pats, but he advised me to take it.

No way, I said. I’m a writer not a desk man, and besides it’s a little hard to meet girls when your answer to the eternal question “What do you do?” Is, “I’m an agate clerk.” So, I went looking for a job and I had three options, which is three more than most young (or old) journos have today.

Up first was a paper in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, of all places. The phone interview went like this:

Editor: Ya’ll ever been in the deep south?

Me: I’ve been to Florida on spring break.

Editor: Boy, that ain’t the deep south.

Me: Something to think about.

Editor: Yup.

Click.

And that was that. OK, I still had two more moves in play. A paper in Alabama that had a good job that paid real money (it would be seven years before I’d actually make what they were offering), and one in Oregon. I held out hope for the Bama job as long as I could, but by Aug. 30 I had all my stuff in boxes, a lease on a dump in Brighton that was about to expire, and no answer. Finally, on Aug. 31 I got the call. I came in second. So, I loaded up my Jeep and set out for the land of fir trees, hippies and rain. Who knows, maybe I’d run into Bill Walton while I was out there.

Only that’s not exactly where I wound up. Oregon is actually two different states, which I definitely should have researched before leaving everyone I knew and driving 3,000 miles away. There’s the Portland/Eugene part, which is cool, and there’s everything else, which is a desert. I wound up in the desert. It was a place called Ontario, and it is known for one thing: a giant mushroom. I’m not kidding. It’s supposedly the world’s largest living organism.

The town had one movie theater and it played Titanic the entire time I was there, and a bar (just one) called Saddles ‘n Spurs, which is where the cowboys hung out. I’ve lived in a lot of places, some of which you wouldn’t want to be caught out in the streets after dark, but I’ve never met a meaner bunch than those cowboys. I dated a girl there whose grandfather had a huge stash of rifles in the closet. You know, in case the commies invaded. I was never sure if he meant the old Soviet Union or our government.

I realized my mistake sometime after I passed through Boise (home of the blue field and the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl), which is about 50 miles east of Ontario. There was nothing but miles upon miles of desert. Ontario is the first town in Oregon you get to after your cross the Snake River, and it was about 300 miles away from Portland. It wasn’t just a world away, it was literally in a different time zone.

Needless to say, I drove out to the Rose City whenever I could and it’s still one of my favorite places in the world. The people there love their Blazers. Because it’s the only thing in town they have a different kind of relationship that east coast cities do with their teams. That’s why they weren’t just mad about the whole Jail Blazers era, they were personally hurt and disappointed that their franchise was the laughing stock of the NBA. And that’s also why they’re so into the current team.

At any rate, I did nine months in Ontario where I actually covered two future NFL players (AJ Feeley and Jordan Gross, the Panthers left tackle) and got the heck out of there. It took eight years for me to get back to Boston, and now the Pats and Sox are premier franchises, the Bruins never lose, the C’s are defending champs, and Tom Curran is a Mr. Big Time NFL reporter, complete with controversial scoops. But I’ll always have a soft spot for Portland. Ontario, not so much, and I still haven’t met Walton.

Lakers-Celtics Instant Analysis 12.25.08 at 7:31 pm ET
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For the game recap of the Celtics‘ 92-83 loss to the Lakers, click here.

***

We are live from every blogger’s cliche, literally my mother’s basement in New Jersey, where Game 7 of the NBA Finals just concluded with a stirring victory for the Lakers over the Celtics… and wait, what’s that you say? The playoffs are over?

Huh. I could have swore I saw confetti coming down from the rafters of the Staples Center. And wasn’t that Kobe Bryant playing 43 minutes? I think I even saw Phil Jackson call a timeout while game was being played. That couldn’t have been a regular season game.

For the Lakers, it wasn’t. Clearly. They needed this one, and to their credit they went out and got it. In the last three minutes, Pau Gasol played like the guy everyone wants him to be all the time. Bryant was ridiculous the whole game, forcing when he needed to force and deferring when he needed to defer. And the Laker bench outplayed the Celtics second unit. They went all out in this one, and if they had lost it would have been devastating, but they didn’t. No we’ll see if they build on it or fall back into the bad habits that hurt them last week.

For the Celtics, the winning streak is over, which means we all have to come up with new questions for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, but more importantly, the Celtics finally got a chance to test themselves against a team that is in their universe. They answered some questions–can Rajon Rondo operate when the other team won’t guard him?–and left open a few more, such as, is their bench good enough?

Those, and a few more observations while resisting the urge to watch the Yankeeography marathon on the YES Network. Read the rest of this entry »

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