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All eyes on Paul Pierce 04.23.09 at 10:17 am ET
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The general consensus courtside Monday night was that something is up with Paul Pierce. “He looks old,” one scribe said. “He looks tired,” another offered. Longtime Chicago writer Sam Smith suggested that Pierce is hurt, not that there is any proof of any of those assertions.

This is what we do know about Pierce. After two games in this series he has played 87 of a possible 101 minutes and is shooting just 40 percent from the floor, and his efficiency numbers are dreadful.

He had a chance to win Game 1 with two late free throws, but missed the second and he has not “taken over” as he has so well throughout the season. We also know this: Pierce has outplayed his Chicago counterpart John Salmons, who definitely is hurt (strained groin), holding Salmons to 36 percent shooting.

This was Pierce after Game 2:

“I just got to be patient. Let the game come to me. Sometimes I’m taking shots that aren’t there, but I’ll figure this thing out. At the end of the day it’s not about Paul Pierce. It’s about the Boston Celtics. I’ll do anything I can to help the ballclub win.”

There is no question the Celtics, and Pierce especially, made a concerted effort to get Ray Allen the ball in the second half of Game 2. For good reason, as it turns out. So now we have seen Allen take over. We have seen Rajon Rondo take over. We have seen Big Baby Davis and Kendrick Perkins have monster games.

What we haven’t seen, not yet anyway, is Pierce do his thing. That concerns Salmons who told reporters yesterday:

“My mentality is always that this is an All-Star player, a Finals MVP player, who is one of those guys who can go off for 40 at any time. We have to continue to keep a hand in his face, try to make him take as many contested shots as possible. For the most part, we’ve been doing that.”

If the Celtics are going to survive this postseason, they are going to need the cold-eyed death stare Pierce to re-emerge. Game 3 wouldn’t be a bad time for it to return.

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Bulls mystique gone for Celtics? 04.23.09 at 12:40 am ET
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The Boston Celtics pride themselves on having one of the best home crowds in the league. Each game thousands of fans make sure the opposing team takes notice of the 17 banners hanging in the rafters, while memories of Bird, Parish, and McHale are never far from their minds.

But when the Celtics travel to Chicago for Games 3 and 4 of the playoffs against the Bulls, they will be met by a United Center crowd who wants them to acknowledge their own collection of banners. It has been just over ten years since Michael Jordan led the Bulls to six NBA Championships in eight seasons, and their fans are eager to see a first round upset.

So what do the Celtics expect from the Bulls crowd?

“It’s really hard to answer that question because I know there was a Jordan era in Chicago and then there’s a post-Jordan era. Those are two different eras,” said Ray Allen. “Playing when he played, it was one atmosphere that was uncomparable. Now people are supportive and there’s a lot of basketball fans in that city, but the mystique when he was there was totally different.”

Like Allen, Stephon Marbury played against Jordan early in his career. While he agrees that Bulls fans still show their support, there is no replacing Jordan’s presence.

“They have a really good system as far as how they get the crowd into the game. I think after Michael Jordan, they stayed consistent with exactly what they do. So it’s going to be a nice atmosphere,” Marbury said. “They try to continue with that same mystique. But he’s not there.”

Journeyman Mikki Moore has experienced eight different home crowds. Even so, he still ranks the Bulls crowd (one of the few teams he never played for) as one of the best.

“It’s a pretty good crowd,” he said. “It’s a lot like here (in Boston). It’s one of the top ten arena crowds because of the traditional Bulls. From Scottie (Pippen) and Jordan, it’s a basketball city so they’re going to come out and support their team regardless.”

For those who played against the Bulls during their dynasty, the memories will still linger in the building. However the younger members of the Celtics cannot relate as their veteran teammates do.

“It’s alright. It’s no different than any other NBA team,” said Kendrick Perkins. “You don’t [notice a mystique]. You really don’t. I’ve never played there in a playoff game but when we go there in the regular season, most people are all about the Celtics.”

The Celtics and Bulls will face off in Chicago on Thursday at 8pm EST for Game 3 and Sunday at 1pm EST for Game 4.

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Derrick Rose wins rookie honors 04.22.09 at 10:10 am ET
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This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but the Chicago Tribune is reporting this morning that Derrick Rose will be named NBA Rookie of the Year.

Rose joins Michael Jordan and Elton Brand as the other Bulls who have won the award, and despite the play of Russell Westbrook, the already-overrated OJ Mayo and New Jersey center Brook Lopez (see Kevin Pelton’s ballot), Rose was an absolute lock to win the award.

Here’s what else is happening in Chicago:

Vinny Del Negro is coming under fire for running out of timeouts. You may remember that the Bulls had to resort to a Tyrus Thomas heave from about 70-feet after Ray Allen’s 3-pointer, Monday night.

“People are going to second-guess and first-guess,” Del Negro said. “So what? I don’t care. I’m the coach. I will make the decisions. That’s the way it is.”

Joakim Noah: Voice of reason.

The always-awesome Kelly Dwyer broke down Game 2. Good stuff here.

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Official Powe Statement 04.21.09 at 3:41 pm ET
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On Tuesday the Boston Celtics issued the following statement about forward Leon Powe:

“The Boston Celtics announced today that forward Leon Powe suffered an ACL tear and a meniscus tear in his left knee during Game 2 against the Chicago Bulls in the First Round of the 2009 NBA Playoffs.  Powe will miss the remainder of the playoffs.  A surgery date will be determined at a later date.  This injury is unrelated to the right knee injury that he suffered on March 17.  Powe is expected to make a full recovery from his surgery.”

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Report: Powe out for season 04.21.09 at 12:50 pm ET
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Citing NBA sources, the Boston Globe has reported Celtics forward Leon Powe is expected to undergo surgery on his left knee and will miss the remainder of the postseason. Powe injured his left knee during Game 2 of the Celtics-Bulls series. He left the game in the second quarter and was taken to the hospital for an MRI. Powe had recently rehabbed from a right knee injury, which he suffered in March against the Bulls.

The loss of Powe depletes the Celtics frontcourt. Already playing without Kevin Garnett, Powe was the first option off the bench for Glen Davis. He contributed eight points and eight rebounds in 17 minutes against the Bulls in Game 1. Powe also had proven playoff experience after a breakout performance in Game 2 of the 2008 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. He is a free agent after this season.

Update: Doc Rivers told reporters Powe has suffered a torn ACL. From Celtics.com:

“He played 3 minutes with a torn ACL on the floor, says so much about Leon Powe the person. Forget the playoffs and all that stuff. That’s just a tough injury for a kid who’s done everything right. That just makes no sense.”

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Leon’s knees 04.21.09 at 12:14 pm ET
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Late in the season, Leon Powe made an appearance in the Celtics locker room before a game and the subject was knees. “I know all about that,” Powe said then, exhibiting a sort of gallows humor.

The problem was the right knee, which he had strained in the St. Patrick’s Day game against the Bulls and would cause him to miss 12 games. The good thing, Powe was saying, was that it wasn’t the left knee. That was the one that almost screwed up his basketball career before it even got started.

As a high school player in Oakland, Powe was on the short list of every major college basketball recruiter in the country. A McDonald’s All-American, his bio on the University of California’s website explains that he is the most highly-regarded recruit ever to sign with then-coach Ben Braun (who became the Cal coach in the post-Jason Kidd era).

Powe injured his left knee in high school, but he still led the Pac-10 in rebounding as a freshman. That was when doctors discovered that he needed more surgery, two more surgeries in fact, which wiped out the following season. He returned as redshirt sophomore and had another monster year, but concerns about his knee caused him to drop to the second round of the 2006 draft where the Celtics stole him from Denver in a draft-day deal.

Considering his medical history, it has been a minor marvel that Powe has made it through his first three seasons in the NBA and been as productive as he’s been.

But now he has injured his left knee, the one that has caused him all the problems, and the Celtics are listing his status as questionable. With Kevin Garnett already out, that puts the onus squarely on Kendrick Perkins, Big Baby Davis and Mikki Moore. That’s it. That’s the big man rotation.

There is some hope that Brian Scalabrine could return for Game 3, but that still seems like a question mark and it’s worth noting that Scal hasn’t played at all since Feb. 23.

“We don’t worry about who’s not out there,” Davis said Monday night, and he has a point. The Celtics have been playing shorthanded up front for the last month or so and have done an admirable, if imperfect, job. Without Garnett, the Celtics are not nearly the same rebounding juggernaut that they were, and without Powe they lose a low-post scoring threat off the bench.

Perkins was masterful on the low block Monday night, torching the Bulls for 16 points and 12 rebounds on 7-for-9 shooting. The Celtics are going to need more of that from Perkins, and they are going to need quality minutes from Moore, as well, who played less than a minute in the second half, Monday.

UPDATE: The Globe’s Marc Spears is reporting that Powe will have surgery and that he is out for the playoffs.

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Buckle in for a wild ride 04.21.09 at 12:33 am ET
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Give Chicago’s Tyrus Thomas this much credit-he can appreciate a great series.

And that’s what we have in the first round battle between the Bulls and Celtics, tied 1-1, heading back to Chicago Thursday night for Game 3.

“They came out quick and gave us a quick punch and we knew we had to come back and answer,” Thomas said. following Boston’s 118-115 heart-pounding win over his Bulls. “We did a good job and it came down to the wire. If we play like that for the rest of the playoffs, we’re probably going to be here for a while.”

His former teammate at LSU had a similar take on how great a series this has already been.

“Last year, we went seven games with Atlanta, and we were the No. 1 seed,” said Celtics power forward Glen Davis, who finished with 26 on Monday night. “Playoffs is the playoffs. Intensity level goes up, execution goes up and teams want it.” Read the rest of this entry »

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