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Pitt warms up 03.26.09 at 7:53 pm ET
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After missing seven of their first nine shots, the No. 1 seed Panthers have made four of six, including a three, to grab the 14-12 lead over Xavier. The Muskies, on the other hand, remain ice cold, and have made just three of their first 16 from the field.

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Xavier out to early lead 03.26.09 at 7:43 pm ET
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At the first time out, the large contingent from Cincinnati that made the trip to Boston has had more to cheer about.

Xavier has grabbed an early lead over Pittsburgh, 9-4, at the first official media time out with 15:14 remaining in the first half.

This game has come as advertised early on. Lots of loose balls and missed shots and physical play under the glass.

Each team has made just 2 of their first 9 shots from the floor.

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Magic not ready for prime time 03.25.09 at 11:22 pm ET
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If anyone needed an explanation as to why people don’t really take Orlando seriously as a title threat, Wednesday night’s game with the Celtics should serve as a perfect illustration. To review: The Magic were at home with a double-digit lead in the second half, Doc Rivers kept to his plan of playing Kevin Garnett just 17 minutes and still Orlando found itself at the mercy of Paul Pierce and a 50-50 foul call that went its way at the end of the game. (Click here for a recap).

To be sure this was not a great performance by the Celtics by any measure (which we will get to shortly), but after blowing a dozen-point lead while Garnett sat on the bench, the Magic treated their home crowd to the following plays down the stretch:

Two clanked 3-pointers by Rafer Alston.

Another 3-pointer by rookie Courtney Lee.

A rushed, two-feet behind the arc, 3-pointer by Hedo Turkoglu.

This despite the fact that they have A) the best center in the game and B) an All-Star forward who is one of, if not the best, shooters in the game. Alston was a great pickup, considering the circumstances, but he’s no Jameer Nelson, and late in the game Orlando’s lack of a floor leader was evident.

For the Celtics, this was a big game, an interesting game even, but a huge game? Not really. Had they won they could have gone up by two full games  and owned the head-to-head tiebreaker in the race for the second seed. Now, everything is tied (although Orlando does have a game in hand in the loss column) so while they lost their breathing-room they didn’t lose their edge.

It might be that when we look back at the season in a few weeks this game will be the one that did in fact decide homecourt advantage, but it certainly didn’t prove anything.

Six more Celtics-related observations:

1. The biggest call of the game wasn’t the no-call on Pierce’s drive (which looked like the right call from this vantage point). The biggest call came about six minutes in when Kendrick Perkins picked up his second offensive foul in three possessions, both of which were a little dubious. The first came on a makeup call after he had drawn one on Dwight Howard. The second came after Turkoglu ran into his pick and then reinforced every Euro stereotype with an epic someone-just-shot-me flop. (Anyone else wonder if Wes Unseld would last more than six minutes in an NBA game in 2009?)

Once Perkins left, Howard went crazy, finishing the first quarter with a double-double and the Magic established control. Perkins is the Celtics best option on Howard, and indeed he stifled him down the stretch. When he went out, there was no one who could keep him off the boards.

2. Welcome back Paul Pierce. The Captain had gone missing for week or so, but you could see the swagger, and the game return, in the second half. Pierce finished with 26 points and seven rebounds and it wouldn’t have surprised anyone who has been watching this year if he had found a way to steal another game.

3. Give the Magic credit for one thing. They played the last three seconds about as well as you can play in that spot–using their foul to give correctly and forcing Pierce into an off-balance shot at the buzzer. That was about the only thing they executed well in the last five minutes but it might have won them the game.

4. Stephon Marbury was frozen out of the second-half rotation and it’s not hard to see why. He was once again tentative on offense and outside of bringing the ball up court he didn’t provide much of anything of value. It’s been 14 games now, which is still not enough time to judge, but it’s getting closer.

5. Not to pick on the new additions, but Mikki Moore’s foul on Rashard Lewis while Lewis was shooting a 3 with about five minutes left couldn’t have come at a worse time. Moore has a chance with Leon Powe out for a few more weeks to establish himself, but like Marbury, it needs to happen soon.

6. Eddie House was the sole offensive threat for a good stretch of the second quarter when the Magic began to build their lead. Doc has continued to tinker with lineups in that spot and it’s safe to say he hasn’t found one he likes yet.

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House and son on Cartoon Network 03.25.09 at 6:30 pm ET
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Eddie and Jaelen HouseEddie House’s seven-year-old son Jaelen has become a mainstay on the sidelines by the Boston Celtics bench. Now their close relationship will be featured in the new series, My Dad’s A Pro, on the Cartoon Network. The show will follow Jaelen’s day-to-day life as the son of an NBA player. They will be the first father-son pair on the show, which will debut this fall.

NBA commissioner David Stern and Stuart Snyder, President and COO of Turner Animation, Young Adults & Kids Media, made the announcement today at the annual Cartoon Network Upfront presentation in New York. According to the press release, the NBA and Cartoon Network have developed a partnership to create long and short-form basketball-themed content, including online (CartoonNetwork.com), mobile, and on-air.

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Duke shipping back to Boston 03.25.09 at 5:11 pm ET
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Mike Krzyzewski remembers the last time his Duke Blue Devils were in Boston.

And he’d rather not. It was, of course, not at the Garden but rather a few miles up Commonwealth at Conte Forum playing Boston College.

It was Feb. 15 and his team blew a five-point halftime lead and lost to the Eagles, 80-74. It was the second straight loss, coming just four days after getting humiliated by rival North Carolina at Cameron Indoor Stadium, 101-87.

After that game, Gerald Henderson replaced Greg Paulus as starting point guard and the Dukies have won eight of nine, including the ACC Tournament championship.

“The only reason that was different is that’s the last time we really played poorly,” Krzyzewski said on Wednesday. “But Boston College had a lot to do with that. But to me there’s no significance — actually, we didn’t play in Boston. And — I don’t think there’s any significance.

“I think as a coach you have to do what you think is needed to help our team. And when we got beat by Boston College, it wasn’t just that game, it was the six games that we had just played. And we won two of them. And one of them we had to come back from being 16 or 18 points down to win in overtime. So basically we’re 1 and 5. We were actually 2 and 4, but 1 and 5 in my mind in those six games.”

So to Coach K, even when the team is sometimes winning, they’re losses in his mind. And maybe that’s what keeps Duke sharp.

“How long are you going to keep doing what you’re doing?” he asked rhetorically. “And maybe we can go 1 and 5 again for the next few games. So we needed to do something different. And thank goodness that Elliot had been practicing so hard that he was able to pressure the ball and thank goodness we had a guy like Jon who could lead the team. And then all of a sudden — then those decisions work out a lot better.”

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Welcome home Gerald Henderson 03.25.09 at 4:31 pm ET
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Gerald Henderson is hoping to have the same success in Boston that his dad did.

We chronicled his father’s most famous moment when he stole the ball from James Worthy in Game 2 of the 1984 NBA Finals. Now let’s hear it from the man himself. Assuming he can stay awake for the 10 p.m. tip-off, Gerald Henderson will start at point guard for Duke on Thursday night against Villanova.

There are several ironies at work here.

First is the fact that his game will be played in the home building of the Celtics but not on the parquet or with Celtics banners above him because of NCAA regulations, meaning he can’t pay tribute to one of the banners his father helped put up in the rafters.

“They took the banners down. They took them down,” Henderson said with some genuine remorse. ” It’s pretty nice to be playing in Boston, where my dad had his best years as a pro. It’s pretty cool to be playing in the same place as him. I’m sure he’ll have fun coming back here and hopefully watching me having some of the same success that he had.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Pitt: No apologies 03.25.09 at 4:13 pm ET
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If you’re expecting Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon to apologize for his team’s underwhelming performance as a No. 1 seed in the East Regional in the first two rounds, here’s some advice – don’t bother.

Pittsburgh struggled mightily with No. 16 seed East Tennessee in round one and was tied at halftime with No. 8 Oklahoma State in the second round before winning by eight, 84-76.

“I guess it reinforces things,” Dixon told reporters about the close calls in the first two games. “We didn’t rebound well in the first game, and the second game we got better, and out-rebounded our opponent by 20, that was something, I think.”

With Xavier on tap on Thursday night, one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the country, Dixon knows his players need to bring their best to the glass to continue their march in March.

“I think it was what we learned was we can win — really that Oklahoma State game showed we can win offensively, we can win defensively in the second half. That was an interesting game, because you had two teams shooting, knocking down shots the first half. And the second half became a grind it out defensive affair. And we played that way, as well, played successfully in that half, as well. You learn you can play two different ways this time of the year.”

Moments after learning his team was a No. 1 seed for the first time ever, Dixon was asked by CBS-TV whether he was concerned about jinxes and comparisons to the Chicago Cubs.

” This team is different than any other team,” Dixon said on Wednesday. “And again, that’s — Sweet 16 is an accomplishment. If it was — if it wasn’t, teams would have got there more than we have. And there’s only two that have been there more than we have the last eight years, Duke and Kansas have been there more than us. There aren’t any buys into the Sweet 16. I think maybe it’s forgotten.”

And for the record, Pittsburgh has never beaten a team seeded higher than sixth in the NCAA tournament. Xavier is No. 4 in the East.

“Yeah, I think this team is different than the previous team from last year, and it’s definitely different from the team six years ago, five years ago, four years ago,” Dixon said. “All the times we’ve made it we have different players, we’re playing different teams. And at the same time we know we have a very good opponent to play tomorrow in Xavier.”

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