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Celtics-Magic Game Blog: First Quarter 03.08.09 at 12:07 pm ET
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We are live from the Garden for this afternoon’s game between the Celtics and Magic. The big news today is that Rajon Rondo is out and will be replaced in the starting lineup by Stephon Marbury. While it’s an obvious opportunity for Marbury, it might be a chance for Gabe Pruitt to get some run and get himself back on the map.

There’s a whole lot of subplots happening today and we’ll be here for all of them.

FIRST QUARTER WRAP: Bad quarter for the Celtics. It’s no secret that NBA players dislike afternoon games, especially after losing an hour of sleep. But 15 points and nine turnovers might qualify as the worst quarter they’ve played all year. Fortunately for them they are only down seven, 22-15, but they are going to need an energy injection from the bench.

First Quarter Observations

— I wonder if you had told Doc Rivers back in November that for a March game with the Magic that would go a long way toward deciding playoff seeding that he would be starting Big Baby Davis and Marbury; what he would say? On the one hand it’s a good chance for Marbury to get some action with the first unit, on the other hand the first unit isn’t exactly the first unit.

— Dwight Howard’s been working on that hook shot. Like all players he’s going to have make the adjustment for when he can no longer fly over everyone and just overpower people on his way to the basket. It is clearly still a work in progress.

— Speaking of Howard, Kendrick Perkins has done a fine job defending him this year, but the matchup to watch today is Big Baby on Rashard Lewis. The C’s usually put Kevin Garnett on Lewis and he’s one of the few bigs who can with Lewis on the perimeter.

— Too much dribbling, not enough ball movement for the Celtics.

— That was a quick glimpse of what Marbury brings to the table. There was no play. The options had broken down, but Marbury was able to get to the basket and not only score, he also got contact from Howard which resulted in his second foul. It’s impossible to judge Marbury on the floor until he gets his legs under him and he learns some semblance of the offense, but that’s what they were looking for when they brought him here.

— The Celtics have seven turnovers in seven and a half minutes. It doesn’t take Hubie Brown to tell you that’s way too many.

— Two points, no assists and two turnovers for Marbury in his first nine minutes. Again, it’s unfair to judge him yet, but not unfair to point out that he has a long way to go.

Ray Allen has been the Celtics best player on offense and it’s not even close. He’s the only one getting to the basket and going aggressively once he turns the corner. The driving lanes are there to be had, especially with Howard out of the game.

Rondo doubtful against Magic 03.08.09 at 11:22 am ET
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Rajon Rondo (ankle) is doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Orlando Magic, head coach Doc Rivers said before the game. Stephon Marbury would get the start if Rondo does not play. Rondo slightly sprained his right ankle on Friday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers. He left the game with Celtics trainer Ed Lacerte but later returned to finish with six point and 10 assists.

Sounds of the game… Celtics 105, Cavaliers 94 03.07.09 at 12:30 am ET
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Before Friday’s game, Celtics assistant coach Armond Hill showed an inspirational video to the team, aimed specifically at young big men Leon Powe and Glen Davis.

No, it wasn’t Rocky or even Hoosiers. It was a film of the Celtics scoring basket after basket with their big men executing great interior passes. The result – the undermanned Celtics outscored the Cleveland Cavaliers 58-22 in the paint and rolled to a stunning 11-point win, 105-94, over the Eastern Conference leaders.

The Celtics didn’t have Kevin Garnett but they did have Leon Powe. The Celtics didn’t have Brian Scalabrine but they did have Glen Davis, at least for 17 minutes before he was ejected for a flagrant Type 2 foul with 9:09 remaining in the third quarter.

But Doc Rivers, who said at the shootaround in the morning that this would be a phenomenal win, had one of his best games of the season as head coach of the defending NBA champions. Just ask Mike Brown, his counterpart on the Cleveland bench.

Brown said the Celtics deserved all the credit for pulling together and pulling off the upset, even if it was on their home parquet.

For his part, Doc Rivers gave credit to Armond Hill for showing the video and his players for taking the lead.

Paul Pierce said Powe (20 points, 11 rebounds) and Davis (10 points) showed the depth the Celtics have.

Pierce said Davis’ ejection in the third quarter fired up the Green.

Leon Powe said he knew he was going to have to pick it up when Big Baby was thrown out.

Glen Davis said his foul of Anderson Varejao was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

LeBron James said, with or without Garnett, the Celtics are a great team.

King James said it’s hard to believe home team has won 15 straight in the series.

Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, Glen Baby Davis, LeBron James
The Captain guides the ship 03.07.09 at 12:10 am ET
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Never let it be said that Paul Pierce is not self-aware. As the Captain came off the floor, victorious over both the Cavaliers and LeBron James, he laid a couple of hard high-fives on some fans at courtside. A young man in a Cavs jersey held out his hand as well, but Pierce left him hanging. No Kevin Garnett? No problem. Pierce was conceding nothing to anyone in a Cavalier jersey.

In 45 minutes, Pierce took 22 shots, made 11 of them, scored 29 points, grabbed four rebounds, handed out nine assists (and had only two turnovers) and helped force the league’s best player into a 5-for-15 shooting performance. How good was Pierce? Let’s put it this way: If Larry had done what Pierce accomplished there would be hosannas in the paper tomorrow and testaments to his greatness. (Click here for a recap).

As it was, Pierce was happy to compliment the young bigs for a phenomenal performance and then he put the whole thing into perspective. “For us to get this was huge,” Pierce said. “We’re both going for homecourt advantage. For them to get a win would have been devastating, especially with the way they play at home.”

Without Garnett, this was something of a house money game for the Celtics. Yes, a loss would have left them in a precarious state in the race for homecourt–three game down in the loss column and a big game down in the series tiebreaker–but the flip side was all profit.

Win the game without KG and it’s a whole new set of circumstances for the Celtics. Nineteen games to go and mere percentage points separate the two teams.

What made Pierce’s performance all the more extraordinary was that he was not the offensive focus in the first half. Assistant coach Armond Hill had shown the team a tape of them at their best; moving the ball, making the extra pass, finishing plays. Add to that the Cavs strong defensive play on the perimeter and the plan was to go inside early and often.

“Cleveland is a great perimeter defensive team,” Pierce said. “They trap really hard on the pick and roll. They trap really hard on down screens. We made that extra pass all night long and we took advantage of it.”

The Celtics held a ridiculous 58-22 advantage on points in the paint, which more than offset the equally ridiculous 38-12 free throw discrepancy, and it resulted in huge nights for Kendrick Perkins, Big Baby Davis, Leon Powe and Mikki Moore.

But when it was winning time, when all the cards were on the table, it was Pierce who came to collect. For a while it looked like we would be in for another epic Pierce-James showdown in the fourth quarter, but in the end it was all Pierce.

With James sitting out the first few minutes of the fourth, Pierce went into attack mode on poor Wally Szczerbiak. After the Cavs cut the lead to seven, Pierce split a double-team and rolled to the basket for a layup. On the next possession he found Powe for a dunk. It was all coming so easy for him. With the C’s holding 10, Pierce got himself in the lane and hit an impossible fadeaway. To cap it off he took a gut-busting charge from Delonte West on the other end.

The roar of the crowd only added to his unstoppable flow. The fourth quarter has become Pierce’s time this year and it was again last night.

Pierce was asked about his matchup with James. “You want to make him play both ends of the court,” Pierce said. “It’s tremendously difficult. Numerous times I’ve guarded him over the years, I feel like he’s worn me down.”

On this night it was Pierce, one of the few players in the league who can even conceive of going mano-a-mano with the King who won the war of attrition.

The Celtics had the usual gameplan. Make James beat them from the outside. “Listen,” Doc Rivers said. “With LeBron it’s a make/miss game every time he plays.”

More often than not James missed. Whether it was a the effects of too many road games or too many minutes, or simply Pierce’s will (or more likely, a combination of all three) this was not LeBron’s night. It belonged to Paul Pierce.

Powe knows when to put on a show 03.06.09 at 11:54 pm ET
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The bigger the spotlight, the bigger he plays. Leon Powe does not always see major minutes, but when he is put on a national stage, he always seems to make the most of his time. Powe tries to show the world ‘€“ and his opponents ‘€“ just what he can do when given the opportunity.

‘€œEverybody knows their on TV, but you want to play well. You want to do your best,’€ he said following the Celtics 105-94 win over the Cavaliers (RECAP HERE). ‘€œI always focus every game, I prepare the same, but there’s just a certain feeling when you wake up in the morning like you know you’re playing a big game.’€

On Friday’s ESPN-televised game, Powe posted 20 points and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes. He is averaging just 6.7 points, 4.5 boards, and 16 minutes on the season. Not only was Powe aware of the implications of the game in a close Eastern Conference race, he also understood the consequences of a poor showing.

‘€œYou’ve got to go out there and do well,’€ he said. ‘€œYou don’t want to do bad because you’re family and people are probably going to call you, like ‘What were you doing? What happened on this play?’ So I try to be extra focused too and just try to make the right reads and the right plays. I think I did everything right tonight, so fortunately I did. And that was good because some nights you aren’t going to make them like that.’€

Of course Powe’s performance wasn’t driven by ego. He had no choice but to come up big for the Celtics to counter LeBron James and crew. The Celtics were already playing without forwards Kevin Garnett and Brian Scalabrine before Glen Davis was ejected for a Flagrant 2 Foul against Anderson Varejao.

‘€œThere’€™s a lot of relying on me to go in there and try to hold the paint down and just get rebounds and just play defense and score when I got some opportunities,’€ he said. ‘€œAnd I think I did that cause we’€™re missing a lot of people right now so I try to just do my best.’€

Powe officially introduced himself to the world during Game of the 2008 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. Considering how well he plays when the spotlight is on, expect more encore performances.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Leon Powe,
Celtics-Cavs Game Blog: Fourth Quarter 03.06.09 at 10:06 pm ET
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- Who will prove to be the better pick up? Marbury, Moore, and Smith are on the court in crunch time. Nothing better than being thrown to the wolves to get players ready for the postseason.

– Doc called Marbury over during free throws. As they talked, both put their hands on the other’s back. When was the last time Marbury seemed to get along this well with a coach?

– Big Z is getting everyone riled up tonight. This time he drew a controversial foul on Kendrick Perkins which sent the crowd into a tizzy.

– So much for Joe Smith’s jumper. Mikki Moore is showing off his mid-range game yet again. He is proving to be that legitimate back up center the Celtics never had in Patrick O’Bryant.

– Huge night for Leon Powe. In addition to his 18 points and 9 rebounds so far, he swatted a monster block followed up with a chance for a three-point play.

– Collision between Ray Allen and LeBron at half court. Both players fell to the ground after it looked like LeBron tried to set a hard pick. Everyone’s fine.

– Another tie up at halfcourt, this one reminding me of Pierce’s game-changing timeout during Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

– Looks like this is a rap. James and the Cavs starters are being yanked with 1:27 to go. Pierce is still in the game with 45 minutes.

– Now it’s really a rap. J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker are in.

- Final score … Celtics 105, Cavs 94

Celtics-Cavs Game Blog: Third Quarter 03.06.09 at 9:26 pm ET
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So, you’re the Celtics. You’re up by two points. That’s good. But LeBron James has not played well and you have to expect he’ll be better in the second half. That’s not good. So, are you happy with a two-point lead or are you thinking that you blew a chance to get a little distance on the scoreboard?

Probably a little bit of both.

What you are happy with, if you’re the Celtics, is the production of Leon Powe, Big Baby Davis and Kendrick Perkins who are eating up the Cavs big men. As noted in our preview this is one you just can’t predict and if you had figured on any of those above scenarios, well, congrats you are a hoops Nostradamus.

THIRD QUARTER WRAP: OK, so we had a minor fracas, an ejection, three technicals and a flagrant 2, an explosion from Paul Pierce and a smaller, but no less significant one from Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo has already racked up 10 assists.

The next 12 minutes could do no less than decide the rest of the regular season, homecourt, the playoffs, and the fate of the Republic. Not bad.

Third Quarter Observations

— At the risk of stating the obvious, that was a big shot for Ray Allen to make to open the half. We try to mix the obvious with the sublime. It’s what we do.

— Well, to quote Dick Stockton, you could see that coming. Perkins and Baby have had elbows for Anderson Varejao all night, and Varejao is a well-known instigator. That said that was a hard foul. A foul that wouldn’t have been out of place in the 80s or 90s. In the 00s it’s a Flagrant 2.

— So, Ray Allen and LeBron James got double T’s. Big Z got a regular T and Baby got a Flagrant 2. Got all that?

— Whoops. I didn’t. Baby Davis got ejected, which is automatic with a Flagrant 2. Got my flagrants confused. It’s hard to tell from courtside without numerous HD replays but that seems kind of dubious.

— I’m beginning to sense a Pierce-James battle looming, and I like it.

— OK Ray, here’s the play. Rondo will hit you on the break. You go hard to to the goal and when LeBron comes over, you bounce it off his chest, spin in the lane and make a layup on the other side. Got it? Ready, break!

— Not sure if it was visible on TV, but Perkins just caught Varejao with an elbow to the chops.

— This will be a test for Doc to see if he’s willing to take Pierce out of this game for a few minutes. Would he trust Bill Walker in this spot? Would he go small with three guards?

— Uh-oh. Pierce is feeling it. The guy behind me on that fast break 3: “No, no, no, yeah!”

— I hate this lineup for the Cavs. Wally has no shot of playing Powe inside. JJ Hickson is where?

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