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Suns expecting big game from Shaq 01.19.09 at 7:38 pm ET
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The Phoenix Suns have the size advantage almost every game with Shaquille O’Neal. Take the Boston Celtics biggest player off the court and the Suns are feeling good about the mismatch.

“Any time we get an opportunity to have a size difference with Shaq in the paint, we always try to go to him,” Amare Stoudemire said prior to Monday’s game. “We try to feed it to him, see if he can take advantage of that. And if not, we go to our other options. So tonight will be a pretty good night for Big Fella if he can dominate out there and stay out of foul trouble.”

The Celtics have to alter their plan of attack without Kendrick Perkins (shoulder). Doc Rivers is looking for Kevin Garnett to use his quickness to outplay Shaq, while the biggest mission for back ups Leon Powe, Glen Davis, and Brian Scalabrine is keeping a body between O’Neal and the basket. The Suns, though, aren’t changing their gameplan.

“I think it changes the fact that having Scalabrine starting as opposed to Kendrick Perkins, that’s a bit of a difference. But as opponents we can’t look at it that way,” said Stoudemire. “We’ve got to attack it as if he were playing, so we should go inside to the big fella. Shaq should have a pretty good game tonight.”

The Suns are one of the few teams who figured out the key to beating the Celtics last season. Stoudemire scored 28 points off of 10-for-23 shooting and Steve Nash added 18 in the Suns’ 85-77 victory. Combine that with former Charlotte Bobcat Jason Richardson’s success against the Cs and the Suns think they know how to get it done tonight.

“I’m pretty sure he knows how to defend the guards out there,” Stoudemir said of Richardson. “As a team, we’ve just got to pull together. We beat them last year, Bobcats beat them. What we’ve got to do is just keep playing how we’ve been playing.”

Read More: Amare Stoudemire, Boston Celtics, Brian Scalabrine, Doc Rivers
Uncovering Allen’s Game 01.19.09 at 12:13 pm ET
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Ray Allen makes basketball look easy. He could knock down three-pointers in his sleep, right? Allen is featured on the cover of the latest issue of The Improper Bostonian, where he explains that his game isn’t as effortless as it seems.

A long time ago, somebody told me that they thought God had blessed me with a jump shot, and the ability to be a great NBA player. That surprised me. I was like, ‘Do you really believe that?’ God blessed me with health, a healthy family and the ability to go out and find for myself what I wanted to do. He granted me with the competitive drive to want to be the best and the sound mind to accomplish my goals. But that came through focus and dedication, not from some Godgiven right.

Allen’s dedication to his professional and personal life made him an easy choice for the cover story. Away from basketball he is involved with the Joslin Diabetes Center, where his son Walker received treatment for Type 1 Diabetes.

“Since it’s our Man issue, Ray Allen seemed like the perfect fit,” said Megan Lisagor, editor of The Improper Bostonian. “He embodies the qualities of a good guy–dedicated on the court to his craft and off the court to causes like juvenile diabetes. He’s focused and humble. Not to mention, he’s incredibly smooth!”

This issue of The Improper Bostonian hits newsstands this week.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Improper Bostonian, Ray Allen,
Game Preview: A Tall Task 01.19.09 at 11:02 am ET
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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.

“[The key is] doing what we know is best for our team,” said Davis. “We 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).

“We’ve got to go out there and play defense as soon as they cross half court, even before,” said Powe. “Put 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.

“Nothing different,” he said of his gameplan. “I’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.

“I just try to use my body to my advantage,” said Davis. “That’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.

“I 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. “I’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.

“I just think you’ve got to be physical,” he said. “Be 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.

The Scalabrine Streak 01.17.09 at 3:58 pm ET
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After a 20-point win over the New Jersey Nets on Saturday (RECAP HERE), the Boston Celtics are 5-0 with Brian Scalabrine in their starting lineup. It is an improbable stat for a player who often times was one of the last off the bench.

1-0: November 18, 2008
Celtics 110, Knicks 101

Scalabrine gets his first start of the season with Kevin Garnett serving a one-game suspension. He hits key trey late in the fourth to secure a dwindling Celtics lead. Scalabrine finishes the night with eight points and three rebounds.

2-0: January 11, 2009
Celtics 94, Raptors 88

In his first start at the center position in place of Kendrick Perkins, Scalabrine proves he’s no pushover when he holds his own in an altercation with Joey Graham. He scores seven points and the Celtics are a team-high +15 with him on the court.

3-0: January 12, 2009
Celtics 115, Raptors 109

Scalabrine scores eight of his 11 points in the third quarter to combat a threatening Raptors run. He knocks down a field goal and pair of threes in just nine minutes in front of a Garden crowd who can’t get enough of the fan favorite.

4-0: January 14, 2009
Celtics 118, Nets 86

Before the game Scalabrine says he can’t focus on the match up with 7’ Brook Lopez. Instead he focuses on the team and adds nine points and four rebounds in 27 minutes for the Celtics.

5-0: January 17, 2009
Celtics 105, Nets 85

Scalabrine continues to spread the offense and helps the Celtics get out to an 18-2 lead. Not only is Scalabrine effective at the basket (11 points, 4 rebounds), he makes James Posey-esque hustle plays to add a spark to the starting lineup.

Perkins is questionable for Monday’s game against the Phoenix Suns, which would put Scalabrine’s undefeated record on the line against Shaquille O’Neal. Even though Scalabrine was wide-eyed when he said Perkins is best suited to handle O’Neal, the feisty red-head is never one to back down from a challenge.

Celtics to serve 150 home-cooked meals 01.16.09 at 11:01 am ET
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This Sunday members of the Boston Celtics will serve home-cooked meals to 150 homeless men and women at the Boston Rescue Mission. Kendrick Perkins, Patrick O’Bryant, Gabe Pruitt, and Bill Walker will distribute meals prepared by members of the Celtics staff as part of the Celtics Shamrock Foundation and Martin Luther King Day. For more information on the Celtics Shamrock Foundation’s community outreach, visit www.celtics.com.

Read More: Bill Walker, Boston Celtics, Gabe Pruitt, Kendrick Perkins
Lucky on Conan tonight 01.15.09 at 10:48 am ET
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Lucky the Leprechaun is taking his act to late night TV. The Boston Celtics mascot will make an appearance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien tonight. The show airs at 12:35am EST on NBC. Guests also include Bob Costas, Fred Armisen, and Robert Schimmel. Tune in to see if Conan gets in on Lucky’s high flying antics.

Sounds of the game… Celtics 118, Nets 86 01.15.09 at 10:37 am ET
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When the Celtics were in the midst of a slump that had them losing seven of nine, captain Paul Pierce said they needed to get their swagger back, especially on defense.

Well they can thank the Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets for helping them to regain some of the confidence that was on display when they opened the season 27-2.

Pierce hit all five of his three-pointers in the third quarter as the Celtics romped to their thrid straight win. This looked more like the romps that were common place in the first two months of the season. The defense forced 20 turnovers and even without Kendrick Perkins, the Green dominated the glass. And on the offensive side, Rajon Rondo, when he wasn’t throwing in half-hooks, dished out 12 assists helping the Celtics ease to their 32nd win, by 32 points.

Doc Rivers said the team’s rhythm isn’t back but it’s getting there.

Paul Pierce feels the team’s confidence is coming back slowly but surely.

Pierce on his five three-pointers in the third quarter.

Rajon Rondo said the team is playing better after their 2-7 dip.

Rondo said he can sense the team is starting to play better together.

Eddie House said the Celtics are getting back to where they were early in season.

Bill Walker said his improved defense will keep him up with the Celtics.

Nets coach Lawrence Frank said the Celtics just kicked the Nets good.

Next up for the Celtics, after a day off on Thursday and practice on Friday, a rematch with the Nets in New Jersey on Saturday afternoon.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, eddie house, Lawrence Frank
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