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Celtics-Suns Game Blog: Third Quarter 01.19.09 at 9:27 pm ET
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And we’re back for the second half. Two questions: Can the Celtics play any better? Could the Suns play worse? I suspect we’ll find out in the first 5 or 6 minutes of the half if Phoenix can make it at least interesting. Let’s find out…

THIRD QUARTER WRAP: Give the Suns credit for not packing it in, but this one is ovah. I said at the end of the first quarter that this was the best the Celtics have played all year, and it hasn’t let up. We are now entering extended garbage time, so I hope Bill Walker is ready for some run.

If that’s not reason enough to watch, Jess will be sure to keep you entertained.

Third Quarter Observations

— I made a joke about Scal outplaying Amare Stoudemire in the first quarter, and lo and behold, Scal is still getting the better of the matchup. Stoudemire went hard to the basket on the first possession and got to the line. One would think he would be a little embarrassed after getting to one point in the first half.

— Rondo just got Shaq’d. R squared is dusting Steve Nash on the offensive end, as you might expect, but it didn’t take much for Shaq to get a big beefy paw on that one.

— I know it’s 26-point spread but now it’s getting fun. Nash has that look in his eye, like when Dallas refused to guard him in the playoffs a few years ago and he went beserk.

— Double-figure alert: Every one of the starters has at least 10 points, except for Scal, who does have the slam a da night.

— I was focusing so much on Amare I hadn’t even noticed that Jason Richardson hadn’t scored until that drive.

— Just so we’re all clear: Rajon Rondo is putting on an absolute show tonight and it doesn’t hurt that the opponent is Nash and the game is on TNT. Clinic.

— Turnovers tonight. Celtics 7, Phoenix 18. Couldn’t have gotten odds on those numbers.

— If Scal had dunked on Amare, I’m not sure the building would still be left standing. Kendrick Perkins says that he’s doing good, by the way. As much as he wanted to play against Shaq tonight, the Celtics need him more against Dwight Howard on Thursday.

— You can clearly see that the Suns are dog tired. Every outside shot is hitting the front rim, but still, this is just a horrific beatdown tonight. I’m sure the rest of the NBA is taking note.

Celtics-Suns Game Blog: Second Quarter 01.19.09 at 8:34 pm ET
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The second quarter gets under way with highlight’s from Lucky the Leprechaun’s guest appearance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. He got to the basket easier than the Phoenix Suns, who scored just 15 points in the first 12 minutes.

– Notable number: the Suns committed nine turnovers in the first quarter. They averaged 16 per game this season.

– At the first timeout the Celtics have pushed the lead up to 40-19. The Suns are up to 11 TOs.

– Before the game Big Baby dropped by the Suns locker room to visit Shaq. The big man was on his cell phone on the trainer’s table so Davis decided not to interrupt. All of his consideration was forgotten on the court when he drained a J over Shaq. Big Fella has the size, but Big Baby has the jumper. (Ok so it’s a work in progress … he airballed the next attempt.)

– Tonight’s Heroes Among Us Award was presented to 1968 Olympic gold medalist Tommie Smith and Charlene Carlos, the wife of 1968 Olympic bronze medalist John Carlos. Smith and Carlos raised black-gloved fists during their medal ceremony as a peaceful protest, which serves as an iconic moment in the civil rights movement.

– If you thought Scal and Shaq was a mismatch, imagine what happened after Louis Amundson tried to stop KG. Let’s just say Shaq had a few words for Amundson at the next whistle.

– Turnover count: 14 for the Suns.

– The Suns surpassed the Celtics first quarter total with a minute to go in the half.

- At the end of the first half … Celtics 64, Suns 34

Celtics-Suns Game Blog: First Quarter 01.19.09 at 8:01 pm ET
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We’re off to a late start on account of a fine press buffet and the presence of weei grand master Rob Bradford in line for said buffet. So we’ll dispense with the usual pleasantries and get right to it. It’s the Suns. It’s the Celtics. It’s Steve Nash and Rajon Rondo. It’s Amare Stoudemire and Kevin Garnett. It’s Shaquille O’Neal and Brian Scalabrine?

Let’s get it on…

FIRST QUARTER WRAP: The Celtics couldn’t have asked for more in the first 12 minutes. Well maybe if Scal had made that 3 at the end of the quarter, but then, Scal threw down a two-handed jam.

Fun stat of the quarter: The Celtics shot 24 times and made 14 of them. The Suns took 14 shots. That, friends, is domination.

First quarter observations

— You have to be in a coma (or a Dukie) to not be excited about this one tonight. Phoenix isn’t the best team in the West by a long shot, and you can make the argument that the Celtics aren’t the best team in the East anymore either, but the matchups are phenomenal. I’m giddy.

— KG opens up Shaq. As you all know the Celtics hate putting Garnett on a BIG big man. It will be interesting to see how long they stick with it.

— The Celtics say they are emphasizing fast starts. Ya think?

— Kind of jarring to go from Paul PIerce talking about Martin Luther King Day to Quiet Riot doing Come on Fell the Noize. Maybe a little Marvin Gaye would have been the play?

— The Celtics are pressing fullcourt, which makes sense when you consider that the Suns played yesterday and are not quite the running 7 Seconds or Less juggernaut of past years. See what a few days off can do for a team?

— Scal with the two-handed flush!

— For the record, with 5 minutes 11 seconds gone by Brian Scalabrine is outplaying Amare Stoudemire. This will probably not last.

— Baby’s coming in to wrestle with Shaq for a while. Garnett did everything he was supposed to do on the Big Fella. He stayed between him and the basket, he used his length to block a shot and he used his quickness to get a steal.

— Nash just got Rondo’d.

— Naturally that made me think of this:

— You know things are going well when you fumble three passes and still get a 3-on-1 layup. Best quarter of the season so far for the Celtics.

— The Suns are getting outworked, out-hustled and outplayed. Badly.

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.

‘€œAny 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. ‘€œWe 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.

‘€œI 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. ‘€œWe’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.

‘€œI’m pretty sure he knows how to defend the guards out there,’€ Stoudemir said of Richardson. ‘€œAs 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.

‘€œ[The key is] doing what we know is best for our team,’€ said Davis. ‘€œWe 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).

‘€œWe’ve got to go out there and play defense as soon as they cross half court, even before,’€ said Powe. ‘€œPut 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.

‘€œNothing different,’€ he said of his gameplan. ‘€œI’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.

‘€œI just try to use my body to my advantage,’€ said Davis. ‘€œThat’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.

‘€œI 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. ‘€œI’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.

‘€œI just think you’ve got to be physical,’€ he said. ‘€œBe 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.

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