|Sounds of the game… Magic 86, Celtics 79||03.08.09 at 4:00 pm ET|
It was clear from the start that the Celtics missed Rajon Rondo. To a man, afterward, everyone was quick to give Stephon Marbury props for doing his best, but Marbury has only been in Green for nine days. It’s hard to expect someone, even of his talent, to just step in and replace Rondo, who did not dress with a sprained right ankle.
Marbury got his first start but the Celtics were out of rhythm from the start, falling behind by 20 in the first half and commiting 11 turnovers.
Ray Allen led a furious fourth-quarter comeback but it fell short in the end as his three-pointer to tie with 35 seconds remaining was off the mark and the Celtics fell, 86-79.
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 105, Cavaliers 94||03.07.09 at 12:30 am ET|
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.
|‘We see them as a real threat’…||03.06.09 at 1:22 pm ET|
As the Celtics shot around at their training facility in Waltham, everyone wanted to know what the Celtics needed to do to beat King James and the Cavaliers without last season’s defensive player of the year and the team’s heart and emotional soul in a suit for at least another week.
“He ran yesterday, he told me, on the treadmill, which I’m sure was supervised,” Rivers said. “And he said he felt great so he’s feeling a lot better. That’s the first day he’s been able to run so we’ll take it day-to-day from that point on.”
“It’s the whole knee thing. We’re just going to take our time. I would say at least a week out and most likely, longer.”
As for tonight’s battle to end all battles, at least for the next 24 hours, Rivers, possibly looking back on last year’s Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semis, pointed out what it really means, especially if they could pull it off without Garnett, Brian Scalabrine and Tony Allen.
“It’s a big game,” Rivers said. “Obviously, home court is at stake here. And it would be a great win for us, to beat them at their full strength and us not having Kevin, Scal and Tony, I think it would be a phenomenal win for us. We’ll be ready.”
The Celtics have allowed their last two opponents to score over 100 points while a third, Indiana scored 99 last Friday.
“We want to win, really, and we have to find a way to do that,” Rivers said. “We’ve got to improve defensively. Over the last couple of games, we have not played our defense, especially transition-wise. And if we don’t get back tonight, it’s going to be a long night. That’s what we have to improve.
“We’ve won games and we’ve lost to a couple of good teams, which I can always live with even though you never want to lose, but our defense hasn’t been consistent and for us to be a good offensive team, we have to have multiple stops and we have to get back to that.”
But maybe it was Leon Powe who provided the best perspective of all on Friday morning, a mere nine hours before tip.
“It’s real good for us because we’ve been looking forward to this game,” Powe said of the test. “If you want to be the best you’ve got to beat the best. I know the road to the championship means you’ve got to knock us off. We see them as a real threat. We’ve got to go out there and play our best and hopefully both teams put on a good show and hopefully we come out on top.”
|Who needs Marbury?||02.07.09 at 12:06 am ET|
NEW YORK — There is a fur-lined coat and baseball cap hanging in Stephon Marbury’s locker. They don’t belong to Marbury, though. Al Harrington is using the empty space for storage. Many of the Knicks don’t need Marbury or his belongings in their locker room. In fact, they aren’t sure who needs him either.
‘It’s hard to say,’ said Jared Jeffries. ‘There’s a lot of ‘what ifs.”
There is no question Marbury is a talented point guard, his teammates don’t deny that. He is a two-time All-Star with a career average of nearly 20 points and eight assists per game over the course of 11 years. These are numbers that rival premiere point guards like Dwyane Wade, Allen Iverson, and Chris Paul.
‘Obviously Steph is an experienced guard,’ said David Lee. ‘He’s been in the league a long time. He’s been through the battles in the West and the battles in the East. He’s a guy that’s obviously a very skilled player.’
‘He’s definitely a talented player,’ he said. ‘He’s a big guard, he’s a really good scorer, he’s scored a lot in this league. He’s a good point guard, he really is talent-wise. He’s a really good point guard so any time you have a talent like that you could use that.’
Yet the Knicks don’t want to use that talent. The experience and stats are there, but is the potential to help a team win it all? While rookie Anthony Roberson praised his mentorship off the court, his teammates are indecisive about what he has to offer anymore.
‘I don’t know,’ Lee said of Marbury’s abilities to help a team in the running for the title. ‘I’m not sure if he’s ever been to the Finals. I could be wrong. It’ll be interesting to see and it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Steph and New York and if he does get released or if he decides to go to another team. I heard them talking about that during the TNT game against L.A. the other night. That should be interesting.’
What’s more interesting is the fact that Lee has been Marbury’s teammate since 2005 and he can’t form a decisive opinion. But teams like the world champion Boston Celtics have still expressed interest in Marbury, dramatics and all. So why, if a team of that caliber is willing to take a closer look at him, can’t his teammates who know his game best speak to his value?
Don’t ask Nate Robinson. Even though he entered the NBA as Marbury’s back up, he no longer feels comfortable commenting on the issue. The one thing the Knicks are certain on is their choice of point guard this season. Chris Duhon leads the floor without the drama, an asset they’d take any day.
‘He’s a guy that really knows how to play the game,’ Lee said of Duhon. ‘But we are very happy with what Chris has done this year. I’m not sure you could ask for any more than Chris has done. Steph’s a great guard, but we’re very happy with Duhon.’
The fur-lined coat and baseball cap still hung in Stephon Marbury’s locker after the Celtics banned together to beat the Knicks on Friday night. They won with a fourth quarter push fueled by communication and chemistry. It’s the type of victory may not have been possible if Marbury’s belongings were hanging in a Celtics locker.
|Sounds of the game… Lakers 110, Celtics 109 OT||02.06.09 at 6:49 am ET|
Forget the NBA Finals of last June. Thursday night’s regular season game between the Celtics and Lakers at TD Banknorth Garden went a long way to restoring one of the sport’s great all-time rivalries.
And just listening to Doc Rivers‘ verbal tirade to the referees in the hallway proves how much this one hurt for the Green.
Rivers COULD NOT believe a hand check was not called on the Lakers as they tried to throw Ray Allen’s timing off at the end of overtime with Allen having the ball and a chance to win the game just like he did 48 hours earlier in Philadelphia.
“That was a hand check!” Rivers exclaimed in the hallway as the Celtics filed to their locker room, past the officials’ room on the right.
Then there was the sparring between Kobe Bryant and Rajon Rondo, as Bryant, who was held to 26 points on 10-of-29 shooting, waved his finger in Rondo’s face in the third quarter. That was followed minutes later by Lamar Odom and Kevin Garnett going toe-to-toe before calmer heads prevailed. And lest we forget the rivalry between the two coaches.
Phil Jackson was peeved when Doc Rivers was given a sports-drink shower on the court in the closing minutes of Game 6 of The Finals last June. Jackson said after the game that he didn’t think Garnett looked like he was ready to return from the flu. Oh really Phil?
This game meant a lot to both teams.
It meant the end of Boston’s 12-game winning streak, meaning the Lakers have ended their 19-game AND 12-game runs this season. It meant that Los Angeles has swept the season series and holds the tie-breaker should the two teams end up deadlocked at the end of the season.
For the Lakers, it meant beating a team that seven months earlier humiliated them on the same court by 39 points in the most embarrassing loss in franchise history. They remembered the Gatorade shower that Rivers received from Pierce and Co. as Boston claimed its 17th title.
And it showed that these Lakers, even without big man Andrew Bynum, COULD play defense when it mattered and they won’t be pushed around anymore.
Here’s how both teams articulated it.
|Is this really just another game?||at 12:35 am ET|
No one on the Los Angeles Lakers is more outspoken about his feelings toward the Boston Celtics than Sasha Vujacic. Make no mistake, he is not over last season’s loss in the NBA Finals. Less than a year later, the emotional wound is still very open.
‘I wouldn’t say it’s hatred,’ Vujacic said before the Lakers overtime win against the Celtics (RECAP HERE). ‘It’s just hard when you lose in the Finals to forget about it and say life goes on. It doesn’t go on. I’m always going to be kind of scarred.’
Kind of scarred? Vujacic won’t even wear green — ‘I’ve seen too much green in June’ — but he doesn’t think these sentiments are over the top. Any player who claims it’s just another game, he attests, isn’t being honest.
‘I think that if you go in the Celtics locker room and you ask them about us, they’re going to have the same opinion. The only difference is they have a championship ring and they have a trophy at home,’ he said. ‘I would say that for both teams, no matter what they say or no matter what people think, it will never, ever be ‘just another game’ against the Celtics or against the Lakers.’
For many of the Celtics, this wasn’t just another game. As Ray Allen explained, the Celtics were the hunted against a Lakers team looking for revenge. The Cs knew the Lakers were going to attack with a Game Seven mentality and they wanted to match that energy.
‘We approach it as an intense playoff atmosphere,’ Allen said. ‘We definitely don’t take it lightly. It’s a very intense moment for us. We look forward to it and the focus in the locker room is pretty intense … Now we’re on the other side of the fence where we’ve got to pick it up and we’ve got to get momentum going here into the playoffs.’
Kendrick Perkins agreed.
‘I thought it was very physical. I thought it was a playoff-type atmosphere game,’ he said. ‘It wasn’t a make-or-break for the season, no doubt about it, but we wanted to win the game. You could tell, any time we go through a game like that, hard fought, you just want to get the win.’
There may have been a playoff atmosphere but that doesn’t mean this game has the ramifications of a postseason match up. Nobody won a ring, no one was sent home for the summer.
‘What was it? Game 51? It was Game 51,’ said Eddie House. ‘I think they feel like they won the Finals, the way they were celebrating out there, and it’s Game 51. I think it just meant more to them to come in here and be able to get that monkey off their back to feel like, oh they can get a win out here. So that’s behind us. I think it meant more to them but we just keep it moving.’
At the end of overtime the Celtics were the world champions while the Lakers were still seeking to take the title away. But seasons are not decided in February. Ultimately, it is just another game in the grand scheme of the regular season. Even Vujacic, open wound and all, isn’t celebrating just yet.
‘We don’t celebrate,’ he said after the game. ‘We celebrate in June.’
|Sobe Kobe…||02.05.09 at 1:43 pm ET|
That simple message was delivered at Thursday morning’s shoot-around here in Waltham, mere hours before they take on the reigning NBA MVP and his Lakers on the parquet of the TD Banknorth Garden.
That, and we’re not changing what we do just for Kobe.
“We just play him,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers announced. “We don’t have any Kobe rules or anything like that. We play our defense every night. We literally don’t change our style. Rarely, we may change them for a possession here or there, but you just try to keep him in front of you and wish for the best of luck because he’s tough. If it were easy to defend him, he wouldn’t be Kobe.”
“They’re a good basketball team,” Rivers said. “They’re no different. Obviously, they miss Bynum’s length but they’re going to get through the regular season and get him back for the playoffs and they’ll be fine. Kobe has clearly picked it up the last couple of games but so has Gasol. Gasol has had 31 points the last couple of games himself.”
Yes, Kobe has gone off for a combined 97 points against the 21-27 Knicks and the 19-32 Raptors this week.
“We didn’t play in any of those games that we know of,” Rivers keenly observed. “We can’t do anything about that. That’s the way we always look at that. Let’s hope he doesn’t score 97 tonight. That would be very important for us trying to win this game, I can tell you that.”
Ask Rajon Rondo and the Celtics point guard is quick (and right) to point out that the Knicks have just as much to do with the 61 Kobe scored on Monday at MSG as anything else.
“He’s a great player,” Rondo said. “Sixty-one doesn’t happen all the time in the league but a lot of great scorers go off at times. That was transistion game he played against the Knicks. LeBron had 52 last night. That’s just the style (the Knicks) play.”
And yes, the Los Angeles Lakers come to town tonight with a Western Conference-best 39-9 mark, winners of four straight, playing on the same court they suffered their most humiliating loss in franchise history, that 39-point quit job last June in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
“I’m sure they’ve seen it enough,” Rivers said. “I’m sure no one’s run that on TV at all. Well, they should be. Why wouldn’t they be? They’ll be up for the game. We’ll be up for the game.”
Therein lies the key difference between the Celtics and the Lakers. The Lakers are all about superstars, albeit great scoring superstars, but individuals nonetheless. The Celtics, during their second double-digit winning streak of the season, have built their dominance around defense.
Yes, the Celtics are weakened a little by the flu bug that has run through Kevin Garnett and the rest of the team.
“He felt strong,” Rivers said of Garnett at this morning’s shootaround in Waltham. “He’s fine. We’ll find out tonight. It’s easy to feel strong in a shoot-around but when you’re running up and down the floor when you haven’t done it, that’s a different story. I think there are six guys on Z-Paks, probably all due to Kevin, who knows.”
Z-Paks, for those who didn’t go to medical or pharmaceutical school, are antibiotics given to help those fighting off viruses.
The Celtics will want to be at full strength as they try to ward off Kobe and the Lakers.
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