|Suns expecting big game from Shaq||01.19.09 at 7:38 pm ET|
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.”
|LeBron isn’t Celtics biggest competition||01.08.09 at 9:54 pm ET|
Ask the Boston Celtics who their toughest competition in the East is and they won’t say LeBron James. They’ll tell you it is themselves who stand in their way of another title, that only they can control the fate of their season. On Friday night when the suddenly skidding Celtics take the court against the Cleveland Cavaliers, their biggest challenge is not stopping King James. It is simply not getting beat by their own mistakes.
“I really don’t care who we play next,” Ray Allen said. “It’s just, I look at it personally as an opportunity to get back on track to do what I need to do to help this team. Every little thing that I look at that has my input or my stamp individually for this team, I’ve got to find out ways to do it better, to make it better out there.”
After winning 19-straight, the Celtics are on a three-game losing streak and have dropped six of their last eight contests. At this point they aren’t seeing Friday as a chance to beat an Eastern Conference rival but rather an opportunity to get back on track.
“The thing about our team is that we don’t ever look ahead. Now that we’ve got Cleveland, we’re concentrating on Cleveland. But we never once had just talked about beating Cleveland,” Kendrick Perkins said. “We need a win. We’re desperate for one right now.”
Even though winning on the road has been a struggle for the Celtics this season, spoiling the Cavs perfect home record is a test they are up for.
“We have an opportunity to go in down there playing one of the best teams in the league,” Leon Powe said. “They’re real hot at home too. I think they’ve won about 18 straight in their house. Man, it’s going to be a challenge. But we’ve got a wonderful opportunity to go in there and play well and hopefully pull out a win to give us a big confidence boost.”
A win in Cleveland would do more than get the Celtics back on the winning side. The Eastern Conference standings are so close this season that an early January victory could pay dividends in the playoffs.
“Really, we’re just trying to win all the games we possibly can and get homecourt advantage,” Perkins said. “That just would make it a little bit easier for us in the playoffs. But if we don’t get homecourt advantage I’m not saying we won’t win he championship, but it’d really be a whole lot harder.”
With an electrified crowd behind them, the Cavs will also look to avenge last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinals elimination. The biggest key is matching their intensity.
“It has the same sense of urgency,” Powe said. “We’ve got to go out there, play hard, it’s going to be just like a Game 7. They’re going to come at us and try to hit us in the mouth first. We’ve got to take it and then respond back. We haven’t been doing that as of lately but I think we should be alright going out there. Our captains and everybody on this team know what we’ve got to do to win the game.”
Playing hard is one thing, but the Celtics don’t have a panicked attitude toward the game. Allen added the team has not reached the point of frustration yet, and Sam Cassell, the only member of the Celtics who has won back-to-back titles, explained there’s no need to get flustered this early in January.
“When you’re repeating you’ve got all that stuff with big matchups, but it doesn’t matter,” he said. “You want to win every game possible but it doesn’t make you or break you. A team that got its rhythm in April going into the playoffs is a team that can win a championship … Why should we [worry]? We aren’t breaking .500. When I won a championship we were 10 games over .500, that’s all.”
The Celtics won 19 straight by focusing on one day at a time. After Friday night they have 44 more regular season games left and each one is just as important as a match up against LeBron James. It doesn’t matter who’s on the opposite side of the court. The Celtics have to take care of the five guys in green first.
“It wouldn’t have made a difference if it were Cleveland or Sacramento,” Allen said. “It wouldn’t have made a difference. We lost three in a row and that’s the mentality we have to have going into the game.”
|The Champ Returns Home||12.26.08 at 2:37 pm ET|
Leon Powe is one of the most down-to-earth players in the NBA. But even he can’t hide his pride of winning a championship, especially when he returns to the Bay Area for the Boston Celtics west coast road trip.
“It feels great. When I go back home whether it’s Oakland, LA, they call me the champ. I told them that’s my new name,” Powe said with a laugh. “But it feels good just going back and seeing my family.”
Being called champ means nothing compared to spending time with his six younger siblings, all of whom Powe takes care of in one way or another. Playing against the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings this weekend will allow them to catch their big brother in action.
“It’s going to be great for me,” Powe said. “I’ve got my little brothers and sisters back there — I’ve got a lot of them — and they’ve been following each and every game. That’s big for me and them.”
Powe has more ties to the Bay Area community than just his family. The Oakland native runs free basketball clinics at the “Powe Folks” Camp — “I don’t really need the money like that, so I let the kids in,” he explains – and is developing a family services program to pair children with mentors and offer them life skills and guidance.
On the court he is teaching his opponents a lesson of his own – don’t send him to the line. Powe ranks second among all NBA reserves in free throws. He has also gotten to the line more than any of his teammates except for Paul Pierce. To put that in perspective, he has taken 41 more free throws than Kevin Garnett in 493 less minutes.
“Whatever you do, make it aggressive,” Powe said. “I’m more confident, settled down out there. So whenever [Celtics coach Doc Rivers] puts me out there, I know what I want to do and how I want to do it. I’m taking my time instead of rushing my shots. If I have a smaller guy on me I’ll take my time, knowing I can get anything I want. And just reading the scouting reports, too.”
This weekend the scouting report on Powe should read, aggressive power player hungry for a win in front of his family.
“I just like the physical play,” he said. “I don’t shy away from contact.”
|Celtics-Pistons Game Blog: Second Quarter||11.20.08 at 6:53 pm ET|
SECOND QUARTER WRAP: The Celtics second unit was hot early in the second and pushed the lead up to 38-27. But the Pistons got physical and are within nine half. They’re looking to battle and the Celtics will have to come out hot in the third quarter to stave off a comeback.
Halftime Notes and Numbers:
- Iverson leads all scorers with 12. Rondo and Tony Allen lead the Celtics with 9 apiece.
- Both teams have 16 points in the paint and the rest of the stat lines are very similar.
- The Pistons are outrebounding the Celtics 18-16 while the Celtics have one more assist, 11-10.
Paul has you covered after a entertaining halftime performance by the Bucket Boys.
- At the half, Celtics 49, Pistons 40
- Two days after saying KG is “crazier” than him on the court, Perk got T’ed up at the end of the second after Maxiell fouled Pierce at the hoop.
- There is talk of a heated relationship between UConn alums Ray Allen and Rip Hamilton, but few details are known. We’re getting a glimpse into that tonight with Hamilton knocking Allen over for an offensive foul. Hamilton had something to say about it as they ran down the court.
- A little kid dressed in an oversized Bill Walker jersey just won Sarah Brightman tickets in a tot-sized road race. What are the chances he has her songs on iTunes?
- The Celtics have their starters back on the court and the Pistons have all but Wallace out there.
- Both Ray Allen and House have missed free throws this quarter. It was House’s first miss of the season and Allen’s fourth.
- Eddie House is feeling it. After Powe swatted away a Prince drive, House nailed a three on the fast break. He drained another trey on the next possession, prompting the Pistons to call a timeout down 38-27.
- Rip Hamilton completely faked out Tony Allen at the top of the key. TA has learned from his mistakes and didn’t get tricked into fouling him on the shot a la last season against Chauncey Billups.
- During a timeout the Celtics played their first “slow dance” of the year on the Jumbotron. It was a slo-mo of awesomely bad dance moves from the Garden set to the awesomely bad Lonestar ballad, “Amazed.”
- Now Aaron Afflalo is guarding Powe (??) … now Afflalo’s on the ground. Powe’s at the line shooting two.
- Scal for three. And the crowd goes wild.
- I was hoping for a physical match up between Powe and Maxiell considering the trouble the Pistons big man gave Perk last season. But Big Baby is on Maxiell and Powe has Prince. Powe should be able to back Prince down in the paint.
- For the first time in a while, Doc is going with an entire second unit. Usually he leaves PIerce or Ray Allen on the court with the reserves, but now he’s giving the lineup of Scal, Powe, Davis, Tony Allen, and House a look. Michael Curry’s going with Iverson, Stuckey, Prince, Afflalo, and Wallace.
- After another slow start, the Celtics enter the second quarter tied 21-21 with the Pistons.
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 110, Knicks 101||11.18.08 at 9:28 pm ET|
And let it begin. Quentin Richardson against the world, or at least the world champion Boston Celtics.
He didn’t hold back following Tuesday’s loss in Boston. He accused the Celtics of throwing their title, their rings and everything else in his face in the form of trash talk.
What could turn out to be a facsinating storyline if the Knicks remain relevant throughout the season evolved Tuesday night into a backyard brawl. Just listen to ‘Q’ explain his side of the story.
Tensions flared in the second quarter when Richardson actually played peace-maker, separating his teammate Zach Randolph from Leon Powe under the Knicks basket as the two began to get into it.
One thing is for sure, our Jessica Camerato doesn’t have it wrong. She has as terrific look back at last year, showing that this isn’t the first time Richardson has popped off in Boston’s direction. Check out that and more on the Celtics Game Day Blog.
Oh by the way, the stars of the game did have something to say about how the Celtics managed to win without Kevin Garnett.
|Celtics-Knicks Game Blog: Second Quarter||at 6:11 pm ET|
Trailing 35-32 with eight minutes left in the second quarter, the Celtics outscored the Knicks 25-12 to take a 56-47 lead at the half.
The quarter was anything but calm with runs, drives, hard fouls, and even a scuffle at the hoop …
- It’s ironic that I talked to Leon Powe before the game about what KG has taught him about maintaining his composure in heated game situations. Powe and Randolph were just given technical fouls for a tussle under the Knicks basket. The two had to be separated by their teammates and have been exchanging frozen stares at each other down the court. Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck was spotted giving the “eject him” sign to the refs. “He always talks to us about that, especially me, just about keeping my composure even when i’m mad and if I want to go back at somebody, you go back at somebody by taking your time and really doing it in the game and the team concepts,” Powe said of Garnett. Hmm …
- There is a life-sized Nutracker walking around the Garden. The costume is part of the Boston Ballet’s halftime performance, but for those who are unaware of the entertainment, it just looks creepy.
- Timeout with six minutes to go and the Celtics second unit has taken over with a 45-37 lead. So far they have knocked the Knicks down to 44% field goal shooting while boosting their own to nearly 70%. The reserves are playing with a fiery intensity that has Pierce clapping and encouraging them in the huddle.
- Two smart moves by Tony Allen: the first, an aggressive drive to the basket that he finished off with a layup and the second, a drive and dish to Big Baby for the jumper that he’s been perfecting.
- The question tonight was, who will make up for Garnett? While KG is irreplacebale, it’s Powe who is stepping up in the post. He has eight points in eight minutes of play and he could easily wind up with 15 tonight.
- Rivers has Ray Allen playing with the second unit (Eddie House, Tony Allen, Glen Davis, Leon Powe). They give up a lot of size with this lineup but are going for defensive stops. It also helps the Celtics that the Knicks leading scorers, Quentin Richardson and Wilson Chandler, are taking a breather.
- The Celtics looked like they had control early on but enter the second quarter allowing the Knicks to shoot 52% from the field. Seven turnovers haven’t helped the Cs either. Let’s see what they can do …
At the start of the second quarter … Knicks 28, Celtics 26
… Paul brings you the action for the third …
|Pregame: Scal to Start against Knicks||at 5:12 pm ET|
Brian Scalabrine will get the start on Tuesday night against the New York Knicks in place of the suspended Kevin Garnett. Doc Rivers went with Scal to keep in second unit in tact. This will be just the 51st start of Scal’s eight-year career and 28th with the Celtics.
Garnett’s suspension was the hot topic before the game for both teams. Rivers cited Shaquille O’Neal’s recent fine in comparison to Garnett’s punishment. “I was just surprised. I’m not going to get into this long because I thought it was a ridiculous suspension. I really did,” he said. Rivers also pointed out that KG isn’t even allowed in the building tonight.
Inside the Celtics locker room Garnett’s teammates were cautious when giving their opinion of the ruling.
“Ya’ll want me to say something bad, huh?” Kendrick Perkins said with a smile before adding, “I don’t know, it’s kind of crazy. But you know it’s something we’ve got to deal with. I think he’s handling it well but what can we do about it?”
Said Leon Powe, “Well I can’t really say but, you know, I wouldn’t have suspended him for that. But it’s the league and there are rules so whatever they decide, we’ve got to roll with. So now we’ve got to go out there with KG but we’ve got to still be a team and we’ve still got to go out there and fight and play together.”
As for the Knicks, they are looking to take advantage of the defensive void on the Celtics. “KG is pretty much the anchor defensively,” said Jamal Crawford. “He really gets after it defensively but they’re still a good defensive team without KG. But with him, he just takes them to a different level. It’ll be a lot of similar things that we were going to do before but you make minor adjustments.”
Paul and I will be bringing out the latest live from the TD BankNorth Garden, so tune in during the game for all the most up-to-date information.