|Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic||11.30.08 at 10:01 pm ET|
On Monday night the Boston Celtics (16-2) will take on the Orlando Magic (13-4) at the TD BankNorth Garden. The presence of Dwight Howard makes the Magic an Eastern Conference contender but, despite successful regular season records, Superman hasn’t been able to carry his team to the Eastern Conference Finals. After last season, the road to the championship goes through Boston and the Magic surely know it. Monday’s game could be a preview of a future postseason battle.
In the Last Five Games ‘¦
The Celtics enter this game on an eight-game winning streak while the Magic have won their last four. Both teams have been running up the scoreboard in the last five games. The Celtics have averaged 104.6 points while winning by an average 13.8 points; the Magic have averaging 102.8 ppg while winning by a less impressive 6.6 ppg. They have been nearly identical on the glass. Even though Howard leads the league in blocks, the Celtics have the slight advantage as of late. The Cs have also held their opponents to less than 18 assists per game, a troubling stat for the Magic who have been playing without point guard Jameer Nelson.
Dwight Howard looks to bring his show-stopping antics to Boston and dominate his way through the paint. Howard (21.8 ppg, 13.9 rpg, 3.9 bpg) will be a challenging match up for the foul-prone Kendrick Perkins. The only silver lining for the Celtics is Howard’s inconsistency at the free throw line (57.3% FT). He shot 21-42 in three games against the Cs last season.
All Banged Up
While this game could be a playoff preview, it will be without a handful of key players. The Magic’s Jameer Nelson (hip), Mickael Pietrus (thumb), and Keith Bogans (thumb) suffered early-season injuries. This leaves holes at the point guard spot, on the wing, and on the bench. The Celtics should expect to see more of shooting guards J.J. Redick and Courtney Lee. Veteran PG Anthony Johnson has been starting in place of Nelson and will try to contain the streaking Rajon Rondo. These injuries are depleting the Magic reserves and creating a daunting task to stop the Celtics deep bench.
In the past five games the Magic have held their opponents to a staggering 28% from three-point range. Their biggest challenge will be stopping Ray Allen, who is shooting 56% from downtown during that same stretch. On the contrary, Paul Pierce is shooting just 15.4%. Ironically Allen’s former teammate, forward Rashard Lewis, has the hot hand for the Magic (47.2% 3PG last five games). There’s also no telling if one time NCAA-phenom J.J. Redick will find his groove.
Check in with the WEEI Celtics Game Day Blog for all the latest from the Celtics-Magic match up.
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 102, 76ers 78||11.28.08 at 11:48 pm ET|
When Paul Pierce scores a season-low six points on 1-of-6 shooting and you still build a 30-point fourth quarter lead, you know you’re a pretty good team. The Boston Celtics, however, may be much, much more than just a pretty good team. They may be in the middle of a season that could better last season’s 66-win world championship run. The Celtics toyed with a Philadelphia 76ers team that showed off six-year, $80 million free agent Elton Brand for the first time. He was of little use to the Sixers since Philly showed it was completely incapable of solving Boston’s swarming defense. The final result, Boston won, 102-78, improving to 15-2 and expanding their lead to an amazing six games in the Atlantic Division.
|Postgame News and Notes: Celtics vs. 76ers||at 8:48 pm ET|
Last season the Boston Celtics added two All-Stars and got out to one of the hottest starts in basketball. This season the Philadelphia 76ers added one All-Star and still haven’t figured out how to win with him. On Friday night Elton Brand posed no problem for the Celtics as they dismantled the 76ers 102-78. This loss wasn’t Brand’s fault, though. The 76ers as a whole failed to help and the Celtics took advantage of this struggling team.
- Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen combined for 38 points (16-27 FG). Paul Pierce added just six (1-6 FG). “We ran a few plays for Ray, noticed he had the hot hand and that’s what we try to do,” Pierce said. “Ray is really shooting lights out as of late so the guys around him were doing a good job of getting him open and he’s knocking shots down.”
- The 76ers are looking to learn from the Celtics cohesiveness. “They’re a very good team, well coached team,” said Andre Miller. “They play well together. You have to tip your hats to them. We should take something from this and move onto the next game.”
- Last season Miller flustered Rajon Rondo and the Celtics. Tonight Rondo got the best of the veteran PG, posting 6 points, 12 assists, and 6 rebounds to Miller’s 12 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds. Rondo’s ball handling kept his teammates on point and his 12 dimes proved to be more valuable than Miller’s 12 points.
The Celtics (15-2) are leaving tonight for Charlotte, where they will take on the Bobcats on Saturday night. The 76ers (7-9) play the Chicago Bulls on Sunday night.
|Pregame News and Notes||at 5:25 pm ET|
Anything Really is Possible for Pierce: Kevin Garnett screamed it after winning the NBA Finals. This season Paul Pierce is taking on the same optimistic attitude. In a rare chat with the media prior to Friday’s game, Pierce was asked how he could top winning a title, becoming a father, and watching his alma mater Kansas win the NCAA championship.
‘Kansas wins the title, become a dad again, and we win it again. That would top it,’ he said with a laugh, adding, ‘It’s a possibility.’
Pruitt in Need of Some R&R: Gabe Pruitt left the building prior to the Celtics-76ers game with flu-like symptoms. He was sick on Thanksgiving and does not expect to travel with the team to Charlotte for tomorrow’s game against the Bobcats.
Young Thanks KG: Among veteran standouts like Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala, Kevin Garnett is paying close attention to a (literally and figuratively) young player. He’s had his eye on Thaddeus Young, and the second-year forward was taken aback by the acknowledgment.
‘It’s pretty good. He’s an All-Star player,’ Young said with his trademark smile. ‘It’s pretty big for him to say something like that so, you know, thank him for that.’
|Preview: Celtics vs. 76ers||11.27.08 at 10:01 pm ET|
On Friday night the Boston Celtics (14-2) will take on the Philadelphia 76ers (7-8) at the TD BankNorth Garden. The 76ers were expected to challenge the Celtics in the Atlantic Division after acquiring Elton Brand this summer, but so far they have yet to pose a threat. The Celtics are riding a six-game winning streak while the 76ers have lost their last two.
In the last five games …
Over the last five games the Celtics have averaged the third most points in the NBA (108 ppg), the 76ers are posting the third least (90.4 ppg). The 76ers have the highest rebounding differential in the league (+6.33) for the season but the Celtics have outrebounded their opponents by nearly eight boards in the past five contests.
The match up to watch will be Kevin Garnett vs. Elton Brand. The big men have seen each other plenty of times in the Western Conference and now they are two of the best in the East. Brand gives the 76ers a legitimate option in the post, something they’ve been lacking of over the years, and they don’t have to rely as much on their running game.
‘You know they’re going to play hard, you know they’re going to crash the boards,’ Garnett said. ‘But having that range from the floor makes them [multi-dimensional]. They’re able to go pick-and-pop. Andre Miller can string out the defense a little bit and throw it back and Elton can hit all the way up to 19-feet jumpers.’
Celtics head coach Doc Rivers has made it clear on several occassions that Andre Miller is one of his favorite point guards in the league. Now many are saying the same about Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo.
‘The problems we’ve had with Philly in the past, last year we struggled with them because of the Andre Miller problem,’ Rivers said. ‘You know, at the point, with his size. I think Rondo’s better suited to handle that this year, and so he’s going to have to.’
Rondo’s fearless hustle has garnered praise from teammates and opponents alike. He enters Friday’s game on a hot streak after scoring 22 points against the Golden State Warriors. See how Rondo and Miller stacked up in the past five games:
Rajon Rondo: 29.2 minutes, 16.6 points, 6.2 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 55.7% FG
Andre Miller: 36.4 minutes, 12.0 points, 6.2 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 42.3% FG
Keep an Eye On …
The obvious scoring options on the 76ers are Brand and Andre Iguodala. This season, however, versatile forward Thaddeus Young is emerging in Philly. Young is quietly averaging 15 points and 5 rebounds, catching the attention of Garnett.
‘A lot of people don’t really talk about him but Thaddeus Young, I think, is having an exceptional year,’ Garnett said. ‘He’s hitting threes, he’s been able to come off picks … and he’s aggressive. Just some of the games that I’ve seen, when they win it’s because he’s playing really well.’
The Bottom Line
‘I think they ran a lot more this year than last year,’ said Paul Pierce. ‘They’re good in transition with Iguodala but I think now that they’ve added Brand to the dimension, they’re more built I think for the playoffs. They have early struggles, I think they’re a better team than their record has really shown as they get used to one another, but definitely they’re capable of scoring 100 points. But we’ve got our work cut out for us again defensively.’
Check in with the WEEI Celtics Game Day Blog for all the latest from the Celtics-76ers match up.
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 119, Warriors 111||at 10:11 am ET|
Maybe Stephen Jackson was onto something. He told our own Jessica Camerato that the Celtics deserve the respect he refused to give them last year. And after the game he said one reason he has changed his mind is the play of Rajon Rondo. The point guard’s teammates are also on board. Rondo led a dramatic 32-16 surge in the third quarter that left Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett calling for Rondo to get some All-Star love. The Rondo-for-All-Star push continues Friday night at the Garden as the 14-2 Celtics welcome the 7-8 Philadelphia 76ers.
|Jackson: Celtics Earned My Respect||11.26.08 at 9:04 pm ET|
Last season on the night before Thanksgiving, Stephen Jackson scoffed at the hype surrounding the Boston Celtics. They were 9-1 at the time, including a 23-point blowout over the Golden State Warriors, but Jackson could care less.
“They won nine games. If you all want to hype up nine games so be it. I’m not,” he said at the time. “Like I said, they are just another NBA team just like everybody else. They’ll get praise when they win a championship.”
Exactly one year later, the now-defending champions came from behind the defeat the Warriors 119-111 in Boston. Jackson posted 30 points, six assists, and five rebounds, and looked like he was out for redemption.
So was he playing with a vengeance? His answer may surprise you.
“They definitely have my respect,” he said. “They have three great players and a great leader in (Rajon) Rondo. He definitely is a key to them winning games. Like I said, they have my respect now. If I said that year, I take it back. They’ve definitely earned it.”
The trio of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen have achieved the goal Jackson is working toward with Corey Maggette and the newly acquired Jamal Crawford. Now he is in the same situation and can appreciate what the Celtics accomplished last season.
“It’s hard to not respect them after the season they had,” Jackson said. “When you’re a team that signs three big guys and you haven’t won a championship, you have to earn the respect. And they’ve earned it.”
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