|Celtics are caught in the middle||03.15.09 at 3:28 pm ET|
The Boston Celtics knew securing homecourt would not be the only challenge in the second half of the season. They also have to fend off playoff-hungry teams that are staying alive one win at a time.
‘Being the defending champ,’ Ray Allen said prior to the All-Star Break, ‘Teams are in our building thinking this in an opportunity for us to beat this team. And if we can prove that we can beat this team, we can beat anybody and we’ll make it into the playoffs, and who knows from there. So we always have to be aware of what we possess.’
On Sunday afternoon, the Bucks affirmed that concern with an 86-77 win over the Celtics in Milwaukee. (RECAP HERE) With that victory, the Bucks reclaimed hold of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. This is not the last time the Celtics will be caught in the middle of a tug-of-war for a playoff berth.
March 17: @ Chicago Bulls (30-37)
Season: Celtics 2-0
The Celtics have not faced the Bulls since they added veterans Brad Miller and John Salmons, a move that recently helped them beat the New Orleans Hornets by 18 points. The Bulls lost hold of the eighth spot with the Bucks win over the Celtics, and there is there is no better place for them to get to take it back than on their home court. They have earned 20 of their 30 victories in Chicago, tied for sixth in home wins in the Eastern Conference.
April 1: vs. Charlotte Bobcats (28-38)
Season: Tied 1-1
In spite of their record, the Bobcats have been a thorn in the Celtics side. Last year they beat the Celtics in Boston and this season snagged an overtime win in Charlotte. Even though the Bobcats have struggled with consistency, alternating winning and losing streaks, they step up their game against the Celtics. They’ll come to Boston with less than 10 games left in the regular season, an opportunity to bolster their playoff hopes.
April 8: vs. New Jersey Nets (28-37)
Season: Celtics 3-0
The Celtics blew out the Nets twice without Kendrick Perkins and beat them again in March without Kevin Garnett. While Devin Harris and Vince Carter are backcourt threats, the Celtics already know how to win without their bigs. The Nets seemed to lack any motivation on their first trip to Boston in January. With a postseason berth on the line, they will stand no chance of making a push if they show up with the same level of energy in April.
|Power to the Powe||03.13.09 at 10:37 pm ET|
The name Gasol is like a four-letter word, plus exclamation, among Celtics fans.
On Friday night, the legend grew. As Leon Powe was destroying the Memphis Grizzlies with a monstrous 30-point, 11-rebound performance, Pau’s brother Marc was trash-talking with teammate Rudy Gay at the free throw line.
Ray Allen was a witness to it and heard every word loud and clear.
“Gasol and Rudy Gay were talking on the free throw line,” Allen said. “So (Gay) says, ‘You’ve got to guard Leon.’ (Gasol) says, ‘I don’t care about Leon, let him get 40.’ I looked at him and said, ‘You want him to get 40, he’ll get 40 on you, don’t sleep on him.’ And he goes, ‘As long as it’s not Pierce.’ I said, ‘If it’s 40, we’re still going to win.’ ”
And win the Celtics did, 102-92, over the Grizzlies at TD Banknorth Garden on Friday night. Powe was the biggest reason, with his career-high 30, 11 board, five blocks and three assists.
“So, the free throw line banter was pretty funny tonight,” Allen continued.
And no one was laughing harder than Powe, who reminded everyone at his locker afterward that he scored 41 in college with California.
He also was giving grief to the man who he’s replacing in the lineup, Kevin Garnett, who is still out another week with a strained right knee.
“Me and KG had a little friendly talk,” said Powe, who played a team-high 41 minutes. “I want KG to come back. My body is getting used to these 40 minutes (a game). But that’s our leader, man, and we miss him so we want to be at full strength. And once we’re at full strength, we’re going to be hard to stop.”
On Friday night, it was Powe who was unstoppable.
|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.
|Celtics-Magic Game Blog: Second Quarter||at 12:39 pm ET|
At the start of the second quarter … Magic 22, Celtics 15
– The Magic have scored 16 of their first 22 points in the paint. They’ve done more damage in the lane than the Celtics have done on the floor, and Howard has only played six minutes.
– This could be a big game for Gabe Pruitt. With only Marbury ahead of him at the PG, Pruitt has his first shot in a while to prove himself. He has not played since February 25 against the Los Angeles Clippers. That night he was arrested for suspicion of DUI and served a team-imposed two-game suspension.
– The Celtics have scored just two points in four minutes. And the faint boos have already begun.
– There have been 18 fouls called in the first 18 minutes of the game.
– Howard’s on the bench with three personal fouls. Now is the time for the Celtics to do some damage at the basket. The Cs also have an advantage with J.J. Redick guarding Ray Allen. Redick is not known for his defense.
– The Magic’s deal for Rafer Alston did not get much buzz at the trade deadline but this acquisition is a difference maker in this game. Alston brings quickness to the Magic that the Celtics are having trouble stopping without Rajon Rondo.
– Pierce’s dunk past Pietrus and Battie has the crowd on their feet. The harsh reality is, the Celtics are still down by nearly 20.
- At the half … Magic 51, Celtics 33
|Celtics-Cavs Game Blog: Second Quarter||03.06.09 at 8:39 pm ET|
– The Garden kicked off the second quarter with a trivia contest for playoff tickets, hosted by Greg Dickerson. The contest pitted a Celtics and Cavs fan against one another. Despite being spoon-fed the correct answers, the Celtics fans still got the first question wrong. Needless to say he was booed.
– On the court: Celtics – Powe/Moore/Marbury/Pierce/House … Cavs – Gibson/Williams/Szczerbiak/Hickson/Smith
– It’ll be interesting to see how the Celtics bigs handle Joe Smith and J.J. Hickson. Smith has a mid-range jumper that can pull defenders out of the paint. The rookie Hickson was working on turn-around bank shots before the game.
– Mikki Moore had his first crowd-rousing moment at the Garden when he dunked through a handful of Cavs off of a Marbury pass.
– Rondo was welcomed back into the game with a standing ovation. The Cavs have most of their starters back in the game looking for an offensive spark. So far they have come up cold in the second quarter. The Celtics have all five starters in the game.
– LeBron’s posing after every shot like it’s a game winner. He’s shooting 2-for-7.
– Mo Williams has the Cavs back in this game with eight quick points. At the half … Cetlics 45, Cavs 43
|Celtics net win against former team||03.04.09 at 11:24 pm ET|
The Boston Celtics face the New Jersey Nets four times every regular season. Some members of the Celtics, however, are more familiar with this opponent than others. On Wednesday night, Eddie House, Stephon Marbury, and Mikki Moore returned to their old stomping grounds. (RECAP HERE) Not only do these players have ties to the Nets, they also had ties to the Celtics while playing in New Jersey.
Stephon Marbury: 1999-2001
Average with Nets: 23.0 points, 8.1 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 43.7 percent from the field
- 1998-99: Traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves, where he played with Kevin Garnett, to the Nets in part of a three-team deal that included former Celtic Sam Cassell. It only takes Marbury 31 games to establish himself as the Nets second-highest scorer that season.
- 1999-2000: Leads the Nets in scoring (22.2 ppg) and assists (8.4 apg). Ranks 10th in the NBA in assists. Teammates with former Celtic Sherman Douglas.
- 2000-2001: Marbury earns first All-Star appearance and represents the Eastern Conference with Ray Allen. Leads Nets in scoring (23.9 ppg) and assists (7.6 apg) once again.
March 4, 2009: Marbury is greeted at the IZOD Center with boos heard all the way back in Boston. He gives the Celtics a reliable ball handler off the bench, allowing the starters to take a breather, and finishes with four assists and two rebounds. Marbury commits only one turnover.
Mikki Moore: 2003-2004, 2006-2007
Average with Nets: 9.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 60.9 percent from the field (2007 season only)
- 2003-04: Moore signs with the Nets as a free agent in December of 2003. After appearing in just four games, he is waived the following month. Moore scores two points during this stint. During this time he is teammates with Celtics forward ‘ and current next door neighbor in the locker room ‘ Brian Scalabrine. That season the Nets went on to defeat Marbury and the New York Knicks in the first round of the playoffs.
- 2006-07: Moore is traded back to the Nets by the Seattle SuperSonics (where he played with Ray Allen) in exchange for future draft pick. After bouncing around the league for almost ten years, Moore has a breakout season (9.8 ppgs, 5.1 rpg). He also leads the league in field goal percentage (60.9 percent from the field). Moore is teammates with Eddie House.
March 4, 2009: Despite leaving the Nets for a big money contract with the Sacramento Kings, Moore is still welcome in New Jersey. He looks comfortable on the court at the IZOD Center, scoring six points in 12 minutes. The seven-foot Moore also spreads the Nets defense with his mid-range jumper.
Eddie House: 2006-2007
Average with Nets: 8.4 points, 42.8 from the field
- 2006-07: Signs as a free agent with the Nets in August of 2006. House is teammates with recently acquired Celtic Mikki Moore. He leads the Nets in three-point shooting (42.9 percent), ahead of Jason Kidd and Vince Carter, and ranks 10th in the league that season. The Nets lose in the second round of the playoffs to former Celtic Scot Pollard and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
March 4, 2009: House had been playing well against the Nets so far this season, averaging 11.5 points and shooting 60 percent from the field heading into Wednesday’s game. With Rajon Rondo in early foul trouble, he is the first one off the bench for the Celtics. House scores 10 points in 16 minutes, including 3-for-6 shooting from long-range. He also adds two rebounds and two steals.
(Brian Scalabrine played with the New Jersey Nets from 2001-2005. However he did not play on March 4 and is out for at least a month after suffering his third concussion.)
|Passing Chemistry 101||02.27.09 at 10:48 pm ET|
Stephon Marbury wasted no time making his intentions known.
‘I’m not looking to improve my game,’ he said at his introductory press conference. ‘I’m coming here to try to help the Celtics win another championship.’
Wearing a Boston Celtics shirt with a handwritten number eight on the shamrock, Marbury addressed the media prior to Friday’s game against the Indiana Pacers. (RECAP HERE) He shrugged off talks of selfishness and expressed his willingness to do whatever is asked of him on the court.
Marbury said all the right things as the newest member of an organization driven by chemistry and teamwork.
‘This is a very selfless team,’ said Ray Allen. ‘We don’t care about individual accolades.’
Even though Marbury received a standing ovation in his first game, the skepticism of his team-first attitude is not going to go away overnight. He comes to Boston with the baggage of a tarnished reputation, one that isn’t forgotten by wearing a new uniform. The front office explained to Marbury how the team operates, a discussion which is protocol for every new player.
‘We establish what the rules are, how we run things here, and how it’s about the team,’ Celtics president Danny Ainge told WEEI’s Big Show. ‘We’ve established those rules with Steph. (Head coach) Doc (Rivers) and I had a good conversation with him this morning and I’ve had a handful of conversations with Steph about those things even before now, as the Knicks gave us permission to talk.’
Marbury wants to look ahead. And so do the Celtics.
‘I’m not afraid of Steph, Doc’s not afraid of Steph, and it really comes down to Doc,’ Ainge said. ‘I think Doc understands Steph and can manage him and that Steph will respect Doc, first and foremost.’
Last season Rivers coached five veteran first-year Celtics to a championship. He knows firsthand that a new environment can turn a vet’s career around.
‘That was New York and wherever else. That has nothing to do with today and tomorrow,’ Rivers said of concerns about Marbury. ‘I’ve always had an open mind with everyone who’s come in, and you know, we’ve done pretty well. Our locker room is very strong and we just have good people. And so, no, I’m not that concerned about that at all.’
The players are on board with personnel. After winning a title with a reconstructed team, the Celtics know that a midseason acquistion (think P.J. Brown) can be the missing piece to success.
‘You’ve just got to welcome him in, make him feel like he’s at home. Other than that, just do things together off the court,’ said Kendrick Perkins. ‘I think [adding so many new players last season] helped us a lot. We’ve just got to keep getting better and help these guys just keep improving as a team. I think we’ll get better as they get to play more games.’
The key to Marbury’s success with his new team is just that, playing as a team.
‘You never know what’s in front of you as far as your basketball career,’ he said. ‘That’s why you just play as hard as you can and do the best that you can.’