|Sounds of the Game… Celtics 126, Bulls 108||12.20.08 at 10:32 am ET|
What makes a great team is when it can constantly find way to get better even when things are already going so well. Doc Rivers and staff worked with center Kendrick Perkins to work on setting better screens and picks, convincing him that this would lead to better seals under the basket and eventually more scoring opportunities for him. The result? Perk scored a career high 25 points on Friday night, second only to Ray Allen’s 27 as the C’s (yawn-yawn) dispatched of the Chicago Bulls 126-108 at TD Banknorth Garden. Now, the Celtics can match the team’s all-time winning streak mark of 18 on Sunday night against Quentin Richardson and the Knicks at home. If victorious against New York, the chance to break it comes on Tuesday against another arch-rival, the Philadelphia 76ers.
|73 or 34 in a row||12.19.08 at 7:42 pm ET|
Chicago, one of the most important bands of the 70s once wondered, 25 or 6 to 4. Sitting here at TD Banknorth Garden watching Chicago’s NBA entry offer precious little resistance to the Celtics, your intrepid reporter was inspired to re-work the question.
What is more likely, the Celtics winning 73 games in a season to break the 1997 Chicago Bulls all-time record or 34 straight wins to top the mark by the 1972 Los Angeles Lakers?
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This reporter is on record maintaining that as the Celtics are currently constituted, they will win 73 and set the new record. As for 34 straight, with a West Coast swing on the docket starting Christmas Day, that might be too much, even for these Celtics.
One other random question… With Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man, in attendance at the Garden taking in the game, who is in better shape, Bolt or Ray Allen? When the two shook hands just prior to the fourth quarter at the scorer’s table, it marked a meeting of two supremely conditioned athletes.
Then, following the game, Bolt entered the locker room for a personal chat with the team and coaching staff. There was this question posed… Who would win a race, Bolt or Rajon Rondo?
|Stojakovic Done with Three-Point Shootout||12.13.08 at 1:06 am ET|
Sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic is saving his long range game for the regular season. The two-time Three-Point Shootout champion will no longer compete in the All-Star Weekend contest.
“I did that so many times so I don’t think I need to do it again,” he said on Friday night prior to the New Orleans Hornets-Boston Celtics game.
Stojakovic participated in five Three-Point Shootouts, dating back to 2001 as a member of the Sacramento Kings. He dethroned Celtics guard Ray Allen to win back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003. Stojakovic took a three-year hiatus before returning this past February to show his appreciation for the host city of New Orleans. He looks forward to spending time with his family during the All-Star Break.
|Pierce’s D Helps Celtics Earn the W||12.03.08 at 9:24 pm ET|
The stat line will tell the story of Rajon Rondo‘s triple-double, Ray Allen‘s 31 points, and Kevin Garnett‘s 14 rebounds. But what it won’t show is the stifling defense Paul Pierce imposed on Danny Granger. Pierce held Granger to just six second half point (20 total) and shut down the Pacers leading scorer.
“Paul’s always been a good defensive player,” Granger said after the Pacers 114-96 loss. “KG’s a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year and I think that’s one of the things that makes this team good. They can score the ball but they also play good defense.”
Granger scored 14 points in the first half with the majority coming while Ray Allen was guarding him. The defensive switch worked for the Celtics and Granger finished the night shooting 7-for-15, including just one basket in the paint. Pierce’s tough defense combined with the Pacers’ exhaustion from Tuesday’s overtime win against the Lakers was too much for Granger to overcome.
“I just got a little tired,” he said. “It’s hard playing back to back games sometimes, especially when you fight so hard to win one game. You have lapses and your legs give out but that’s still no excuse. Everyone plays back to back games. You’ve just got find a way to find through. Tonight we couldn’t.”
|Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers||at 9:25 am ET|
On Wednesday night the Boston Celtics (17-2) will take on the Indiana Pacers (7-10) at the TD BankNorth Garden. The Pacers already upset the Celtics once this season and are riding the momentum of stunning the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. It will be up to the Celtics to halt this series of shockers.
What Went Wrong
On November 1 the Pacers defeated the Celtics 95-79 in Indiana. It was the Celtics first loss of the season, quickly proving their championship didn’t make them immortal. The Pacers jumped out to a 10-point first quarter lead and went up by as many as 25 in the fourth. The Celtics looked sloppy on the road (24 turnovers) and were off the mark all night (34.6% FG, 4-for-20 3PG, 60% FT). Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce‘s combined 33 points and 24 rebounds were not enough. Kendrick Perkins went scoreless while Rajon Rondo hit just one basket. Danny Granger scored 20 points, Marquis Daniels posted 13 points and 11 boards, and T.J. Ford contributed 19 points. When asked to explain the 18-point loss, Garnett told the media, “I don’t even know what to call it.”
In the Last Five Games …
The Celtics have the offensive edge over the Pacers, stretching their margin of victory up to 14.2 points per game over the last five contests while the Pacers have been losing by an average of 4.4 points. Their offense is back on pace with their defense (51.4% FG, 40.3% 3PG) as the Pacers have ranked in the bottom half of the league (43.8% FG, 34.8% 3PG). But in spite of the Celtics stifling D, the Pacers are the best rebounding team in the NBA and average nearly 10 more boards (49.0 to 40.0 rpg). The Pacers have also been the better ball handling team (23.0 to 21.8 apg) as of late despite Rajon Rondo‘s impressive play.
More than Meets the Eye
The Pacers 7-10 record is deceiving. This team has individual talent and has proved they can be threatening when playing together. Danny Granger is one of the hottest players in the league today and he and Paul Pierce will challenge each other on the perimeter all night. Force him behind the arc, though, and the Celtics could stifle his game. He is shooting just 24% from long range on no days rest. The Pacers traded Jermaine O’Neal for T.J. Ford this summer for backcourt leadership. Ford is just as dangerous as Ray Allen from the line and is capable of dropping 20 points on any given night. Troy Murphy (11.0 ppg, 11.8 rpg) will challenge the Celtics on the glass as one of the league’s underrated big men. Marquis Daniels is also having a breakout season (16.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg) after recovering from a foot injury.
Hitting the Bench
While Jeff Foster and Jarrett Jack have been reliable for the Pacers off the bench, the Celtics reserves have the advantage. The Cs bench is filled with championship winners whereas the Pacers bench includes inexperienced rookies and unproven journeymen. Tony Allen has been explosive at the basket and scored 14 points in the first game against the Pacers. After suffering their first loss in Indy, the Celtics starters will look to come out swinging and that intensity will trickle down the bench.
Check back tonight for WEEI’s Live Celtics Game Day Blog from the TD BankNorth Garden.
|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.