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Man, these West Coast games are killing me. While I did manage to stay awake into the wee hours of the morning to watch the Celtics, I also managed to pass out shortly after the game. Thus, here’s a late edition of my thoughts on the game, which really wasn’t much of a contest after the first quarter.
The C’s, also known as that aging bunch of alleged “has-beens,” stayed up past their bedtime to dominate the Portland Trailblazers, 96-76.
“People can call us old, call us whatever,” Rivers said. “We’re just going to keep trying to get better.”
The team used an old philosophy that helped them win the 2008 NBA Title: defense. It wasn’t just the blocked shots and the steals (though, they were helpful), it was also the suffocating perimeter defense, the disrupted passing lanes, and the dominance under the basket that helped the C’s hold the Blazers to season lows in points (76) and team field goal percentage (22-68, 33.8%), and a franchise-low in team assists (7).
The Blazers were down by seven points at the end of the first quarter, and 18 at the half. But, Rudy Fernandez’s three-point play to open the fourth quarter shrunk the Celtics’ lead to nine points, and thoughts of another improbable fourth quarter collapse began to creep in.
Then, on consecutive plays, Fernandez was called for a charge on made baskets (both were taken by Glen “Big Baby” Davis), and the momentum completely swung in the Celtics favor. Ray Allen then hit two three-pointers to push the lead back up to 15 points.
While we’re always quick to point out his expiring contract, Ray Allen is a human, is still a really good player, and now seems to be playing with an edge. He’s n0t Theo Ratliff, people! (side note: Ratliff and his $11 million expiring contract was a primary piece in the Kevin Garnett trade).
With the Celtics short on guards after the Eddie House-Nate Robinson trade (that also lost the team J.R. Giddens), Doc Rivers was forced to play Ray for 39 minutes. He responded with a team-high 21 points on 9-14 shooting (3-7 from downtown). In fact, he’s had four 20-point games in his last seven overall, while he had just four of those games in all of January.
Meanwhile, captain Paul Pierce finished with just nine points on 3-9 shooting, so it makes Ray’s effort even more impressive.
Think those trade rumors helped motivate Allen?
“Ray is going to get traded tomorrow,” Rivers cracked. “We’re going to keep saying it so he can keep playing well.”
It’s pretty simple in the NBA. Most battles are won in the paint, and Friday night’s contest was no different. The men in the middle for the Celtics dominated the men in the middle for the Blazers.
Decimated by injuries among their big men, the Blazers were playing without Joel Pryzbilla and Greg Oden up front, but the team still employs LaMarcus Aldridge and new addition Marcus Camby. No dice.
Aldridge had a strong game with 15 points and nine boards, but shot just 7-16 from the field (which isn’t very good for a big guy). Camby, meanwhile, finished with two points on 1-5 shooting with seven boards and three blocks. Altogether, Portland shot just 8-22 (36.6%) from within eight feet of the basket.
It’s not supposed to be a charity for the other team when you go to the free throw line! The Celtics were a pitiful 12-23 from the line, which means their 20-point margin of victory should have been even greater.
I shouldn’t direct my rage at the whole team. Without Kendrick Perkins taking foul shots, the team was 9-15 (60%), which still isn’t great. Meanwhile, Perk was a Ben Wallace-like 3-8 from the line, good for 37.5%. Tony Allen’s 1-4 didn’t help either. Come on people!
The Celtics, winners of three straight games, will take on the Nuggets in Denver on Sunday before finally returning home to the East Coast. The newly acquired Nate Robinson will make his Celtics debut in against none other than the Knicks at the TD Garden on Tuesday night.