Friday, January 16
7:30 PM ET
TD BankNorth Garden
All had been well for the revamped Boston Celtics – until last week’s reality check. After the Charlotte Bobcats shocked the C’s at the Garden with a 12-point stunner this past Wednesday, Boston picked up a victory in New Jersey before heading to D.C. to take on the Gilbert Arenas-less Washington Wizards. The Wiz murdered the Celtics on the boards (49-30, including 20 offensive rebounds for Washington) and simply outworked them, resulting in an 83-78 loss on the road. Washington had split the season series even, and two days later, the C’s had a chance to revive themselves. There’s no way the Wizards can beat this team twice in a row, right? Wrong. Washington embarrassed the C’s on their home floor with a 21-6 run to close out the game and rack up their second victory against the Celtics within a three-day span. Boston has lost three of their last four games because of three main reasons: lack of energy, stagnant offense, and poor decision making. These deficiencies need to be corrected.
Tonight’s opponent, however, the Portland Trail Blazers, will not show mercy to Boston’s recent struggles. Nate McMillan’s club has unarguably been the biggest surprise of the 2007-2008 NBA season, as they currently hold the fourth-best record in the Western Conference (23-14) and have won 18 of their last 21 games. McMillan’s disciplinary style has gotten through to this young bunch and has helped them mature as a unit quicker than any outsider could’ve imagined. The most mature young gun of them all may very well be Brandon Roy (19.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 5.7 APG), who is playing at an All-Star level this season and developing into a true leader, both mentally and vocally. In addition, Portland has gotten a breakout year from second-year big man LaMarcus Aldridge, who is averaging over 17 points and seven rebounds per contest. Portland also has gotten outstanding production from their key bench players, which consists of Travis Outlaw, Jarrett Jack, James Jones, Channing Frye, and the sometimes erratic yet productive Sergio Rodriguez.
The most intriguing anecdote about Portland’s success is the fact that they’ve done it all without their "savior," Greg Oden, in the lineup all season long. This year’s number one pick in the NBA draft has unfortunately been forced to sit his entire rookie season after undergoing microfracture surgery in his right knee. The seven-foot mega-talent has yet to step on the court, but knowing that he is out of the lineup while Portland is playing this well makes their future that much sweeter.
Let’s hope Doc and the gang, Rajon Rondo or not (will sit out with a bruised lower back and sore hamstring), can get back on the winning track tonight. Four of the next five games are at home, and they’ve got to take advantage of it to get back to their winning ways.
C Joel Przybilla / Kendrick Perkins
PF LaMarcus Aldridge / Kevin Garnett
SF Martell Webster / Paul Pierce
SG Brandon Roy / Ray Allen
PG Steve Blake / Tony Allen
Key Matchup: Brandon Roy vs. Paul Pierce
We all know Paul Pierce, a bonafide All-Star when healthy and one of the better all-around players in the entire league. Brandon Roy is no slouch, however. The reigning Rookie of the Year is playing at an All-Star level and is currently leading the biggest surprise team of the 2007-2008 season. The knock on Roy coming out of college was that he "did everything well, but nothing great." Well, I think I speak for everybody when I say "who cares?" The young man simply does it all, and whether critics classify his skills as "good" or "great" is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that he is one of the most well-rounded guards in the NBA and is rapidly developing strong leadership qualities. Both Roy and Pierce will have their hands full on both ends tonight.
Celtics X-Factor: Eddie House
For the most part this season, Eddie House has been the spark plug/energizer to lift the team at the end of quarters. As of late, however, Boston’s attack has been very stagnant and absent of that extra oomph. Eddie House needs to bring that intensity and high-energy play to the table tonight, especially against a team that likes to play a lot of zone defense. You better believe House will get open looks once the defense collapses on Garnett and/or Pierce in the lane. Let’s hope "Eddie Money" makes the most of it and picks apart that zone.
POR – Greg Oden (recovering from right knee surgery)
POR – Darius Miles (recovering from right knee surgery)
BOS – Rajon Rondo (bruised lower back, sore hamstring – day-to-day)
Celtics Keys to the Game
- Energy (where has it been?)
- Ball Movement (especially vs. Portland’s zone)
- Limit Careless/Unforced Turnovers
- Play Tough Inside & On the Boards