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Game 38 Preview: Blazers at Celtics

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A Look at the Celtics

Despite coming off of back-to-back losses to the mighty Washington Wizards the Celtics are still an eye-opening, awe-inspiring, soul-crushing 30-6 on the season.  (Again, that was 30-4 just a couple days ago.)  I don't think it surprises anyone that Boston is good.  When you added the MVP-candidate game mastery of Kevin Garnett and the shooting excellence of Ray Allen to the horror-film-level slashing offense of Paul Pierce it was like, "Hey, you got your chocolate in my peanut butter...and dipped both in Viagra!  AWESOME!"  When you blend a 22-point scorer with a guy scoring 25 and another scoring 26 that's going to be some attack.  But gather `round children and let Uncle Dave tell you a secret.  Boston isn't winning because of the offense.  98.3 points per game is nothing to sneeze at, but it's Desperate Housewives territory compared to the Jessica Alba-like scoring of the Warriors or the Angelina Jolie attack of the Suns.  What distinguishes Boston is the 87.1 ppg allowed stat.  That's best in the league.  And it's no "we're going to slow it down and play ugly" trick either.  Field goal percentage allowed:  41.3%...best in the league.  Three-point percentage allowed:  30.5%...best in the league.  Point differential:  +11.1...best in the league by almost 3 points.  Boston doesn't beat you, they throttle you.  Oh, and by the way they have the second-highest rebounding differential in the league, are tied for 3rd in defensive rebounding percentage, and share the league lead for overall rebounding percentage.  They don't just throttle you, they hold you down by the neck while their grandma kicks you in the groin.  Combined those stats make their 5th place standing in field goal percentage and three point percentage plus their 7th place free throws drawn mark look downright pedestrian.  Come on, Celtics?  5th place?  That's like the little yellow ribbon at the fair.  Weenies.

The shorthand summation of this game is that the things the Blazers do the very best they barely (and I mean BARELY) edge out the Celtics in and anything we don't do that well in the Celtics blow us away.  They turn the ball over a couple more times per game than we do...that's it.  (Did I mention they're second in the league with 9 steals per game though?  Come on Boston, second?  Weenies.)

All of their Big Three score, but all of them pass as well.  They've been remarkably unselfish, which is a huge key to Boston's success.  You'll see a lot of great moves from the Celtics, but not a ton of selfish basketball.  None of the three are scoring at their pre-`07/'08 level but they don't really have to.  The only jangly note in the chord is Ray Allen shooting only 41% from the field for the year.  But he's still at 37% from distance and he's traditionally eaten up the Blazers no matter how he's playing.

Credit should also be given to the Boston supporting cast, in particular Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, and Big Baby Glen Davis.  All are shooting amazingly.  Rondo and Perkins have far exceeded expectations, especially with Rondo being charged with manning the point on a team where so many others need the ball.  Perkins has come through nicely inside on both ends of the court and Davis throws his weight around and can score when needed.  Like children in the china shop you can't leave any of them unattended.  One crack in the dam is going to bust the whole river free.

What I'd Like to See

  1.  The only thing we can really control in this game is how badly we want it.  No matter what happens we need to throw our bodies around, scrap for every ball, and hustle for all 48 minutes.  If Boston overlooks us and plays lackadaisically, so much the better.
  2.  If you're trying to pick your poison I'd go with Allen.  Not only is his percentage lower, he's at least shooting from distance.  Garnett is a little further in and Pierce often drives and gets to the line.  I'm not saying making Allen the main scorer is a foolproof scheme.  I'm saying having the Celtics shoot long is better than watching them score at the cup.
  3.  Four of the six games Boston has lost have been ugly, low-scoring affairs.  That seems like the best bet tonight.  They're not exactly a running team anyway, but no easy baskets should be our motto.  We don't get many anyway, so limiting the tempo and trying to turn it into a pitcher's duel is no skin off of our noses.  I don't think we can stay with the Celtics for four quarters in a pretty game...even a pretty halfcourt game.  That's their style.  Bump, grind, and ugly it up.
  4.  If you're not going to do that then you better find a way to run hard and run often.  One of the best ways to beat a great defensive team is to score before the defense sets up.  One way or another--really ugly or really fast--we're going to have to see an extreme Blazer team tonight in order to have a chance.
--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)