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Control Comes Eventually: Celtics 88 Trailblazers 78

 

ESPN Box Score •  Portland Roundball SocietyBlazer’s Edge

If you looked closely during the first half of this one, you could almost see Boston taking Portland for granted.

Perk Plays His Typical Shutdown Perimeter D.

Unmotivated and lacking energy, the first half Celtics eventually ceded control of this one to their more focused second half counterparts, and that group brought home a messy victory against the Blazers, tangibly marred not by its lack of aesthetic appeal, as much as the thigh bruise to Paul Pierce that may keep him out of Friday night’s tilt with the Phoenix Suns.

Still, with Miami’s 93-88 loss to New York, the Celtics are now a full four games up in the standings… over the Chicago Bulls, who took over second place in the Eastern Conference tonight. And while it makes me feel like a broken record to make this point yet again, at least it’s playing a pretty tune: this is exactly the kind of game the C’s would have lost last year.

Consider:

  • Portland out-rebounded Boston 49-42, and made good on our pre-game warning about offensive rebounds by pulling down 19 of them, often against Celtics defenders who seemed completely unaware of the need to box out their men on the glass.
  • The Celtics fueled a Portland transition attack by turning over the ball 21 times and then playing half-hearted transition defense, when they played it at all.
  • The Blazers – sans Marcus Camby and Greg Oden and Brandon Roy – scored 48 points in the paint compared to the 34 the larger, healthier C’s put up.
  • Rajon Rondo turned in another unimpressive defensive performance and seemed constantly  on the verge of injury, and down on the hardwood floor.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge put up 17 points, and 16 rebounds.

That’s a lot to go wrong and still come out with a win.

So, what went right?

How about:

  • Kevin Garnett actually besting that Aldridge line by flirting with a triple-double. KG recorded 10 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists, that latter stat-sheet category stuffed mainly in the third quarter when he found shooters in the corner for open threes, big men underneath for dunks and cutters driving down the lane for layups. He (and the other C’s bigs) also forced Aldridge to take 20 shots to get his 17 points. Moreover, as TNT’s Kevin Harlan repeated relentlessly, he put his fingerprints all over this one in terms of focusing his teammates and getting them to settle down on defense.
  • Kendrick Perkins played just a terrific 21 minutes off the bench, nearly missing a double-double with 10 points, 9 rebounds and on one dynamite third-quarter sequence, managing to stymie first Aldridge in the post and then Rudy Fernandez on the perimeter. Perk struggled with his wind at times but is, on a per-minute basis, making a huge impact so far in his return. Think too, how much more effective he’ll be with Shaquille O’Neal in there doling out six fouls of his own. By the end of the regular season, we may be talking about how no team in the league can match up with this Boston frontline (including the Lakers).
  • The Celtics shredding the Blazers in the free throw battle by getting to the line 33 times compared to Portland’s 13 (admittedly, many of Portland’s point-blank shots were uncontested, particularly in the first half).
  • The C’s holding Portland to a mere 36.7% shooting.
  • Ray Allen and Pierce putting in 18 and 17 points respectively.
  • Von Wafer (again!) showing impressive work off the bounce in short minutes. He’s earned extended run and may finally get it against Phoenix if Pierce can’t go. I was not a believer in him earlier in the year, and with the caveat that he may be exposed if he has to play longer minutes, I’m happy to have turned around on him. He’s a legitimate asset to this team, and could have a hand in playoff wins, if given the chance.

And to put a bow on this one, here’s the highlight of the night, perhaps the first alley-oop to Ray-Ray in his four years in Boston. Looks absolutely natural for him, doesn’t it?

  • Ryan DeGama

    PS – it should really go without saying that I was disappointed to miss Bill Walton's outlandish/obvious proclamations on CSNNE tonight. But I'll say it, anyway. If anyone is compiling a highlight reel, please send it over…

    • CG12

      Walton was in fine form. Good to see him doing well. I hate to say it, but Tommy has been especially bad this year, saying total non sequitur stuff, not really knowing the modern game, being borderline incoherent. Mike has been flagrantly covering for him. Walton is a spaz, but it least he has insightful and interesting things to say on occasion. He makes games fun to watch. Tommy; not so much.

      The Blazers are a sneakily bad team. They hide it by playing a rather ugly, but tough and effective, brand of basketball. Absolutely no shooting. The Cs need games like this where they need to turn up the intensity to win. You know the Cs will make shots, and the Blazers won't, but if guys aren't playing hard, the Blazers will make all the hustle plays. Unlike, say, the Wizards, who don't make you play hard, but will make shots.

  • Jason

    Portland, what a joke. Come out thinking knocking people around is toughness. You play the whole game with spastic energy, get 21 TOs, 18 offensive rebounds, three prayer 3s at the end of the game and still lose by 10. Ha ha. Better luck next time.

  • ElRoz

    Hey, don't kick Portland…considering their horrid injury streak, they put up a good fight…and are still above .500 and 8th in the West.

    So Pierce might just have a bruise and my question is: are Boston's chances to beat Phoenix w/o Pierce still pretty good-ok? With Marquis or even Wafer (?!) starting in place of Pierce…will the C's be the favorite in Phoenix?
    I'd like to rest Paul Pierce injury.

    • What More Can I Say?

      I'd like to cosign ElRoz. I like the C's chances against Phoenix w/o Pierce much better than s their chances vs. LA w/o him. Plus…you already KNOW the boy from "the wood" is NOT missing the game against LA…so lets rest him tomorrow, bring the Diesel back 2morrow.

    • DRJ1

      It's a bruise. I dunno… doesn't seem like that should qualify as an "injury" (even tho it is one). Anyway… I think he'll play. No bruise is gonna keep PP out.

      • Jay P

        He might want too, but I wouldn't risk it.

        A bruise certainly is an injury, let him get 100% healthy, we don't need him playing through pain against Phx

    • DRJ1

      After watching Portland play, I think "What goes around comes around." Only in their case, the universe saw what they WOULD do in the future, and decided to send "what around" *BEFORE* it went around. Universe does that sometimes, ya know. There's no escaping it, is the point I think it wants us to get. Ya think Portland got it? Ya think Prysbilla can spell "got it"?

  • Batman

    Remember in the Association episode 2, before the Knicks game, Doc Said: "We need to get Paul going early, his last two games haven't been stellar". This needs to be said for Rondo in Phoenix, "Rondo hasn't been playing well he needs to get going against Steve Nash's non exsistant defense

  • SteveB

    I haven't watched the game yet but saw a comment that Wafer played in 2nd half instead of Nate. Was that due to Nate being ineffective again? Is this the beginning of the end for Nate? With Wafer playing well in limited minutes and Delonte coming soon it seems Nate may become expendable for another piece. I'm trying not to bash Nate. Much like Avery Bradley, love the guy and his energy, but when he misses open shots it's hard to keep him out there. I'd almost rather have Bradley due to his defense and live with what offense you get. At least he isn't hoisting 3's with 20 seconds on the shot clock.

    • DRJ1

      Yeah, Nate was bad. Very bad. It got to where if his shot hit the rim, that was an accomplishment. There's a feeling we should wait for Delonte and see if that gets him going. Fine with me. But it Nate stays down like this, I like Von as an alternative, 'cause that kid can also score in bunches… Cs need that scoring punch coming off the bench.

  • john schaffer

    i think wafer needs to get nates time , nate sure isnt a playmaker at point or at 2 guard he cant shoot 3/4 of the time . let wafer do it till delonte comes back , at least wafer plays defense

    • ME HOE MABA FABA

      I got of my couch for this game GOOOOOO!!!!!!! CELTICS!!!!!!!!

    • Jmt

      "at least wafer plays defense"

      That's not fair to Nate. He's much improved from last season, and recently he's been even better than Rondo in his individual defensive effort. He's been pressing the ball from the in-bounds and staying with his man over screens (Rondo hasn't been pressing and has had some trouble getting over screens and resorting to go for the steal from behind a number of times). Von Wafer's still got a lot of work to do on the defensive end. Don't forget his 4 points last night came right after he allowed an easy lay-up.

  • keltic

    need delonte back for nate to be effective…so we'll see how that goes. nate is NOT a PG, especially on a team like the Celtics. i do have very vivid memories of how well delonte and nate played together on the second unit, so hoping that will get nate back to normal…anyway im glad von is finally starting to get some credit around here!!!

  • Scott

    Bout fell of my couch when i saw ray hit the oop… God damn he is the man.

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