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The Boston Celtics will start this week with a nice rest on Monday and Tuesday. They better take full advantage of it.
Starting on Wednesday, Boston plays nine games in 12 days including a road trip of three games in three nights There is one silver lining however: the opponents are the Toronto Raptors, New Jersey Nets and Charlotte Bobcats.
Before all that happens, the Celtics will have four contests this week, all against contenders.
Wednesday: San Antonio Spurs at Boston 7:30 p.m. ET
Tim Duncan and the Spurs make a trip to TD Garden in a battle of aging giants. San Antonio is still one of the best in the Wes with a 36-14 record. They'll be coming off of a game in Cleveland the night before.
Thursday: Boston at Chicago Bulls 9:30 p.m. ET
Derrick Rose has been injured lately, but it hasn't slowed down Chicago in the least. The Bulls come into this week with the best mark in the East (42-12).
Saturday: Boston at Indiana Pacers 7:00 p.m. ET
After a day off, the Celtics will take on Indiana and its budding team. The Pacers are a tough group to deal with because of their size and depth, both things Boston struggles mightily with.
Sunday: Philadelphia 76ers at Boston 6:00 p.m. ET
The Celtics finally get to return home to the Boston faithful for what promises to be a pivotal game in the Atlantic Division race. The 76ers are struggling badly lately, losing six of 10. However, Philly is only one game back for the lead and after pacing the division for most of the season, will be anxious to reclaim it.
Craig Smith has bounced around the league in the early stages of his career, but the former Boston College basketball star has been trying to find the right spot and is working hard with the Portland Trail Blazers.
BOSTON - Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett each reached significant milestones in the Boston Celtics' 106-84 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night at TD Garden, their last home game until March 25 as the team embarks upon an eight-game West coast road trip starting Sunday.
Pierce, who led the Celtics with 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting, played in his 1,000th career game, all with the Celtics. It's a rare accomplishment for a player to reach that milestone, especially with the same team, and the Celtics know that well.
"I remember how nervous I was," Pierce said about his first game, now over 13 seasons ago. "When you think back to your first game ever here in the Garden, your excited to get your career started. And now with so many years passed, and I've reached a thousand games it's like wow I see a combination of a long time and that I'm getting old."
Rajon Rondo, the Celtics' star point guard, was impressed and honored to play with Pierce.
"It's rare," Rondo said about the feat. "You don't take it for granted, I don't think he takes it for granted. There's only like six or seven guys that have ever done it. He's one of the guys that's probably going to retire as a Celtic. It's an honor to play with him."
Garnett also reached significant milestones, surpassing the 45,000 minutes played mark which puts him 12th all-time. In addition, Garnett (10 points, eight rebounds against Blazers) moved into second place all-time in defensive rebounds, but the statistic has only been tracked since the 1973-1974 season.
BOSTON - Paul Pierce led the charge for the Boston Celtics, scoring 17 of his 22 points in the first half as the C's led by 35 points at halftime and annihilated the Portland Trail Blazers, 104-86, in their last game at TD Garden until the end of the month on Friday night.
"I just thought we played extremely well, and they struggled," said Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. "You could see they missed shots early and they got frustrated. There was a stretch for us, our ball movement was absolutely sensational."
Pierce made 7-of-13 shots to lead a Celtics scoring attack that registered 47.7 percent shooting. Pierce was playing in his 1,000th career game, all with the Celtics, and was honored with a graphic on the jumbotron and received a well-deserved standing ovation.
"I remember how nervous I was," Pierce said about his first career game, now 13-plus seasons ago. "When you think back to your first game ever here in the Garden, your excited to get your career started. And now with so many years passed, and I've reached a thousand games it's like wow I see a combination of a long time and that I'm getting old."
Kevin Garnett (10 points, eight rebounds) also had a milestone night, surpassing the 45,000 career minute mark (12th all-time) while moving into second place all-time in defensive rebounds, but the statistic has only been tracked since the 1973-1974 season.
Portland led 10-8 after a jumper from LaMarcus Aldridge (22 points) at the 7:48 mark of the first quarter, but Boston responded with a 10-0 run to grab an eight point lead and never looked back. Rajon Rondo (eight points, five assists) scored the final six points of the quarter as the Celts pulled ahead by 10 points, 27-17, after twelve minutes.
Boston took complete control at the start of the second, scoring 16 unanswered before a Nicolas Batum layup with 7:06 to play before halftime, giving them a 43-19 lead. Prior to Batum's basket, the Blazers only had three more points (17) than they did turnovers (14) ater coughing the ball up nine times in the first.
Pierce took control and scored 12 points in the second to finish the half with 17, putting the Celts on top at the intermission, 60-35. The single-half scoring output was the Celtics' highest of the season while the Blazers narrowly avoided their season low for points in a half (30). Portland had 17 giveaways the the half while Boston only had three. The Celtics shot a blistering 60 percent from the floor while Portland was held to 33.3 percent shooting.
"Yeah, [we] forced a lot of turnovers," said Rivers. "Again, I thought it was all Rondo's ball pressure. I thought Paul (Pierce) and Ray (Allen), everybody was up, Kevin (Garnett) forced (LaMarcus) Aldridge way out away from the bucket. So you know maybe the other night, one of the smart things we did do is we pulled the plug early enough to have our legs for tonight. That may have been the best thing."
The second half wasn't any better for Portland, which fell into a deeper hole in the third quarter after a three from Pierce that gave the C's a 41 point advantage, 79-38, with 6:28 remaining. Ray Allen (22 points) made a layup gave Boston its biggest lead of the night, 43 points (81-38) at 5:56, further cementing Portland's fate.
"That's an unprofessional approach," Blazers head coach Nate McMillan said about his team's game. "There was no basketball being played out there tonight. We didn't play with enough effort to give ourselves a chance to win this ball game tonight. We knew that Boston would be very aggressive tonight after their loss and they were. They came out, they jumped on us and we never was into this game."
Saturday is a travel day for the Celtics, who head out for an eight-game West coast road trip, starting with a rematch against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday afternoon.
BOSTON - Coming off a blowout loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, the Portland Trail Blazers had nothing to offer to start their second game of a seve-game road trip as the Boston Celtics walked all over them in the first half and took a commanding 65-30 lead into halftime at TD Garden.
Portland led 10-8 at the 7:48 mark, but Boston answered with a 10-0 run to take an eight point lead and never looked back. Rajon Rondo scored the final six points of the opening quarter and the Celtics led 27-17 after one. Nothing changed in the second for Portland, which gave up a 16-0 run to the Celts to open the quarter and didn't score until a Nicolas Batum layup with 7:06 to play before halftime. Paul Pierce would take over in the closing minutes and finished the half with 17 points.
Boston shot an even 60 percent in the half while Portland shot 33.3 percent. The Celtics had just three giveaways in the half while the Trail Blazers had 17 turnovers. Portland did out-rebound Boston, 21-17.
BOSTON - Boston Celtics captain Paul Pierce has reached another milestone, as the Celtics lifer is set to appear in his 1,000th career game on Friday night when the C's take on the Portland Trail Blazers at TD Garden.
Pierce, 34, has played his entire 13-plus year career with the Celtics, and as a result, became the franchise's second leading scorer earlier this year, passing Larry Bird. Pierce has scored 22,050 points and has 6,021 rebounds and 3,840 assists in 99 career games. In his career, Pierce has averaged 22.1 points and six boards per game.
After toiling away for most of his career, Pierce finally achieved his dream of winning a championship in Boston after the Celtics acquired Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in trades in the 2007-08 season. Led by Pierce, the Celtics defeated the Lakers in six games in the 2008 NBA Finals. Pierce was named the MVP of the NBA Finals.
BOSTON - Mickael Pietrus (knee) and Chris Wilcox (personal matter) will not play for the Boston Celtics on Friday night in their last home game until the end of the month against the Portland Trail Blazers at TD Garden. Pietrus is averaging 6.7 points and 3.1 boards and Chris Wilcox is averaging 5.4 points and 4.4 rebounds this season.
Jermaine O'Neal (sprained left wrist) remains out after suffering the injury back on Feb. 20. O'Neal, who hasn't played since the Celtics' 89-73 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. O'Neal is averaging 5.0 points and 5.4 rebounds this season.
On the trade front, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said in his pregame interview that he expects that there will be some big moves at the trade deadline, which is 3 p.m. EDT on March 15. Here's the catch - he doesn't expect the Celtics to make any of them. Both Rivers and general manager Danny Ainge say that they think the team will stay intact.
Rivers' and Blazers head coach Nate McMillan's pregame interviews can be heard below.
Event: Portland Trail Blazers (19-20) vs. Boston Celtics (20-18); NBA Regular Season, Game 39.
Date/Time: Friday, March 9, 2012.
Location: TD Garden (Capacity: 18,624), Boston, MA.
Broadcast Info: Friday's game between the Celtics and Blazers will be broadcast regionally on Comcast SportsNet New England, with Mike Gorman, Tommy Heinsohn and Greg Dickerson calling the action. In addition, the game can be heard on the WEEI Sports Radio Network, with Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell on the call.
Odds: Boston is a three-point favorite over Portland on Friday night.
Celtics Roster 2011-12: Ray Allen, Brandon Bass, Avery Bradley, Marquis Daniels,Keyon Dooling, Kevin Garnett, JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore, Jermaine O'Neal, Sasha Pavlovic, Mickael Pietrus, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Greg Stiemsma,Chris Wilcox. Head Coach: Doc Rivers.
Blazers Roster 2011-2012: LaMarcus Aldridge, Luke Babbitt, Nicolas Batum, Marcus Camby, Jamal Crawford, Raymond Felton, Chris Johnson, Wesley Matthews, Greg Oden, Joel Przybilla, Craig Smith, Nolan Smith, Kurt Thomas, Gerald Wallace, Elliot Williams. Head Coach: Nate McMillan.
Celtics And Blazers In 2011: Boston and Portland met once last season, with the Celtics escaping with a 99-95 win at TD Garden. Paul Pierce led the C's with 28 points and Rajon Rondo had 10 assists. Marcus Camby grabbed a game-high nine rebounds in the loss for Portland.
Last Time Out: The Celtics were trampled by the Philadelphia 76ers, 103-71, on Wednesday night in Philly. Paul Pierce scored 16 points to lead Boston, but it wasn't even close to enough. Philadelphia took control early and never let up, although the Celtics did narrow the gap slightly on several occasions. Evan Turner had 26 points to pace the Sixers.
Portland was also blown out in its last game, losing to the revamped Minnesota Timberwolves, 106-94, on Wednesday. Raymond Felton scored 23 and had nine assists and LaMarcus Aldridge added 22 points and seven boards. Gerald Wallace scored 13 points and had nine rebounds and nine assists in the Blazers' loss.
Statistics Central: Paul Pierce is the Celtics' leading scorer, averaging 18.3 points. Rajon Rondo averages a team-high 10.1 assists and 1.7 steals, Kevin Garnett averages 8.2 rebounds and Jermaine O'Neal averages 1.7 blocks. Boston ranks 26th in the league in scoring (90.5 PPG), 30th in rebounding (39.1 RPG), third in assists (22.7 APG) and third in points allowed (89.8 PPG).
LaMarcus Aldridge averages 21.6 points, Marcus Camby leads the team in rebounding (9.2 RPG) and blocks (1.5 BPG), Raymond Felton averages a team-high 6.3 assists and Gerald Wallace averages a team-best 1.5 steals. Portland ranks fifth in the league in scoring (98.1 PPG), 24th in rebounding (41.5 RPG), seventh in assists (21.9 APG) and 13th in points allowed (94.3 PPG).
Storyline: Boston and Portland are in similar situations, with each fighting for their postseason lives. At one game under .500 (19-20), the Blazers are in 11th place in the Western Conference and are 1.5 games out of the eighth and final playoff seed, despite being dead last (fifth) in their own division (Northwest). The Celtics, meanwhile, are currently the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, but they don't have a lot of breathing room.
At one point, these two teams were serious threats, but both have had be defanged. For Boston, it has been a decline in talent from its veteran core that has caused its struggles. Portland's misfortune has been due to a spell of bad luck, as All-Star Brandon Roy was forced to retire due to degenerative knees and Greg Oden, the former No. 1 overall pick, has never been able to put together a healthy season.
It's certainly possible that both will make the playoffs. Contending is another story.
Players To Watch: As always, keep your eyes on the Big Four. When the Celtics are successful, the Big Four -- Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo -- are usually the reason. LaMarcus Aldridge is the Blazers' star, and should be able to take advantage of a sometimes porous interior Celtics defense. Craig Smith, a former Boston College star, and Chris Johnson, who played for Boston during a stretch last season, will make their returns to the area.
Prediction: Portland scores a lot more points than Boston does on average, but the Celtics have the upper hand on defense. That pairing should result in a relatively close game, but the Celtics understand the importance of this game before they head on the road for an eight-game West coast swing. Final Score: Celtics 93, Blazers 89.
Friday, Mar 9, 2012, 7:30 PM EST
posted by Jordan Sams about 4 hours ago
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The Celtics were 5-0 and making a serious move to overtake the Philadelphia 76ers for first place in the Atlantic Divison before Evan Turner and the Sixers eviscerated the tired Celtics on Wednesday night. The C's will look to get back on track Friday night, when they host the Portland Trail Blazers before a brutal road trip.
Following Friday night's game against the Blazers, the Celtics will travel to Los Angles to face both the Lakers and Clippers back-to-back to begin their road trip. The road trip consists of eight games in 13 nights, which includes three back-to-backs. The Celtics are 5-6 in the second game of back-to-backs this season.
After the recent loss to the Sixers, the Celtics sit two games back in the Atlantic Division and own the seventh best record in the Eastern Conference. With outsiders threatening to take their spot outright, their playoff hopes should remain high as long as they weather the storm on the road.
Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics (20-18) look to capture a win against the Portland Trail Blazers (19-20) at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at TD Garden in Boston, MA (TV/Radio: CSNNE/WEEI) before heading west for an eight-game road trip.