Gameday Dish: Celtics vs. Knicks

The New York Knicks welcome their Atlantic Division rival the Boston Celtics to Madison Square Garden tonight. The Beanteamers, 36-25, are poised to clinch their fifth straight Division Title while New York at 31-29 is fighting hard to stave off the Milwaukee Bucks for the final postseason spot in the Eastern Conference.

These two longtime foes met in the first round of the 2011 NBA playoffs with the C’s dispatching the Knicks 4-love for the only sweep of the league’s eight first round series. This year these sides have met three times already with the Celts winning twice in Boston and the Knicks holding off the Green in Manhattan on Christmas Day, the NBA’s lockout shortened season’s opening day.

All three contests were extremely close. Twice the final differential was just 2 points, and the last time they met on March 4th in Boston coach Doc Rivers’ guys prevailed by 4 in OT. In that contest C’s PG Rajon Rondo had a triple-double for the ages: 18 points, 17 boards and 20 dimes.

The Celtics last played on Sunday against the woeful Bobcats in Charlotte. They won 94-82 playing without their Big 3 of Garnett, Pierce and Allen. After beating the Nets on Saturday night in Jersey, Doc Rivers decided to rest Garnett and Pierce against Charlotte and left them in NYC to await tonight’s important 48. Allen missed his 4th straight game with a sore ankle, but may be available tonight.

The Knickerbockers last played on Sunday afternoon against the Miami Heat on national television. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were too much for the banged up Knicks and got the W, 93-85. In the loss Carmelo Anthony had 42 points, 9 boards and 5 dimes. With Amar’e Stoudemire out for his 11th straight game and Linsanity gone for the season, Melo has been carrying the scoring load, averaging 31.7 ppg in April.

Also of concern for coach Mike Woodson is C Tyson Chandler’s health. The probable Defensive Player of the Year hurt his knee in the thired quarter of Sunday’s game. He is expected to suit up tonight, but may be limited in his movement and on-court effectiveness.

New York will need Chandler and others to help on Rondo, who is playing like a man possessed lately. The 6th-year Kentucky Wildcat has dished for double digit dimes in 22 straight games. It’s the longest such streak in 20 seasons. He joins HOF’ers John Stockton and Magic Johnson as the only players with 10 assists in 20 straight games.

Tune in tonight at 8:00 PM ET to TNT to watch the Knicks and Celts battle for the final time this season.

Gameday Dish: Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls

The Boston Celtics come to the City of Broad Shoulders tonight to take on the Eastern Conference leading Chicago Bulls. The 15-13 Celtics, losers of 3 of their last 4 and currently sitting in the 7-spot in the East, begin a 5-game road trip against coach Tom Thibodeau’s guys at the United Center, where the Bulls are tied with OKC for the best home record in the league at 10-1.

A bright spot for coach Doc Rivers’ squad in regard to their sub-par performances of late came this past Sunday, when these same two sides met up in Beantown and the C’s prevailed 95-91 behind 6th-year PG Rajon Rondo’s 32 points, 10 boards and 15 assists. The ‘W’ came with a caveat, however, because reigning NBA MVP Derrick Rose was out with back problems.

The Bulls last played on Tuesday at home where they bested a scrappy, energetic Sacramento Kings team 121-115 to improve to 24-7 overall. On this Valentine’s Day matchup, Chicago came out on top despite being Rose-less once again. In their floor leader’s absence, 8th-year SF Luol Deng expanded his distribution game and dished out a career-high 11 assists to go along with 23 points and his usual excellent defense. C Joakim Noah had 22 points, 11 boards and 4 blocks in the victory that clinched the Eastern Conference coaching spot for 2nd-year head man Thibodeau.

As for the veteran-laden Celts, they lost last night at home 98-88 to a Detroit Pistons team that came into the contest a meager 2-12 on the road. 17th-year, former league MVP Kevin Garnett missed his first game of the season with a hip-pointer and will be a game-time decision tonight. Rajon Rondo scored a career-high 35 points, but it wasn’t enough as Detroit outscored the Green 25-16 in the fourth quarter.  While Rondo was lighting it up, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce both had off nights, combining to shoot only 4 for 16, with zero 3-pointers. 10th-year PF Chris Wilcox stepped into the starting lineup in place of KG and played well, putting up 17 points and 9 boards.

This compacted 66-game regular season (in addition to the very short pre-season) has many basketball people theorizing about what type of team will benefit and what sort of team will struggle with all of the back-to-backs and the compressed scheduling. In this 2011-12 NBA universe will an older, wiser, savvier group benefit from the somewhat unorthodox season setup? Or will a young-legs, bouncy, high-energy roster be capable of hitting the gas night after night and wearing out opponents? No matter the argument or angle of examination on this topic, basketball is a team sport like none other and different players with varied hoops resumes will have to figure out ways to contribute in order for their teams to excel in this game after game after game environment.

Boston Celtics at Chicago Bulls tips off at 8:00 PM ET on TNT.

Gameday Dish: Celtics vs. Magic

Copyright Notice- Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by Steve Babineau/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe storied Boston Celtics come to central Florida tonight to take on the Dwight Howard-led Orlando Magic. Coach Doc Rivers’ green & white squad stands at 7-9 at the approximate quarter mark of this condensed NBA season. The veteran group, winners of the 2008 NBA title, has suffered through a five-game losing streak and whispers around the league that it may be time for GM Danny Ainge to dismantle his Hall of Fame core of 14th-year captain Paul Pierce, 16th-year shooting guard Ray Allen and 17th-year forward Kevin Garnett.

However, the Beantown Ballers have won three of their last four contests, including Monday’s obliteration of the Magic in Massachusetts by the remarkable score of 87-56. The 56 points and 24.6% field goal percentage that Orlando managed three nights ago represent franchise-record lows in both categories. The Celtics accomplished this 48-minute defensive coup without starters Ray Allen (left ankle) and Rajon Rondo (right wrist), who will both miss tonight’s rematch.

Copyright Notice- Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by Steve Babineau/NBAE via Getty ImagesThis game marks the return of 7th-year forward Brandon Bass to O-Town. Bass was traded to Boston in the offseason for fellow LSU Tiger Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis and guard Von Wafer. So far this season Bass (who ranks fifth in court time on the roster with 28.3 minutes per game) has been a productive contributor off the C’s bench with 11.9 ppg and 6.5 rpg. Bass played 34 minutes and had 19 points and 8 boards against his old team on Monday.

Coach Stan Van Gundy’s guys last played on Tuesday night at Indiana and came away victorious, 102-83.  In the win, All-World center Dwight Howard became the Magic’s all-time leading scorer, passing Nick Anderson who played for Orlando from 1989-1999. Superman has scored 10,657 points in his career.

The 26-year-old, 8th-year superstar Howard has been prognostication and prediction topic numero uno ever since he asked for a trade prior to the start of the season. Despite the added stress of the swelling relocation rumors surrounding their First-Team All-NBA big man (who can opt out of his current deal with Orlando when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer), the Magic sit only a half game behind the Heat in the Southeast Division at 12-5.

Marv and I will have courtside seats to the O-Town showdown when TNT presents live coverage of the Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic tonight at 8:00 PM EST.

Gameday Dish: Celtics at Blazers

The Boston Celtics, owners of the NBA’s second best record at 34-10, come to The Rose Garden in Portland tonight to take on coach Nate McMillan’s banged-up Blazers. With starters Brandon Roy and Marcus Camby out of the lineup already with serious knee troubles, Portland is hoping that fifth-year PF LaMarcus Aldridge, their active leading scorer and rebounder, will be ready come tip-off against Doc Rivers’ formidable front line.

Aldridge had an MRI on his right hip two days ago after hurting himself in the Blazers’ home loss to Sacramento on Monday night, 96-81. The rare home loss ended Portland’s season-high five-game win streak. Even with the defeat, Portland is an impressive 16-6 on their home floor. At 25-21, the Blazers currently sit 8th in the Western Conference.

A win tonight would carry added importance because six of their next eight contests are on the road and the two home games in this stretch are against the NBA elite – San Antonio Spurs (best record in the league) and Chicago Bulls (fifth-best record in NBA).

The Celtics have had their share of injury woes as well in the 2010-11 campaign. The veteran bigs O’Neal, Jermaine and Shaquille are currently sidelined with an
assortment of aches and dings that come with a
combined 34 years of NBA low-post, trench work
experience. However, in the C’s last game, a Tuesday night home win over the spiraling Cavaliers, starting center Kendrick Perkins made his season debut.

Perk last wore the green and white in game 6 of the NBA Finals in Los Angeles, when he tore his right anterior cruciate ligament. In his first game back, Perkins came off the bench to spell current starting 5-man, Turkish rookie Semih Erden. KP played 18 minutes and had seven points, six boards and three dimes after receiving a lengthy standing ovation from the Garden gathered grateful.

A great matchup to focus on tonight is the point guard duel featuring Portland’s 12th year, wily vet Andre Miller and the dynamic Celtic lead guard Rajon Rondo. Former Kentucky Wildcat Rondo leads the NBA in assists at 12.9 and is second in steals at 2.45. In the Blazers’ loss on December 1st in Beantown, Miller had 20 and 6, while the Celtic QB had 10 and 10.  Also in that game, the longest-tenured Celtic and 2010 3-point Champion Paul Pierce scored a game-high 28 points.

Portland is known as the ‘greenest’ major city in the country. Maybe that’s why the Celtics have been so successful there recently. Boston has won their single regular season visit to Rip City in 7 of the last 10 years, including last year’s 96-76 blowout. Tune in tonight at 10:30 PM ET on TNT as the eastern-most franchise in the NBA visits the league’s western-most franchise.

Czar Asks You


The Celtics came out on top in Wednesday’s photo-finish contest against the Knicks, but their superstar point guard Rajon Rondo went down in the heat of the battle.

Rondo rolled his left ankle in the fourth quarter and will be out of action for a couple weeks. Rondo leads the league in assists, and he’s second in the league in steals.

How will the Celtics fare with their playmaker on the sidelines? Do you think Boston will be able to hold on to the number one spot in the East without him?