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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

40 Oz. to Freedom

I don't like John Mellancamp (particularly that insufferable "Our Country" jingle) and I hate the Colts, so I don't think I'll be making any trips to the heartland of America (Indiana) anytime soon. Thankfully, the Celtics are stronger than I am as they came away with a 104-97 win over the Pacers last night in Hoosiers country and also notched their 40th win in the process.

40 wins through 49 games is pretty remarkable. Boston looks like it could win anywhere from 60-66 games this season. Of course, it doesn't mean anything (are you listening Patriots?) if they don't make some noise in the playoffs.

It was the eighth straight game that Kevin Garnett missed while Kendrick Perkins missed his second in a row. Back when the Pacers were relevant (late 90's, early millenium), Paul Pierce had some memorable battles with everyone's favorite loose cannon Ron Artest. Ron Ron is long gone but Pierce (game-high 28 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists) still owns Indiana. Ray Allen added 23 points and starter Leon Powe posted 16 points and nine rebounds.

The Pacers (21-31) had five guys score in double figures but none had more than Danny Granger (18 points, 10 rebounds, 5 blocks). Shawne Williams (14 points), Troy Murphy (13 points, 9 rebounds), Mike Dunleavy (13 points), Kareem Rush (13 points) and Marquis Daniels (10) were all present. Most noteworthy about the Pacers as that 4/5 of their starting lineup were of the can't jump variety: Dunleavy, Murphy, Jeff Foster, Granger and Travis Diener. I don't want to get a rumor started but if they want to trade Granger for Scal straight up, I think the Celts would be interested.

A 25-21 Pacer lead after one changed into a 51-50 Celts advantage at the half. Rajon Rondo (12 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals) played well. Tony Allen (8 points) and James Posey (6 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals) provided the lift off the bench.

The Celtics took the third, 31-27 and their defense clamped down in the fourth (a theme of the first half of the season), outscoring Indiana 22-20.

Boston made 10 3-pointers and was 24-29 from the line. They also recorded 10 steals and only turned the ball over 10 times.

The first half of the season ends tonight as those lovable New York Knicks come to Boston for a beating. Most of the Celtics (outside of Doc Rivers and Pierce) will get a few days off as the NBA holds its All-Star weekend in New Orleans. Caron Butler of the Wizards has been out lately with an injury so there's talk of either Hedo Turkoglu or Ray Allen filling in if Butler can't make it. Hopefully, Allen doesn't have to go since he could use the rest. Boston has a killer five-game West Coast trip starting next Tuesday in Denver.

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