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Monday, February 11, 2008

Now are they for real?

Going into yesterday's game with the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, the Boston Celtics had piled up a gaudy 15-0 record against the vastly superior Western Conference. They also hadn't played Phoenix, New Orleans or the Spurs, the top three teams in the West. The C's biggest wins of the season had been a road win at the Lakers and beating the Mavs at the Garden a few weeks back.

Therefore, without a doubt, yesterday afternoon at the Garden was the top win of the season thus far for the Celts (39-9) as they held off San Antonio (32-17), 98-90. Both teams were missing stars as Boston continued to play without KG (for the seventh consecutive game) and San Antonio was minus point guard Tony Parker. The Celts also ended the Spurs nine-game win streak in Boston that spanned Tim Duncan's entire career.

The stars of the game were Paul Pierce (predictable), Rajon Rondo (somewhat surprising) and Glen Davis (mouth wide-open in shock). Not only was Garnett out but both Kendrick Perkins and Scot Pollard couldn't play, meaning Boston's only legitimate big men were Leon Powe and Big Baby. Somehow, someway, the two (mostly Davis) were able to keep the future Hall of Famer Duncan (22 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks) at bay.

The first quarter was a one-on-one showdown of Pierce (game-high 35 points, 6 rebounds, 5 turnovers) vs. Manu Ginobili (21 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 6 turnovers). Pierce scored 14 points in the quarter and Ginobili had the Spurs first 11 points. San Antonio took the frame, 23-20.

Powe (5 points, 3 rebounds) started but quickly picked up two fouls so Davis (9 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals) was forced to play a season-high 33 minutes. All things considered, he more than held his own as he made Duncan work for everything he got while also providing the C's with a little scoring around the hoop. Davis showed a ton of emotion as he was yelling after a couple big plays, it was great to see.

Boston outscored San Antonio, 23-18 in the second and took a 43-41 lead into the break. Ray Allen (19 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists) and Rajon Rondo (5 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds, 1 turnover) each had their moments. Truth be told, Allen's shot is still not right as it seems like he's hitting the front rim on almost every attempt. It's probably best for everyone that for now he's not scheduled to go to All-Star weekend.

The Celts got solid contributions from the bench as Eddie House (10 points) and Tony Allen (8 points) scored and James Posey (5 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals) did a little bit of everything.

The Spurs really missed Parker's scoring ability as newly-acquired Damon Stoudamire and Jacque Vaughn both scored eight but were a combined 5 for 17. Michael Finley (19 points) who has disappeared for a few years, hit some big shots down the stretch to keep San Antonio close.

The second half was won by the Celts, 55-49. They outscored the Spurs, 25-20 in the third and 30-29 in the fourth. It wasn't pretty but the C's did just enough in crunch time to hold on for the win. They got some stops, made their free throws and didn't commit any costly turnovers or mental errors.

With two games remaining until the All-Star break (at the Pacers tomorrow and home to the Knicks on Wednesday), Boston is just trying to make it through. It was announced yesterday that Garnett will skip the All-Star game which is good news considering the extremely tough West coast trip the Celts have right after the break.

Yesterday's win will go a long way confidence-wise for young guys like Davis and Rondo and the team in general as they saw that they can beat the best. The teams play once more (in San Antonio on St. Patrick's Day) and who knows, maybe they'll meet up in June.

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