Playing the second of back-to-back and for the third time in 4 days, the Celtics went into New Jersey and showed just why they are the team to beat in the Atlantic Division. Once again, it was Boston’s new Big Three of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett leading the way. This time, Pierce led the Celts with 28 points, including 13 in a 19-5 run to start the second half that all but put the game away. Allen pitched in with 27 points and 10 rebounds while KG contributed 18 points, 16 rebounds and 6 assists. New Jersey made a 4th quarter run to make it interesting, but in the end, the Celtics were just too much.
The Nets were again led in scoring by Richard Jefferson (28 points), who is averaging a career best 26.0 points so far this season. To add injury to insult, Vince Carter limped off late in the third after spraining his ankle on a highlight reel dunk. X-Rays were negative, but Carter did not look to be in good shape leaving the court. No timetable has been set on his return, but I would guess that he is out 1-2 weeks.
The Celtics dominance down low is really what separated the two teams. Besides Garnett, the Celtics got solid contributions from from Kendrick Perkins (4-5 FG) and the surprisingly impressive Glen “Big Baby” Davis (6 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals). New Jersey, on the other hand, got virtually nothing from their 3-headed PF/C combo of Nenad Krstic, Jason Collins and Jamaal Magloire. Amazingly, the three combined for only 2 points, 7 rebounds and 8 fouls in 43 minutes. The lone bright spot on the block for the Nets was rookie Sean Williams who, in only 11 minutes, had 10 points, 4 rebounds and one ridiculous alley-oop dunk (courtesy of a Jason Kidd pass). The Celtics 5-0 start is their best in over 20 years.
Nuggets Storm Back to Beat Pacers
The Denver Nuggets erased a 25 point first half deficit to pull away from the Indiana Pacers, 113-106. Carmelo Anthony had a game high 32 points and Allen Iverson chipped in with 27, including a back breaking three ball to put Nuggets up 109-101. Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Camby had 10 points, 10 rebounds, 5 blocks and 4 steals for the Nuggs. After embarrassing losses to the Knicks and Celtics to begin their 4 game Eastern Conference road-trip, the Jekyll & Hyde Nuggets pull out back-to-back road wins (never easy in the NBA) against the Wizards and the Pacers and head back to Denver with a record of 4-3.
Troy Murphy led 6 Pacers in double figures with 18 points. After starting 3-0, the Pacers drop their third in a row to even their record up at 3-3. Danny Granger summed up the Pacers problems, “In the second half, we made bad decisions and took bad shots. We have to figure out a way to close out games.”
In Other Action…
Leandrinho Barbosa, starting in place of the injured Raja Bell, poured in a career high 39 points including 8-13 from beyond the arc, to lead the Suns to a 106-96 win at Orlando. Dwight Howard, who was seemingly the only Magic starter to show up, finished with 33 points and 16 boards. However, Howard missed 9 of his 16 free throws for the Magic, who finished a dismal 42% from the stripe. For reasons unknown, the Magic fans booed former player Grant Hill all night long. They should have been booing starters Rashard Lewis, Keith Bogans and Jameer Nelson who couldn’t get anything going against a weak defensive team in the Suns.
In Chicago, the Raptors hammered the Bulls 101-71. Speaking of players not showing up, check out these statlines for the Bulls starting 5 and first off the bench:
- Luol Deng – 5 pts, 0 reb, 1 ast, 2 stl, 0 blk in 22 minutes
- Tyrus Thomas – 4 pts, 1 reb, 0 ast, 0 stl, 0 blk in 12 minutes
- Ben Wallace – 0 pts, 5 reb, 2 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk in 18 minutes
- Ben Gordon – 11 pts, 1 reb, 1 ast, 0 stl, 0 blk in 24 minutes
- Kirk Henrich – 2 pts, 4 reb, 4 ast, 3 stl, 0 blk in 17 minutes
- Joe Smith – 0 pts, 3 reb, 0 ast, 1 stl, 0 blk in 11 minutes
Ouch! Are you kidding me?! What the hell is going on in Chicago? A popular choice to represent the East in the NBA Finals, the Bulls are now 1-5 and getting drilled at home by a team starting Jamario Moon. Moon, a 2000 graduate of Meridian Community College playing in only his third NBA game, has a resume that includes such highlights as a career best 5.2 PPG for the Mobile Revelers of the NBDL back in 2001-2002 and a 2007 slam dunk finalist in the CBA. Wait, the CBA is still around? I thought Isiah ran that league into the ground, after ruining the Raptors and becoming the worst broadcaster in NBA history, but before destroying both the Pacers and the Knicks. Well apparently, the CBA is still around, presumably acting as a developmental league for the NBA Developmental League.
Sacramento beat the woeful Minnesota Timberwolves 100-93, led by Kevin Martin’s 29 points. How bad are the Wolves? They are starting Theo Ratliff, Marco Jaric and Greg Buckner and Bassy Telfair is coming off the bench playing very significant minutes. Last night Seabass pitched in a solid 4 points on 1-8 shooting in 30 minutes of action. As a Celtics fan, all I can say is: THANKS AGAIN KEVIN McHALE! A true Celtics legend!
Utah won their third straight, beating Memphis 118-94 behind 31 points from Carlos Boozer and 20 points, 14 assists from Deron Williams. The big story in Utah though, in my opinion, is the resurgence of Andrei Kirilenko. AK-47, who in the offseason threatened to quit the NBA if he wasn’t traded, has been filling up the stat sheet like its 2005. Last night line: 15 pts, 12 reb, 9 ast, 4 stl and 1 blk. If Jerry Sloan can get this out of AK all season long, the Jazz are going to be a threat to every team out West.
Young guns Brandon Roy (32 points) and LaMarcus Aldridge (18 points) spurred Portland to a 91-82 win over Dallas. Even without Greg Oden, the Blazers, now 3-3, are playing some good ball to open the season. They would probably be better off finishing with a high draft pick and building an unstoppable young nucleus behind Roy, Aldridge, Oden and a top pick, but lets not start thinking about “tanking” this early in the season. I’m actually disgusted with myself that I would even think in this way at this point. It must be a hangover from following the Celtics last season.
As far as Dallas goes… I wonder if the loss to the Warriors in last year’s playoffs (and possibly the loss to the Heat the year before) has done permanent damage to their collective psyche? Maybe, maybe not. But the Mavs window for a championship might be closing. With Phoenix and San Antonio looking as strong as ever; Utah, Houston and Denver improving; and the new look Celtics dominating; I would not bet on the Mavs to win a championship with this roster playing the way they are right now. Then again, they started off 0-4 last year and finished with one of the best records in recent NBA history so maybe its too early to count them out.
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