Blakely's All-Star Game preview

Blakely's All-Star Game preview
February 26, 2012, 6:05 pm
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ORLANDO, Fla. Despite their sub-.500 record, the Boston Celtics are well represented at tonight's all-star game. Paul Pierce will be making his 10th all-star appearance for the Celtics -- only four others have done so in franchise history -- and Rajon Rondo will be making his third straight appearance after being chosen as an injury replacement for Joe Johnson.

"It's an honor to be here, regardless of how I got here, I'm here," Rondo said. "It's a credit to my team. The guys have been unselfish and let me do my thing this year. It's a credit to the team and coaching staff."

The game plan, at least for the East, is pretty simple.

"Basically dole out some minutes and get out of the way," said East coach Tom Thibodeau, who also coaches the Chicago Bulls and was a Celtics assistant. "It's going to be a lot of fun. This is really about the fans. The players will put on a great show, and ultimately it usually starts off as a lot of fun."

Having been an assistant on the Celtics staff when Doc Rivers coached the 2008 All-Star Game, Thibodeau knows all the fun and games will change if the game is tight in the closing minutes.

"These guys are ultra-competitive," Thibodeau said. "And down the stretch, though, they'll all be trying to win."

And as with any regular season game, there will be factors that contribute to who wins and who loses.

We'll examine a few right now as the East looks to knock off the West, which would keep alive a trend in which the two conferences have alternated wins since 2006.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR -- With Dwight Howard demanding a trade earlier this year, it'll be interesting to see just how the fans will embrace him. So far, Magic fans have shown him nothing but love. And to Howard's credit, he told the media as soon as interview sessions began that he's only answering All-Star-related questions this weekend. Still, if you see him on the break and he's catching lob dunk after lob dunk from New Jersey's Deron Williams (who is trying to convince him to come to New Jersey next season), how's that gonna play out with the Magic fans at the game?

MATCHUP TO WATCH -- LeBron James vs Kevin Durant: Not only are they among the NBA's best scorers, they're arguably the two front-runners for the league MVP award this season. Not only does James have the edge in numbers, but the Heat may finish with a better record in what's turning out to be an unprecedented season of success in Miami.

PLAYER TO WATCH -- As an Eastern Conference All-Star replacement, it'll be interesting to see how much Rajon Rondo plays tonight. Most of the All-Star veterans like to take it easy unless they have it going offensively. That's not likely to happen with Rondo, who will most likely do what Rondo does best -- pass to guys who want to score.

STAT TO TRACK -- Scoring is, as expected, higher than usual in the All-Star Game. But there's one number that all but guarantees you a win -- at least it has the past few years. The last three winners scored at least 140 points.

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