Blakely's All-Star Game preview

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Blakely's All-Star Game preview

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.

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

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But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."