Don't forget about 'Mr. Big Shot'

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Don't forget about 'Mr. Big Shot'

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON You look at the rosters for both the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks, and there's no shortage of star power for both teams.

But there are only two players who have been the best player in the game, on the biggest stage of them all - the NBA Finals.

That would be Paul Pierce, the Captain of S.S. Banner 18 who was the 2008 Finals MVP.

The other?

None other than former Celtic Chauncey Billups, a Finals MVP in 2004 with the Detroit Pistons.

Even though Billups doesn't impact games the way he did in 2004, he is nonetheless a dangerous player.

So for all the talk about Kevin Garnett and Amar'e Stoudemire, about Paul Pierce and his matchup with Carmelo Anthony, it is the player that was essentially a throw-in to the Melo deal - Billups - who the C's have to be concerned with throwing a monkey wrench into their Game 1 matchup today.

"He brings championship experience," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "Like we have guys who have won titles on our team, Chauncey is that guy (for New York). He'll be big for them."

Being in the shadows is a role that Billups has been in for the bulk of his career.

Even though he was the Pistons' MVP in the 2004 NBA Finals, Richard Hamilton was their leading scorer and Ben Wallace was the face of the franchise.

It wasn't an issue to Billups then.

Now that he plays with Stoudemire and Anthony, Billups says nothing has changed.

"I love it, actually," Billups told CSNNE.com. "I can just go out and do me, know what I mean? Those are two young, dynamic superstars. I don't worry about attention. All I care about is helping my team win games."

That will be quite the challenge tonight against a Boston team that swept the regular season series, 3-0, and are the No. 3 seed compared to the Knicks, who are sixth.

"We are the underdog, for sure," Billups said. "We're playing a world championship-caliber team. It's going to be hard. But it's a great opportunity. When you're the underdog, it's always a great opportunity. We feel like we got a chance."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn.

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Celtics-Heat preview: Do C's need to bounce back from a win?

Celtics-Heat preview: Do C's need to bounce back from a win?

BOSTON – The final score on the Jumbotron Friday night said the Celtics beat the Phoenix Suns 130-120.
 
But there was a clear and undeniable sense of loss on the part of the Celtics, even if Friday’s victory was their third in a row and sixth in the past seven games.
 
The Celtics (47-26) hope to continue on their winning ways tonight against a Miami Heat team currently among a handful fighting for one of the last playoff slots, but are doing so without Dion Waiters (ankle) who has been instrumental in their surge after an 11-30 start to the season.
 
Beating the Heat (35-37) will require Boston to play better than they did against the Suns, a game Boston won, but in many ways had the feeling of defeat.
 
Yes, Devin Booker’s career-high 70 points was very much a blow – a huge blow – to the pride of a team that takes tremendous pride in its defense.
 
But the sense of a loss came in the form of purpose while playing as close to their potential as possible.
 
The Celtics fell short on both fronts Friday night.
 
Being just one game behind Cleveland (47-24) for the best record in the East, the Celtics understand getting as many wins as possible is the mindset right now.
 
But coach Brad Stevens knows that while winning is important, how the team plays is even more valuable.
 
“Like I’ve said before, I’m surprised at where we are record-wise because we’ve got to play at a higher level for 48 minutes,” Stevens said. “We just don’t do it.”
 
Is this Stevens’ way of trying to motivate his players after a not-so-great performance?
 
Or is he seriously concerned that his team isn’t as good as their record?
 
The Celtics, by their own standards, and to those of us on the outside looking in, know they are a better team than the one we saw on Friday night.
 
Not having Avery Bradley (sick) certainly hurt Boston’s efforts defensively.
 
Still, a Friday night’s game wore on, Booker’s confidence only grew and the Celtics’ desire to shut him down or at least slow him down, began to dissipate like an ice cube in hell.
 
And that’s a problem - a big problem - for a team that has to be connected at both ends of the floor for an extended period of time in order to play at the level their capable of and, most important, give them the best shot at emerging victorious in the postseason.
 
That’s why Stevens isn’t too caught up in the team’s chances of catching Cleveland, or whether they go into the playoffs riding a fat winning streak.
 
“I’m not going to get caught up in winning a couple of games in a row and all that stuff,” Stevens said. “I want to get caught up in playing well. We’ve shown ourselves capable of playing well, we have not sustained it throughout a game. And it’s been pretty consistent.”