Celtics-Blazers review: What we saw

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Celtics-Blazers review: What we saw

BOSTON The Boston Celtics were involved in a second straight blowout.

But this time, it was the Green Team laying down the hammer as they easily defeated Portland, 104-86, on Friday night.

As decisive as the final score was, Boston's play was even more lopsided as Boston's lead peaked at 43 points about midway through the third quarter.

It was an impressive bounce-back performance by the Celtics after they were soundly beaten by 32 points at Philadelphia on Wednesday.

"It was just a good response, especially with the way we played down in Philadelphia," said Paul Pierce, who shared game-high scoring honors of 22 points with teammate Ray Allen. "For us to come out and be sharp early, take care of business before we head out west."

The blowout also allowed Boston's core guys a chance to rest, with Brandon Bass playing 31 minutes which was the most played by any of the Celtics starters.

In the Sixers loss on Wednesday, Rivers pulled his starters for the entire fourth quarter. That time off the floor, coupled with not having practice on Thursday, may have contributed to the C's having a bit more bounce on Friday.

"Maybe the other night, one of the smart things we did do is we pulled the plug early enough to have our legs for tonight," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "That may have been the best thing."

Here's a look at some other factors that were under consideration prior to the game, and how those factors played out in Friday's lopsided blowout win for the Celtics.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Establishing tempo will once again be important for the Celtics. They face a Portland team that averages 98.1 points per game which ranks fifth in the NBA. For Boston, keeping Portland's scoring down will likely mean forcing them to turn the ball over more than usual. The Blazers average just 14 turnovers per game which ranks fourth in the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics came out as the aggressor defensively. And the result was Portland committing an unusually high number of turnovers in the first quarter - nine in fact. For the game, the Celtics forced the Blazers into turning the ball over 28 times which led to 30 of their 104 points. "I thought it was Rondo's ball pressure," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "I thought Paul (Pierce) and Ray (Allen), everybody was up; Kevin (Garnett) forced (LaMarcus) Aldridge way out away from the bucket."

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Kevin Garnett vs. Marcus Camby: This will be one of the few games all season where you won't hear any mention of Garnett's age being an issue. Regardless of who has been at center, Garnett has been on a nice roll of late for the Celtics with seven double-doubles scoring and rebounding, in Boston's last nine games. Camby, who will be 38 years old later this month, doesn't score with the same level of efficiency as Garnett. But he does provide Portland with a similar defensive presence in the middle.

WHAT WE SAW: Camby had a moment or two where his presence was felt. But this matchup was won by Garnett, decisively. Camby finished with five points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Garnett had 10 points and eight rebounds in just under 22 minutes with the Celtics' bench gobbling up most of the minutes in the second half.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Nicolas Batum has the reputation of being a better-than-average defender, but he's slowly evolving into a reliable scorer as well. He's averaging a career-high 14.2 points this season, with 17 or more points scored in nine of Portland's last 11 games. With his size (6-8, 200) and length, Ray Allen will once again have his hands full getting free for good looks at the basket.

WHAT WE SAW: Batum, like most of the Blazers, never really found a flow or rhythm to his play. He finished with nine points on 3-for-8 shooting from the field. As for Allen, who missed all five of his field goal attempts in Wednesday's loss at Philadelphia, bounced back with 22 points on 8-for-12 shooting.

STAT TO TRACK: If tonight's game is close going into the fourth quarter, it becomes a virtual toss-up as to who will win. Boston has the NBA's best scoring defense in the fourth quarter, giving up a league-low 21.9 points per game. But Portland's scorers will challenge the C's in the fourth unlike few teams have thus far this season. The Blazers average 24.9 points scored in the fourth which ranks No. 2 in the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW: The fourth quarter was irrelevant in this game. Truthfully, the third quarter didn't matter that much, either. Boston used a 16-0 run to start the second quarter, followed by a 17-7 spurt which put the C's up 65-30, at the half.

Felger: 'The Oakland Raiders are garbage, and they always have been'

Felger: 'The Oakland Raiders are garbage, and they always have been'

Want a classic Felger rant? Or forget Felger; a classic rant, period?

Watch the video above as Michael Felger eviscerates the Oakland Raiders.

"You know what the Oakland Raiders are? And their fans, and their city? A bunch of dirtbags," Felger said Tuesday on Felger & Mazz. "If that's not the most overrated team and organization in the history of sports, I don't know what is . . . That is a garbage organization and it has always has been.

"And the way people are treating them now, like . . . the Green Bay Packers or the Boston Celtics or the Montreal Canadiens or the New York Yankees are moving, is laughable. Laughable! The Oakland Raiders are garbage. And they always have been."

There's more . . . ,much more. Watch the video to hear the full treatment.

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

WALTHAM, Mass. – When it comes to NBA standings, no Celtic pays closer attention to it than Isaiah Thomas.
 
But the 5-foot-9 All-Star is quick to say that while he’s aware of what’s happening with other teams record-wise, Thomas, like his teammates, isn’t obsessed with it, even with the Celtics (48-26) now in first place in the East following Cleveland’s loss at San Antonio on Monday.
 
“It’s a good feeling,” Thomas said. “It’s still not the end of the year; anything can happen. It’s a nice feeling to be the number one seed for once, but we just have to continue to control what we can control.”

The fact that Boston is even in position to finish with the best record in the East is amazing when you consider injuries and illnesses have forced them to use 13 different starting lineups this season.
 
And the preferred starting five of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Amir Johnson has played together 31 times and posted an impressive 24-7 record.
 
Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been consistent in his message that while having the best record in the East is nice, he’s more consumed with the team continuing to improve.
 
“It doesn’t mean a whole lot right now,” Stevens said of being in first place. “The whole idea is to make progress, get better every day and stay in the moment. You do that if you’re in last place trying to build up or whether you’re in a position where you’re fighting for seeding. Ultimately, we’ve been able to grow and get a little bit better. But I still think we can play a lot better. That’s where my focus is.”
 
And the same holds true for his players. Thomas knows how unusual this season has been for the Celtics, who continue finding ways to win despite frequently being short-handed.
 
The latest example of that involves forward Jonas Jerebko, who is questionable for Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee because of a sore left knee that limited him in Tuesday’s practice.
 
“It’s a long season. A lot of things can happen whether they be good or bad and we know that,” Thomas said. “We just try to withstand the storm we’ve had a few times this year, and continue to try and stay as positive as possible and we’ve done that. We’re in a good position right now. We just have to continue to take care of business.”
  
And that means steadily improving while piling up the wins, particularly against teams such as the Bucks (37-36), who are among a handful of teams that could potentially be Boston’s first-round opponent.
 
Milwaukee comes in having won 11 of its past 14 games.

“It makes the game that much more important,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “Just like the Miami game. We want to let the teams know now, they go up against us in the playoffs, it’s no mercy. We’re going to play hard. We’re going to bring it every single night. We’re going to play Celtics basketball every single night. Them knowing that, we can scare a lot of teams if we’re playing the right way.”