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.

Celtics force overtime, come up short in 127-123 loss to Blazers

Celtics force overtime, come up short in 127-123 loss to Blazers

BOSTON – For the second time in as many games, the Boston Celtics ran into a team that played with a greater sense of desperation.

And the result was yet another defeat as the Portland Trail Blazers, playing their second game in less than 24 hours, were able to get off their losing skid with a 127-123 overtime win over the Celtics.

Boston (26-17) has now lost back-to-back games at home, while the Blazers (19-27) snapped a four-game losing streak.

In the extra session, Portland jumped out to a 117-113 lead only for Boston’s Al Horford scoring on a bank-shot in the paint and Thomas draining a go-ahead 3-pointer for Boston.

Portland regained the lead when Al-Farouq Aminu made a pair of free throws with 59.3 seconds to play to make it a 119-118 game.

Boston soon fell behind 122-118, but a pair of Thomas free throws with 44.8 seconds to play made it a two-point game.

Mason Plumlee scored with 24 seconds to play in overtime, and an Al Horford miss – rebounded by Plumlee who was then fouled by Horford – essentially put the game away with 13.5 seconds to play.

Boston found themselves down late in the fourth quarter and seemingly headed towards defeat, only to get an unexpected lift in the final seconds from Terry Rozier.

Trailing by three points late in the fourth, Boston had one last chance to force overtime so who did they turn to?

If you were thinking Thomas which is what the Blazers and most fans were thinking, you would have been dead wrong.

The fourth quarter may be Thomas’ time to shine, but at that point in the game it was Rozier’s moment as he drained a 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds left that ultimately forced overtime. He finished with 15 points, three rebounds and three assists off the bench.

The Blazers came into the game with the kind of potent scoring punch in the backcourt that strikes the fear into the heart of any defense, let alone one that has been as up and down as the Boston Celtics this season.

For most of the game, Portland’s 1-2 punch of Damian Lillard (28 points) and C.J. McCollum (35 points) lived up to the lofty billing as they combined for 63 points.

McCollum and Lillard both did their share of damage down the stretch, but it was their bench – specifically Meyers Leonard – whose play kept Portland in the game early on.

He finished with 17 points off the bench.

Boston led 65-56 at the half, but soon found itself in a 67-all game after McCollum made the second of two free throws.

But Boston countered with a put-back basket by Kelly Olynyk and a 3-pointer from Isaiah Thomas to push Boston’s lead to 72-67.

Once again the Blazers fought back and eventually took the lead 74-72 on a powerful put-back dunk by Haverill (Mass.) native Noah Vonleh.

Brad Stevens had seen enough of his team getting pushed around, as he called a time-out with 5:31 to play in the quarter.

It didn’t help as Portland continued to bully their way around the rim for second and third-shot opportunities with their lead peaking at 78-72 following a put-back basket by  Plumlee.

But the Celtics responded with a 7-2 spurt capped off by an end-to-end, driving lay-up by Rozier that cut Portland’s lead to 80-79 with 2:44 to play in the quarter. Boston continued to be within striking distance as the third quarter ended with the Celtics trailing 88-86.