at New Jersey Nets (17-38) at Boston Celtics (39-14)
Wednesday, February 16
7:30 PM ET
Regular Season Game #54, Home Game #30
TV: CSNNE, YES, NBA-LP 754/755
Referees: Bennett Salvatore, David Jones, Leroy Richardson This is a very dangerous game. This is the final game before the All Star break. The Celtics are coming off a big emotional win over the Heat. And, the Nets are a sub .500 team that the Celtics may take for granted. They also have enough talent to put up a fight should the Celtics come in and give them an opening.
This is the 3rd meeting between these two division rivals. The Celtics won the first game by 6 in Boston and the second by 25 in New Jersey. The Celtics are still banged up. They still have no back up center and Paul Pierce plans to play with the bruised foot and hand that made him ineffective vs the Heat. The Celtics may or may not get a boost from Delonte West's return. He was scheduled to return for this game but was injured during practice on Tuesday and is now questionable for this game. The Nets are at full strength.
The Celtics are coming off an emotional win over the Heat while the Nets are coming off a blow out loss at the hands of the Spurs. The Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10 games and 24-5 at home. The Nets are 4-6 in their last 10 games and 4-24 on the road.
The Celtics need to come out determined to win this one and go into the break on a winning note or this could easily be a trap game. They are saying the right things about knowing that this could be a trap game and they need to focus on winning it, but saying and doing are sometimes 2 very different things. It would be great if they could come out strong and put the game away early so that the starters, especially Pierce, could get some extra rest. If they take this game too lightly and let the Nets gain confidence, they may lose the EC lead that they fought so hard against the Heat to gain.
Probable Starters PG.....SG......SF......PF......C
Rajon Rondo.....Ray Allen ..... Paul Pierce.....Kevin Garnett..... Kendrick Perkins
Boston Bench Mob
Marquis Daniels (spine) out
Jermaine O'Neal (knee) out
Semih Erden (abductor) out
Shaquille O'Neal (Achilles) out
Paul Pierce (foot/hand) probable
Nate Robinson (knee) probable
Delonte West (wrist) questionable
Damion James (foot) game time decision
Kendrick Perkins vs Brook Lopez
One of the very few bright spots for the Nets in recent years has been the play of Brook Lopez, who is averaging 19.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. Perk toughness and defense will be needed to keep Lopez from having a big game.
Rajon Rondo vs Devin Harris
Rondo is coming off a great game vs the Heat. His energy and aggressiveness are needed to keep the Celtics offense flowing and on track. The PG matchup will be a key both for keeping the Celtics offense moving and preventing Harris from getting the Nets into their offense.
Keys to the Game Focus - The Celtics must be focused on this game and not look past the Nets. They fought hard vs the Heat to retake the lead in the Eastern Conference and it would be a shame to let that slip away by taking this game too lightly.
Defense - The key to every win is defense. The Celtics have got to put out the effort on the defensive end and when the defense is on track, that fuels the offense.
Rebound - Rebounding is another big key to getting a win. The Celtics must put out the effort on the boards to prevent second chance baskets and put backs from the Nets.
Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics must come out strong and play 48 minutes. They should not give the Nets any confidence that they can win.
Bennett Salvatore has refereed over 1,400 regular season games, 175+ playoff games and 20 NBA Finals games. Bennett has the distinction of being the worst referee alive today. The man is just incompetent. Salvatore seems to miss more calls and make more bad calls per game than any other ref and tonight he is our crew chief. Salvatore made one of the most controversial calls in NBA finals history in game 5 of the 2006 finals. The call basically gave the Heat their championship. Here is Bill Simmons' take on the call.
Salvatore called the foul on Wade's final drive in overtime (remember, the call where ABC couldn't find a replay to show that anyone touched him?) even though he was standing at midcourt a full 35-40 feet from the play, and even though two other refs were closer to the play. Not only was that NOT his call, he butchered it.
Another of Salvatore's controversial calls was in the 2008 conference finals when he waved off a contested 3-pointer that Pierce had hoisted over Richard Hamilton, inducing him to leave his feet with a ball fake and land on Pierce's back. Pierce, however, was charged with an offensive foul for creating the contact with Hamilton. The Celtics are 2-0 with Salvatore this season. The Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10 games with Salvatore as an official. His home W/L record this season is 18-9.
Seeing Salvatore's name has to make every Celtics fan cringe a little. Having him as the crew chief just made beating the 17 win Nets that much harder to beat. Check out this video of Salvatore and company doing work in a Celtics-Hawks game.
The Celtics are 2-1 this season with Jones as an official. He has been an NBA referee for over 18 years. The Celtics are 6-4 over their last 10 games with Jones officiating. His home W/L record is 28-15.
Richardson has officiated 640+ regular season games and 3 playoff games. He has also taken part of the 2003 All-Stars Weekend, refereeing the NBA All-Stars Saturday Game. Richardson served 12 years in the United States Navy before beginning his career as a referee. The Celtics are 3-0 with Richardson as an official this season. The Celtics have an 8-2 record in their last 10 games with Richardson as a referee. He is definitely not a homer ref with a home W/L record this season of 19-25.
Trap Game and Home Court
The Celtics have the home crowd behind them and they need to feed off the energy from the crowd to play hard and get the win. Focus will be key here as if they remain focused they should get an easy win but if they lose focus and allow the Nets to stay in it, it could be a tough fight to the end.