Clamp Stamp: Boston Leaves Its Mark On Portland

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Thu Jan 17 10:05:09 CST 2008

Clamp Stamp: Boston Leaves Its Mark On Portland

By Jon Barry
( )

In watching the _Boston Celtics_ 
(  take control against the promising _Portland Trail Blazers_ 
(  on Wednesday night, we saw exactly 
how this Boston team has earned the NBA's best record.  
Boston put on the defensive clamps in second half, particularly in fourth 
quarter, making it hard on Blazers guard _Brandon Roy_ 
( . In the first half, by contrast, the 
Celtics over-helped on defense, which allowed Portland to make five 3-point shots 
in the first two quarters and go into halftime with the lead.  
Offense matters too. Celtics guard _Ray Allen_ 
(  (season-high 35 points) was great, shooting 
12-for-20 from the floor in the 100-90 win. Allen had been mired in a serious 
slump in a recent stretch during which Boston lost three of four games. Maybe 
the _Washington Wizards_ ( , 
who won back-to-back games over Boston, present one of those mismatches that 
certain teams have a hard time overcoming.  
Great teams win with defense, but offense can bail them out. The offense did 
not save Boston in its three recent losses. If this game against the Blazers 
is an indication of things to come from Allen, it's a great sign for the 
Two of the big three thrived offensively in this contest; Allen and _Kevin 
Garnett_ (  (26 
points) led the way for the Celtics. _Paul Pierce_ 
(  (12 points, 3-for-11 shooting) looked pretty 
poor at times against the Blazers.  
Notably, Boston's point guard _Rajon Rondo_ 
(  (sore lower back) was out of action. Eventually, 
I think there's going to be a move made to get help behind Rondo at the point. 
Having _Eddie House_ 
(  play the position takes away from focusing on his strength, which is 
Some suggest the Clippers' _Sam Cassell_ 
(  could be that man. That kind of point guard upgrade 
would seem to be a good thing. He's already played with Garnett in Minnesota 
and Allen in Milwaukee.  
This game also featured two coaches who are strong coach of the year 
candidates: Boston's Doc Rivers and Portland's Nate McMillan. There are several guys 
also worthy of consideration. (Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, for instance, is 
winning with a mostly-unheralded roster and having lost his best player in 
_Gilbert Arenas_ ( .) You 
also can't slight Rivers the way some might not credit Patriots coach Bill 
Belichick, whose football team is so dominant and so good, winning is expected.  
Portland's been winning much more than expected. The Blazers (25-17) are 
still the hottest team in the league, having won 18 of their last 21. They played 
well Wednesday night. On the road, being down five points with three minutes 
to go is all you can ask for.  
The team's makeup is excellent, with Roy looking like an All-Star and big man 
_LaMarcus Aldridge_ 
(  at the head of the pack of most improved player candidates. I like what 
the Blazers' dual point guards offer: _Steve Blake_ 
(  is a passing-oriented floor general, while 
_Jarrett Jack_ (  
is more of a scoring threat. _Travis Outlaw_ 
(  looked good once again Wednesday night, offering 
tremendous potential.  
The Blazers are a legitimate competitor in the Western Conference playoff 
hunt, but I don't think they'll hold on for the Northwest Division title. I see 
Utah stepping up and fighting it out with Denver.  
I heard a story about Portland when I was there recently for a game. When the 
Blazers lose, the team bus is dead silent. They take each loss to heart, like 
a college team.  
They haven't had much reason to be silent lately. But when Boston is on top 
of its game, the Celtics can quiet even the hottest team.  
ESPN analyst Jon Barry was a first-round pick of the Celtics in 1992 before 
being dealt along with a second-round draft pick to Milwaukee for Alaa 

**************Start the year off right.  Easy ways to stay in shape.

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