Bringing The East Back


Call it whatever you want–a test, a statement game, the return of a rivalry–tonight’s game between Boston and Detroit is significant. Recognize the importance of that word…significant. When is the last time we have seen a significant battle between two top teams in the Eastern Conference? I for one cannot remember to save my life so I’m excited. So excited that I may be able to tolerate Stephen A Smith rambling AND I’m completely overlooking the fact that Phoenix and Dallas are playing as well. Somewhere David Stern has to be smiling. Until he sees the 57,000th TV piece on the Knicks that is.

The Boston Celtics are 20-2 and 12-0 at home. These are both facts. But despite the hot start (if they play .500 the rest of the year they still get 50 wins people) the whispers are still out there.
Many of them have come from my partner-in-crime. “Soft schedule”, “hot start”, “bad coach” and “no bench” are the main darts thrown at KG and the gang. Tonight they have a chance to quiet them for a little bit. Detroit will be the first real contender, the first real test if you will that they have faced this year. However let this be known: they have failed their “midterms” by losing at Orlando (back when Orlando was really good) and at Cleveland (back when they were still somewhat good and relevant). It’s a different story in the Garden though…teams haven’t come close to beating them there. Only a major comeback by Miami in the 4th has led to a “close” home W for the C’s. Things we know about this Boston team: the effort and energy will be there and they are going to play defense. What we don’t know? Will the bench step up? This is a game when someone off that bench whether it be Tony Allen, Eddie House, James Posey, someone has to step up and provide help. Detroit has enough weapons and defensive ability to somewhat neutralize the C-3. And I only say somewhat because at the end of the day they are still KG, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. But those guys have to spread the floor and make Detroit guard them because I have a feeling the Pistons would be more than happy in making those guys beat them.

Detroit comes in at 17-7 but have subtly shown that they are better than last year. Here is an interesting little nugget: the Pistons are 11-2 against the Eastern Conference and haven’t lost to an EC team not named the Bulls. The core 5 (minus a sweet nickname) remains the same just with Antonio McDyess at the 5 spot. Chauncey, Rip, Sheed, Tayshaun…we know what the deal is. They’ve been around the block forever. Beware of a major league chip on their shoulder though, I’m interesting to see what kind of swagger and attitude they bring to the Garden tonight. I doubt the 5-time, 5-time, 5-TIME Eastern Conference Finalists don’t want to prove everyone wrong for handing the C’s what they have already done. A motivated Pistons team is as dangerous as a drunk celebrity with car keys. Know whats even scarier about the Pistons? Other than the fact that Flip Saunders is coaching is their newfound depth. This is something they didn’t have last year. Now the Pistons don’t have to kill their starters anymore to get through the season. Jason Maxiell in particular has been a beast averaging 9 points and 6 rebounds and more importantly providing them with about 25 minutes a game. They also have athleticism coming from Jarvis Hayes, Arron Afflalo and Flip Murray with the always reliable and scrappy Lindsey Hunter in the back pocket.

So who is the spotlight on more? Detroit or Boston? The answer of course is Rajon freakin Rondo. Forget everything else: no one on the Celtics needs to have a better game tonight than Rajon Rondo. Ever since the trades have been made he has been called the weak link. He has been named as the reason why the Celtics would not win a championship. He has to step up to the plate tonight and show everyone what he can do. This is his chance to prove all the nay-sayers wrong. Not only that but if he is missing open jumpers or making bad decisions that makes Detroit’s lives that much easier. Now they can key in on the C-3 and just block out Perkins. On the other end he has to deal with Chauncey Billups. Can he use his speed to somewhat fluster him or will he posted up all day? Only time will tell. Know this: Rondo and that bench are the X-Factors tonight.

Tonight’s game will be a defensive battle and a lot of questions will be answered. A lot of those thoughts and whispers that people had about the C’s (and even the Pistons) coming in are either going to be confirmed or proved wrong. At least the East is somewhat relevant again.

Dot Time

  • Oh yeah the Blazers play tonight. Thought you were going to escape without hearing about it? Real silly for that. To get W #9 the Blazers have to beat a somewhat depleted Raptors team. I say somewhat only because of TJ Ford and the iffy-ness of Bargnani. The Raps have won their last three games on the road and have been locking teams up as of late. I still like our chances especially with the return of a hopefully healthy LMA. Pryzbilla needs to be physical with Bosh to get him out of his comfort zone i.e. how the Nets played him in the playoffs last year. A win is very possible (especially since Travis can’t shoot any worse than he did on Monday) but it won’t be easy.
  • Shaq says he is having a terrible season. Well at least he’s being honest. Anyone think that his off-season divorce is playing into this more than we’ve thought? Not one to speculate but Shaq hasn’t really seemed or looked like Shaq, I don’t think I’ve seen him smile once. And that was even before they stared losing.
  • Subplot to tonight’s Philly/Indy game: Samuel Dalembert’s apparent hate for Pacers Coach Jim O’Brien. He’s either getting thrown out or going for 20 and 20, I’m not sure there is an in between.
  • Ron Artest apparently still wants to go to the Knicks.I’m telling you if I’m Sac I trade Artest and Bibby and really get this rebuilding thing cracking. To be honest you wouldn’t get much back if you traded him to the Knicks but Isiah has to try and get him. At least you’ll have two people who will try on defense. Plus you will guaranteed have a brawl during a shoot-around.
  • Bad news for Spurs fans: Manu is tired and its only December.
  • Brendan Haywood says there is nothing different about him this season. False…for one he is having the best year of his career (10 pts, 8 reb) which means he doesn’t suck for once. That’s different. And also he can finally concentrate on playing the game as he isn’t trying to figure out a way to rip out Etan Thomas’ dreads out on a daily basis.
  • More proof that the L is a cold-hearted place: fantasy stud from last year Tarence Kinsey just got released by the Grizzlies. He was replaced by someone from the D-League who will more than likely be released before their contract becomes guaranteed. Ah…c’est la vie. I just want to say thank you to Tarence for carrying my depleted fantasy team near the end. Wasn’t this the same guy who outplayed Kobe and Rudy Gay?