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Game Notes: Boston vs. Toronto

* Before the game the media room was still buzzing about what went down Friday. I’ve spent all weekend heralding Friday’s game as the best I’ve ever witnessed and it appears most of the media who covered the game think just as highly about the game.

* Yesterday afternoon the Raptors PR team sent me a press release stating, “Jermaine O’Neal sustained a strained left knee at the 11:37 mark of the fourth quarter during Friday’s game versus New Jersey. O’Neal had medical images taken of the knee Friday night that revealed no structural damage. His status is listed as day-to-day.” Less than a hour before the game Sam Mitchell didn’t know the status of O’Neal and it wasn’t until shortly before the opening tip that it was announced O’Neal would start today against Boston. O’Neal was given the loudest ovation of the day when it was announced he would be suiting up but unfortunately his return to the court was short lived. At the 7:29 mark of the second quarter O’Neal collapsed to the floor clutching his left knee and at the next stop in play he was subbed out of the game at the 7:17 mark. O’Neal was in noticeable pain and discomfort and I was given a press release in the third quarter telling us O’Neal would not return today due to a strained left knee.

* During Sam Mitchell’s pregame media availability he told us if O’Neal didn’t play Jamario Moon would temporarily return to the Raptors starting five. This announcement isn’t a surprise because Moon has been  playing some solid ball while giving the team a spark off the bench since he was removed from the starting five. This afternoon was no different as Moon played some gritty defense against Paul Pierce and finished the game with nine points, two rebounds, one block and two steals. Not bad for a guy who only got 19 minutes of burn.

* A big topic around Toronto has been the way Kevin Garnett was “vocal” around Jose Calderon during a game earlier this month. Before the game Doc Rivers was asked about this exchange and told the media, “It’s just who he is. He plays with a great amount of emotion and intensity. He’s not doing it to show anyone up and he’s not doing it to embarrass anyone. I’ve never had a problem with him, I’ve had a problem players who do it because they know the cameras are on. That’s the trash talking and crap I’ve never liked. Kevin, especially if you know him and come to our practices, just does it. That’s who he is. He’s into the game. I wish every player from every team was into the game like that because we would enjoy it more. He doesn’t do it to embarrass anyone and the fine line I guess is you could get a taunting foul and a tech. That could happen and then obviously I would have to add scale him back but I think the officials know the difference between taunting and intensity.”

* Doc Rivers provided some great insight into what it’s like to play a season as NBA Champions when he told the media, “It’s clearly not the same mountain. We’ve climbed the mountain to win it, climbing the mountain to repeat you almost have to make it a different mountain. It’s a different challenge. You can’t go down the same path because it’s different. Every night teams are fired up to play you and that’s exhausting. We’ve found ourselves behind in numerous games and we’ve won six of those games and it’s just a different beast.”

* Rivers joked about the early part of the season being a Trophy Tour and the team had to get past that mentality.

* Rivers talked about how the loss of James Posey is effecting his team by saying, “We’re not going to replace Posey. We can’t. He’s done certain things that we’ve lost and we’re not going to get it back, but as a collective group our bench can be better than last year. I think their proving that because our bench has been absolutely fantastic this year. We may be around .500 without our bench because they’ve bailed us out of at least six games this season. We just got to keep them staying and playing within themselves.”

* Rivers addressed the deals the Knicks made this weekend by saying, “I guess it gives them cap room but coaches don’t care about that because they’re trying to coach now. They aren’t worried about having room in 2040, that doesn’t do a whole lot for that coach. Having said that, it looks like they still did a pretty good job of getting players while clearing cap room. It’s pretty good when you’re able to do that.”

* Rivers joked with the media before the game about being excited to watch the debut of 24 tonight.

* Before the game Sam Mitchell talked about how Will Solomon has been given a “block” of games to open the season as the back-up point guard but shortly Roko Ukic will be given the same opportunity. Turns out today was the day as Ukic was given 19 minutes of burn and contributed seven points, four dimes and two steals. Ukic did a solid job with his playing time in the first half as he helped pull Toronto back to within four points early in the second quarter after they were down 16 in the first quarter. His strong play continued early in the third quarter as Ukic had steals on back-to-back possessions and was able to convert those into five points.

* Boston jumped out to a 10-0 advantage due to Toronto going 0-6 from the field to open the game.

* Andrea Bargnani did a great job of legally clearing space against Paul Pierce by using his elbows. It might look like a dirty move at first glance, but the offensive player is entitled to his space and it provided Bargnani with a chance to get off his shot or take Pierce off the dribble. On the other end of the floor, Bargnani did a great job of pressuring Pierce and preventing him from getting open looks in the first quarter. Overall it was another solid game by Bargnani who finished with 14 points, seven boards and three dimes.

* Midway through the first quarter Rajon Rondo blew by Jose Calderon and then split the rest of the Raptors defenders for an easy lay-up. A couple minutes later Rondo tried a similar move coming in from the wing but Chris Bosh swatted the shot into the first row of seats. Calderon has been beaten off the dribble a lot lately and I’m not sure why he didn’t sag off Rondo until he showed he could consistently hit a perimeter shot.

* Eddie House may be known for his shooting but I was really impressed with his defensive effort today. He was shuffling his feet and was on Ukic or Calderon’s hip the entire time either player was out on the court.

* Don’t tell the Celtics this is just another meaningless game in November. The current champs were up 14 points with less than four minutes to go until the half and the entire bench was on their feet cheering on a Tony Allen drive to the basket. It’s this kind of passion and intensity which has resulted in the team jumping out to a 13-2 record to start the season.

* Boston shot a sizzling 22-38 (57.9%) from the field in the first half while going 6-9 (66.7%) from beyond the arc.

* Toronto looked stunned at the start of the second half as they allowed Boston to score five points in the first 40 seconds.

* Something that’s sure to concern Sam Mitchell is the fact Jason Kapono was given almost 12 minutes of burn but failed to attempt a field goal.

*  This marks the second game in a row that Boston’s starters have taken the fourth quarter off due to blowout wins. Even without their starters in the game Boston held most of their advantage as Toronto’s starters only managed to outscore Boston’s reserves 30-22.

* After the game Rivers praised the tempo Rajon Rondo was able to set and boasted that, “It’s nice getting your offense at 19 instead of 11. When there’s 11 seconds on the clock it’s tough to run anything. Most of the year we’ve walked the ball up the floor and we weren’t in a hurry. I think we have such a confidence, but that’s why you’re scoring 90 points per game.”

* I asked Rivers about how important it is to rest his starters for fourth quarter for the second straight game. He briefly paused before telling me, “It’s huge, especially since this is, what, our 15th game? A lot of teams have played 12. We’ve gone through five back-to-backs already and we have 11 left for the rest of the year. It’s amazing and any time we can rest our starters it’s a good thing.”

* Rivers joked with the media about Kendrick Perkins trying to calm Leon Powe down because, “It’s ironic when Perk calms down anyone because clearly no one is getting to him.” Rivers may have cracked a joked but the subject clearly isn’t a joking matter. Today Perkins picked up his eighth technical on the season and he’s close to getting disciplined by the league.

* When doing research and preparing for this game an invaluable resource was CelticsBlog. If you’re a Celtics fan or just want the latest scoop on the team, make sure you visit CelticsBlog for all your Celtics news.

* Thanks for reading my Game Notes for the game this afternoon! Make sure you check back on Wednesday for my Games Notes for the game between Toronto and Charlotte.

Photo Credit: Chris Creamer’s Sports Logo

Ryan McNeill
Ryan McNeill has appeared on ESPN Radio, MTV Canada, SiriusXM, The Fan 590 and other radio programs and TV shows. He has covered the NBA with media credentials since the 2007-08 season.
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