* It’s rare to see an NBA All-Star arrive to the arena on the first bus but Ray Allen did just that today. Allen was here at the Air Canada Centre nearly two hours before the opening tip working on his game and the extra shooting obviously worked as he scored 15 of the Celtics first 25 points while going 5-for-5 from beyond the arc.
* Doc Rivers has one of the best sense of humour I’ve witnessed while covering the NBA the past two seasons. Before the game he had me laughing out loud on a couple of occasions as he joked around with Glen Davis and the media.
* Rivers was asked if he had to do much selling to get John Smoltz to sign with the Boston Red Sox and he joked with the media, “I didn’t have to do much. It was funny, I offered him my apartment. I said he could use it after the season because I don’t want him living with me.” Once the laughter subsided Rivers added, “I just told him about Terry (Francona) and the Red Sox organization. I told him it’s a no-brainer. It really was between them, the Yankees and Atlanta. His tough part was it was very difficult for him to leave Atlanta but I just kept telling him, ‘listen, you’ve paid your time there. You’ve had a hell of a career there. You’ve got a chance to win another one right now and you’ve got to seize that.’”
* Rivers was asked if he would give Smoltz a membership to Turner Hill and he joked, “No, he’s got to earn that. I won’t him though, that’s for sure. He’s too good.”
* When Rivers was asked to talk about the strong play of Gabe Pruitt lately he admitted, “Gabe’s been good, he’s just coming on. I’m not going to make him a superstar yet, he’s played two good games and you know I don’t love talking about young guys. They play a game and all of a sudden we want to put them up there next to Oscar Robertson. He’s young, he’s improving and he’s getting better. I said earlier in the year he’s going to end up playing a lot of minutes for us at back-up point guard which will allow Eddie (House) to move to the two. Where he’s improved is defensively. The offensive stuff has been there but he still has to learn the little things a point guard has to know for certain sets we run he needs to have the ball on the right side of the court and he runs to the other side of the court. He’s not sure what we’re actually looking for but that will come with increased minutes on the floor. Defense is the key for him.”
* Before the game Rivers was asked if Rajon Rondo is facing any addition pressure and he quipped with the reporter, “No, pressure is people losing their jobs like they are right now in the real world. That’s real pressure.”
* One of the turning points for Toronto in the first half was the altercation between Joey Graham and Brian Scalabrine which resulted in both players picking up technical fouls. It got the crowd in the ACC fired up – the majority of fans in attendance were shouting Graham’s first name – and it marked a 12-1 run which let the team pull back to within six points (42-36) after being down 17 earlier in the second quarter.
* In the first half Jose Calderon passed Calvin Murphy for the third longest streak of consecutive made free throws in NBA history. Murphy made 79 in a row while Calderon now sits at 80 and counting.
* Glen “Big Baby” Davis is so huge that when he fell in the third quarter I heard the thud all the way up in the gondola here at the Air Canada Centre.
* Toronto was 4-for-18 from the field in the fourth quarter and only managed 14 points while playing most of their starters. Then Toronto flipped the script and went on a 17-5 run to start the fourth quarter with a roster that consisted of Roko Ukic, Jason Kapono, Jamario Moon, Joey Graham and Andrea Bargnani. This cut Boston’s lead down to eight and had the fans stomping and cheering.
* Rivers was asked about Ray Allen’s game high 36 points and he responded by saying, “You know, it’s funny, I get so many calls (from people) asking what’s wrong with Ray? Well, there’s nothing wrong with Ray. He’s a great shooter and eventually he’ll make them. That’s why Ray is great and a lot of other players are good. A lot of players have three of four games like that and they go away for like a month. Ray believed the next shot had to go in and that’s what makes him a great shooter.”
* Rivers was asked if this was an emotional game due to the “altercation” that Joey Graham and Brian Scalabrine got into and the head coach quickly dismissed this idea by explaining, “I don’t think that was too much, honestly. I think both teams wanted to win the game but that was just a little… I’ve always said if the refs ran the other way so would the players. I’ve always believed that when the refs run in there and separate them it gets everybody a lot tougher. I think the refs should just go and sit down because then you would see the players run from each other, too.”
* After the game Sam Cassell spent a considerable amount of time begging his teammates to jump on the Baltimore Ravens bandwagon.
* Marc Spears asked Rivers if there was any relief in getting a win tonight and the head coach responded, “No, because we can play better. I want to win the games but I want us to play it right. We played right in stretched but there’s no relief there because we could have played better. And we know that.”
* Kevin Garnett dropped the quote of the night when he told reporters, “We’re a team of confidence, man. We’re not the bully team. We’re not the intimidating team. We’re just a team that plays hard and goes out and tries to make each other better every night.”
* When Garnett was trying to conduct his post game media sessions, teammates Ray Allen and Paul Pierce spent most of the time trying to get him to crack a smile.
* Ray Allen was asked if he felt pressure to step it up with Paul Pierce getting hurt and he humbly told the reporter, “Not really, I just played within what we were doing. But again, we were moving the ball. I’ve always said that whenever we move the ball I’m the lucky recipient of the shots because the ball does move around a couple of times and penetration always allows for the ball to go to the open man.”
* Pierce talked about his injury after the game and told reporters, “Scal fell into the knee that’s been sore for the past few weeks and I hyperextended it a little bit. It’s sore, because I aggravated it a little bit, but I was getting treatment on it after the game and we’ll see how it feels tomorrow.” When asked if he thought he’d play tomorrow Pierce told the media it depends on how treatment goes and how it feels tomorrow night.
* Speaking of injuries, Rajon Rondo told reporters after the game that his legs were sore after crashing into some chairs but that he expects to play tomorrow night.
* I was chatting with Steve from CelticsBlog before this game and he told me, “All fans, it seems – even the fans of a championship team with a roster filled with veterans – love to be sucked in by the beauty of the unknown. There is something sublime about knowing that someone can be good but having no idea what his limits are. One glance at the comments figure on any CelticsBlog piece referencing Bill Walker or J.R. Giddens will show you exactly that phenomenon among Celts fans. While there is plenty of debate about how the players should be used, I think you’d have a hard time finding too many Celts fans who aren’t interested in what’s been going on with the players and what they have gone through over their first couple of months as pros.” Neither player saw the court today but Gabe Pruitt logged just over five minutes of burn.
Photo Credit: Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos.