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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wanted: a big guy that can score off the bench

Heading into this four-game West Coast swing, I think most people expected the Celts to go 3-1, maybe even 4-0.

Can't say anyone was guessing 1-3 but that's the way it turned out as the Celts had another fourth quarter meltdown (though it certainly wasn't as drastic as the Warriors game) in a 91-86 loss to the underrated Portland Trailblazers at the Rose Garden last night.

Playing without star Brandon Roy, the Blazers (20-12) used a fired up home crowd to pull off the upset.

Steve Blake led Portland with 21 points while LaMarcus Aldridge notched 20 points and seven rebounds. Travis Outlaw (one of the best sixth men in the NBA) had 17 off the bench while Greg Oden had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

For the Celts (28-5), Paul Pierce scored a game-high 28 points, including 14-of-15 from the free throw line. Kevin Garnett added 17 points and eight rebounds and Rajon Rondo filled the stat sheet with 13 points, eight boards, seven assists and three steals.

Ray Allen managed to get 12 points but he shot a Larry Hughes-esque 2-of-11 from the floor.

The story of the game was the Portland bench which outscored Boston 29-9.

Jeff Van Gundy pointed it out during the Lakers game on Christmas and it gets more clear every night what the C's biggest hole is at this moment. They need another big guy, preferably one that can score off the bench. P.J. Brown was perfect in that role late last season and especially in the playoffs.

He seems content in retirement and the Rockets just brought back Mutombo, a name that had been floating around for a while (not that he can score at all anymore). Antonio McDyess would have been exactly what they needed but he returned to the Pistons after being traded to the Nuggets.

Boston came out strong and led 23-13 after the first quarter. The Blazers started to wake up in the second and only trailed 45-40 at the half.

Portland took the third (29-24) and fourth (22-17) both by five points as Boston came unraveled in crunch time.

The one good thing about the outcome is that it the Blazers didn't win by one or two points. Late in the first half, Portland had six men on the court (something I've never seen) and scored a hoop. Naturally, Boston stopped playing and the shot shouldn't have counted but for whatever reason, the refs allowed it to stand. Uh, Really? Somewhere Tim Doneghy nods his head in approval from his jail cell.

Eddie House had a chance to tie it with a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left but he shot an airball over Oden.

Portland shot 45.2% to Boston's 40.3%. The C's were 3-of-14 on threes but 29-of-31 at the line. The Blazers killed the Celtics on the glass (44-29) which is something that never happens to this team.

After what was no doubt a long, quiet flight home, the C's get back to action on Friday night with a gimmee when the worst team in the Eastern Conference, the Washington Wizards limp to the Garden.

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