It seems as though people are making a big deal about tonight's game against the Boston Celtics (on ESPN for all of you non-Comcasters!), but I'm not buying into the hype. Wins against Boston count the same as wins against Charlotte, or Oklahoma City, or Minnesota.
I'm made the mistake many times of asking Nate McMillan about the significance of specific games.
"How important is getting a win against the Lakers tonight?"
"Jazz up tonight, any added importance in beating a divisional foe?"
"You haven't beaten the Spurs as Trail Blazers head coach. Any extra motivation there?"
And invariably, McMillan always comes back with the same answer accompanied by the same annoyed look:
"Every game is important."
So I'm not going to make the same mistake again. Tonight the Portland Trail Blazers take on the Boston Celtics at the TD Banknorth Arena. The winner gets a win, the loser gets a loss. Every game is important.
Onto the links.
Jason Quick, The Oregonian: Nothing outside of a victory over the Lakers would make the Blazers happier than to unseat these Celtics, for which they share equal parts respect and dislike.
"The Celtics, they irritate everybody," Blazers power forward Channing Frye said. "At the same time, they are the best. They won a championship last year. We want to be the best. And the way they beat us -- we took a lot of things from those games and put them into our own play. Their help-side defense, their intensity, their enthusiasm for each other, and their ability to have three superstars play together ... those are all things we are now trying to do."
Also be sure to check out yesterday's Quick Chat. Good stuff.
Mike Barrett, trailblazers.com: What are you realistically expecting against Boston? What will make you happy? Are you content with another 3-2 record on a five-game road trip, and are thinking that anything else you get is gravy? Is this team ready to be measured, once again, on a national stage? The first time (opening night) didn't go so well.
The players have certainly said the right things. They feel ready, and go into this game with a chip on their shoulders. They were pushed around, bullied, and ended up deaf in one year from Kevin Garnett's non-stop chatter in the two games last season. And, don't think Boston isn't going to be up for this one. They're tired of hearing how Portland is the darling of the NBA, a future championship team, full of rising stars, and great young men.
Marc Spears, Boston Globe: With a now healthy Oden playing his first pro game in Boston tonight for the Portland Trail Blazers, he and Celtics fans might wonder what could have been.
"There is always going to be that pressure," Oden said. "What if Greg went to Boston? There's going to be that controversy right there. You know it's going to happen. But I'm going to go out there and I'm going to play the game I've been playing. Play team ball and do what I'm supposed to do, and that's rebound and block shots.
"I didn't [go there], but a lot of people were always talking about me going to Boston. 'That could have been you.' If I would have gone there, that [Garnett] trade wouldn't have happened."
Dwight Jaynes, DwightJaynes.com: In the old days, Maurice Lucas is fond of saying, you could punch a guy in the face and get fined $50. Man, in the case of Garnett, who among us wouldn’t chip in?
And while Lucas continues to recover from a nasty illness that’s kept him off the Blazer bench this season, I’m fondly summoning up a picture of Luke, in his prime, on the floor giving the stink-eye to Garnett. Man, the first time Garnett got out of line, he’d see a beast coming at him. I’ve seen this thing, folks, and it was a frightening sight to behold.
Garnett, trust me, would want no part of Maurice Lucas. He would be a very quiet, well-behaved young man on the nights when he played against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Dave, Blazersedge: I know people are going to argue with me about this but trust me…we cannot become an elite team by winning this game. That only comes by winning 55+ and then performing really well in the playoffs. Those landmarks come in April and May, not December. Anyone who remembers the Drexler years can tell you that winning games against opponents in the regular season means bubkus when you get into the post-season. It’s a whole new world and as soon as Game 1 commences nobody remembers what happened before. The only thing that’s going to markedly change if the Blazers win is that the national pundits are going to ooh and aah and maybe some other fans will say, “Portland is for real.” Those last exactly until Sunday when we play Toronto, when we are once again capable of losing all of that with one bad performance. That’s about what it means…a temporary high. It would be nice, to be sure, but if you’re a Portland fan you’ll know already not to hang your hat or your pride on what other people say about your team because they’ll always say it louder and longer about somebody more famous.
Mark Murphy: Boston Herald: The “Who, me?” look on Kendrick Perkins [stats]’ face yesterday was instructive.
The Celtics [team stats] center was about to study film on the NBA’s most anticipated newcomer, Greg Oden, but judging from the sound of his voice and the innocent look on his face, Perkins could have been preparing to face Mikki Moore for the first time.
“I do want to see exactly how he plays,” Perkins said of tonight’s matchup against Oden, the Trail Blazers rookie. “It’s just going to be another night on the job, though.
“I mean, you have to be excited to get these opportunities. But to be honest, I’ve barely seen or watched him.”