Celtics' 'New Big 3' finding 1 ball is plenty Print
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Monday, 18 February 2008 08:20
NBA Headline News

 BOSTON (AP) -The Boston Garden crowd rose to cheer for the newest Celtics All-Star, and Ray Allen didn't even look up.
After all, Boston's lead over the New York Knicks was withering away and the most important thing on his mind was, still, winning.
``I was focused on what we were doing,'' said Allen, who was informed of his addition to the All-Star team at halftime of the Knicks game, Boston's last before the break. ``We wanted to win the game. It's hard to look past what we were talking about in the huddle.''
Fifty games after one of the most dramatic overhauls in the history of professional sports, the Celtics are putting together a run reminiscent of their glory days. Thrown-together stars Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have shown they can share the ball and share the attitude that winning is the only thing that matters.
``I think everybody has decided to give up any of their individual stuff and try to do it for the team,'' coach Doc Rivers said. ``Without that, I don't think we can win. Actually, I think that with any team that wins.''
Rivers earned a trip to the All-Star game himself as the Eastern Conference coach thanks to the Celtics' best-in-basketball first-half record of 41-9.
Rivers came away looking good, with the East beating the West 134-128 on Sunday night in New Orleans. Allen was a star among stars, scoring 28 points, including three straight 3-pointers in the final 3:15.
``Clearly, if Ray was on another team, he could throw up numbers that would look All-Star worthy and not have wins,'' Rivers said. ``But he would rather have the wins, and I'm glad the league recognized that.''
The Celtics have won an NBA-record 16 titles, but their two-decade drought since their last in 1986 is twice as long as they've ever had to wait before. Last year, for the second time, the season slid away amid big hopes of landing a franchise player in the draft.
Much like in 1997, when the Celtics raced to the bottom in pursuit of Tim Duncan, they failed to get Greg Oden or Kevin Durant in the lottery this year. And it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened.
With the No. 5 overall pick - the worst-case scenario heading into the lottery - and some promising but still-developing young players like Al Jefferson and Gerald Green, the Celtics landed Allen and Garnett over the summer.
Rivers might have worried he would spend all season keeping his new big three happy. But he soon learned he had acquired coachable players who, despite their accomplishments, wanted more.
Garnett was the 2004 NBA MVP award but just once has made it past the first round of the playoffs. Allen is an eight-time All-Star who has made the playoffs once since 2001. Pierce is the only Celtics player left over from the team that went to the 2002 Eastern Conference finals.
``Individual accomplishments are great,'' Pierce said. ``But we're in this for bigger things, for bigger goals.''
Combined with point guard Rajon Rondo and center Kendrick Perkins - and a whole bunch of spare parts - the Celtics ran away from the rest of the NBA before a 10-game stretch in January when they picked up five of this season's nine losses.
The Celtics are 13 1/2 games ahead of Toronto in the Atlantic Division, and three games ahead of Detroit in the race for the best record in the NBA. They are 11-1 against their own division and 16-0 against the other conference - the fearsome West, which has won six of the last eight NBA titles. They play at Denver on Tuesday night.
``Some teams struggle to get 40 wins in a whole season,'' Allen said. ``We put ourselves in a good spot. It's in our control. But we want to do better than just control it. We want to own it.''
Even after Garnett went out with a strained abdominal muscle Jan. 25, the Celtics kept winning. In fact, they've won seven of nine without him, including five straight heading into the break.
The 6-foot-1 Rondo has averaged seven rebounds a game since Garnett was hurt. Glen ``Big Baby'' Davis had a nine-point, eight-rebound game against Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs. Leon Powe, who essentially didn't play before Garnett was injured, has had a pair of double-doubles and came close three other times in the nine games since.
``Maybe at the end of the day, in a crazy way, it might be a good thing for the other guys, getting confidence,'' Rivers said. ``Kevin's getting rest. So maybe that's a good thing.''
But Rivers would just as soon not have too much of this particular good thing.
``We talked about it when Kevin went down, that if everybody pitches in and does their job, we can cover up for it for a short term,'' Rivers said. ``We know for the long term it wouldn't be good.''
 

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