Celtics, Beach Ball Advance To Title Game

<b>ATLANTA – The Atlanta Celtics probably weren't expecting a challenge from Team Reef, but someone forgot to tell Reef they weren't supposed to be in this one. In the end, the mighty Celtics got it together and defeated Team Reef, 76-64. Beach Ball defeated the Southeast Raptors to earn their spot.</b>

Hometown Celtics Advance

Team Reef pushed the Atlanta Celtics, a heavy favorite, to the limit in the semifinals of the Atlanta Basketball Classic. The Celtics trailed by 5 points at the intermission and had to rally to advance where they eventually squeaked out a 76-64 victory over Team Reef.

Franchise big men Sani Ibrahim and Amare Stoudemire combined to block 10 shots and had their way in the paint on the defensive end. However, on offense they were totally ignored until late in the ballgame.

The powerful duo only touched the ball five times in the first half on passes into the post from teammates. That's a woefully low number when you have a pair of 6-10 horses inside. Stoudemire's first touch of the game didn't come until 4:20 in the first quarter and that was a 3-pointer. His first "real" touch in the pain wouldn't come until nearly two minutes later.

Ibrahim didn't touch the ball in the point at all in the first quarter. He did fire a baseline jumper with 2:38 left in the opening quarter. Meanwhile, while the big men were getting ignored, the guards fired off 19 first-half 3-pointers. That's just not sound basketball considering the talent in the paint and as a result the Celtics trailed.

In the second half, Ibrahim touched it five times and Stoudemire 10. The result was 18 combined points, including five dunks. Stoudemire scored on a series of baseline moves that proved to be the difference in the game down the stretch.

The point being is that if the combo of Stoudemire and Ibrahim is going to stay together throughout the summer and challenge for major titles like the Big Time, the Celtics guards are going to have to re-evaluate the way they play. First and foremost, the big fellas must be the primary options. There isn't a team in the country that can handle them inside. This must be where the offense begins every time down the court.

Guard Michael Ford finished with a game-high 28 points, including a 4-14 line from downtown. Ramel Bradley and Shannon Payne scored 17 each for Team Reef. Their squad should be commended for the effort all weekend long. They don't have a true post player, but prospered with scrappy play and hustle. They were outstanding in the event.

Beach Ball Wins: For 2 ½ quarters, Beach Ball PG Raymond Felton had it in cruise control. He tallied 14 points before the half and the best was yet to come.

With PG Chadd Moore getting an extended rest in the 3rd quarter, the Southeast Raptors lead shrunk from 10 to 3 points. The lead was trimmed largely in part to Felton. He was heating up off the dribble and finished with 30 points for the game.

Beach Ball received a spark from a strange source. 6-10 big man Josh Fowler, not normally a contributor, scored 3 points. However, he came in and rebounded and his play seemingly ignited a spark in their offense.

Moore finished with 19 points in the contest. However, there wasn't really a big-time point guard matchup because Moore rarely guarded Felton and vice versa. The Raptors stuck Mike Furlow on Felton and he was too tough to guard getting to the basket.

Rising sophomore big man Mike Williams scored 11 for the Raptors and he's going to be a force. He's a tremendous offensive player as he already has a somewhat polished game. He has a little hook and a great touch with his short-range jumper.

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