Steph makes immediate impact in debut

By Stephen Alford
Updated: February 28, 2009

BOSTON — Stephon Marbury made his Celtics debut Friday night as the KG-less Boston Celtics defeated a pesky Indiana Pacers team 104-99 at the TD Banknorth Garden.

When Marbury checked into the game for Glenn “Big Baby” Davis with 19.4 seconds left in the first quarter and Boston leading 26-18, the sellout crowd of 18,624 welcomed the two-time All-Star with a thunderous ovation that brought an ear-to-ear smile from Boston’s latest newcomer.

“I was so happy, I didn’t know how they were going to respond,” said Steph when asked about the reception he received. “They really showed me a lot of love. I felt that. I felt wanted.”

It didn’t take long for Marbury to establish himself in the Cs second unit. Starting in the second quarter, he received a pass from Eddie House knocked down a 17-foot baseline shot from the left-side.

The crowd went bezerk.

“It felt great. Especially cause the crowd went crazy. It felt great.”

Marbury returned to the bench with 7:11 remaining in the half as Boston’s second unit let a 26-18 first quarter lead turn into a 30-29 score favoring the Pacers. He didn’t see action again until the start of the final frame when he subbed for captain Paul Pierce; a role he is unfamiliar with but will have to adjust to.

“The best part about this is, when I was sitting on the bench, I never felt like we were going to lose. I was looking down at the bench and I can remember myself sitting down there, felling how they were feeling. They were up, into the game and sitting down at the opposite side, I felt confident about winning the game.”

Celtics coach Doc Rivers started Marbury at the point in the final frame, and Marbury immediately found the hot-shooting Ray Allen, who finished the game with a game-high 30 points, including 6-for-10 from the deep end.

He then showed some patience with the offense when he tried to work the ball to Eddie House. When House saw that he didn’t have a good shot, he passed the ball back to Marbury, who then passed it to Mikki Moore, who also made his Garden debut – albeit to a much lesser ovation.

Moore passed it back to Marbury, who then knocked down another 17-footer to give Boston an 85-79 lead. 25 seconds later, he ran another successful feed-Ray Allen-off-the-curl play, this time resulting in “He Got Game” nailing a shot from beyond the arc (88-79).

During the next Pacers possession, Moore took a charge from Pacers reserve guard Travis Diener. Marbury pumped his fist and ran over to Moore, showing team unity by helping him off the ground, a staple in the Celtics organization since Doc Rivers arrived in town.

A short time later Steph showed flashes of Starbury. House fed a trailing Marbury on the left side of the court during a fast break, and Marbury took a hard dribble pass Pacers Jarrett Jack and finished strong with his left hand, boosting the Boston lead to 11 (90-79).

The Pacers called a time out. The crowd went bananas.

His finest move, his last one, should have removed any doubt in those who still have reservations about Marbury coming to Boston to help the Celtics raise another banner.

Leon Powe grabbed an offensive rebound and kicked the ball out to Steph, who received the ball beyond the three-point line on the left-side of the court. Steph then drove pass Pacers 6-foot-6 forward Marquis Daniels and eluded the 6-foot-11 Troy Murphy, as he was able to finish on the right-side with a layup, giving Boston a 92-79 cushion with 8:23 remaining in the game.

“I think I was just so happy to be out there playing and happy to be out there playing with those guys,” said Marbury after the game. “I was tired but my legs were heavy. In the fourth quarter, I found some energy. My legs kind of forgot about what was going on.”

Marbury will have a tougher test Sunday as the Celtics face the Detroit Pistons at the Garden. Detroit just ended an eight game losing streak with a victory against Orlando on Friday.

With a backcourt of 6-foot-5 Rodney Stuckey, 6-foot-7 Ray Hamilton and the still lightning quick Allen Iverson, Marbury and the rest of the Celtics guards are sure to have their hands full. But the Pistons are not running on all engines and Iverson is not healthy, which should lead to positive results for the Green.