2003-04 season game 01:
Celtics vs. Miami Heat Wednesday, October 29, 2003
The preseason had
ended with more of a Grand Finally than a Grand Finale, and everyone
was ready to do this for real.
What had been prognosticated as a difficult game for the Celtics got a
lot easier the night before as the Miami Heat lost Lamar Odom following
an injury. They were already without Caron Butler, and their
former Coach--the much despised Pat Riley.
Sorry, Pat, but if you coach the Lakers, you should expect to be
despised for another 10-20 years afterward.
Everyone was feeling good about the C's having won their last four
preseason games, and hoped the Good Guys would make a statement in
their home opener at the New Boston Garden.
So, let the game begin, already!!
Fox Sports Net showed off it's new look, and I hoped it included a more
up-tempo broadcast from the camera crew and the director. Mike
Gorman and Tom Heinsohn were back, along with The Houdini of the
Hardwood, Bob Cousy. How hard was it to be Marcus Banks, knowing
Cooz was not only in the house, but on the air reviewing your game?
Cooz was openly stating that great things were expected of Vin
Baker. He also wanted to see if the C's were properly committed
to the running game.
The Good Guys went with an opening lineup of Vin Baker and Kedrick
Brown at Forward, Mike James and Paul Pierce at Guard, and Mark Blount
at Center. Miami offered what was left of their starters, going
with Eddie Jones and Udonis Haslem at Forward, Rafer Alston and Dwayne
Wade at Guard, and Brian Grant at Center for new coach Stan Van Gundy,
heading his first NBA game after assisting for 6 years.
Paul Pierce made some opening remarks that were so poorly miked (on tv,
anyway) that they were unintelligible. But the fans cheered
loudly, so I'm presuming he thanked the fans and looked forward to a
Miami won the tipoff, and the C's quickly picked up a loose ball foul
on Kedrick Brown. Then, on the Heat's inbound play, Pierce
anticipated the cross-court pass, and pushed the ball out to Mike
James, who immediately zoomed upcourt with it. He was the
furthest one up the floor, and the only player ahead of James was on
the wrong team. He never saw the guy coming behind him from the
right, as the ball was stripped away. Alston faked Mike James out
of his feet on a three, then calmly stepped inside the arc and fired an
Pierce's first shot attempt didn't go in, but Mark Blount was there to
prevent the basket at the other end. Pierce recovered the
rebounded ball and got it ahead to Kedrick Brown, who kicked it back to
Mike James, who took and missed a three..
Miami was running well, and did not let the C's get the break started
easily. Boston still needs to run better and work the lead pass
more. The C's also need to communicate on defense, as Baker and
Blount ended up contesting each other for a defensive rebound that
ended up going to Miami for a put back.
This put the Heat up 4-zip, with 9:53 left in the opening
quarter. I nervously munched another piece of chocolate from the
purported Halloween candy (Cut me some slack, I got four bags and only
opened one. So far.). Then, Mark Blount drew the foul going
to the hoop, and went to the free throw line. His first went in
smoothly, putting the C's in the scoring column, which was good.
His second attempt was NOT so good, and the Heat were off and doing
some offensive running of their own.
Boston wasn't quite smooth, and picked up some early fouls.
Kedrick Brown fired up an airball, but Blount ended up with an assist
as the first points from the field were scored by--VIN BAKER!!
Ok, so I'm rooting for Vin. Nyahh, Nyahh.
It was a very nice spin move and he earned those points. He looks
almost--well, fragile, But he's moving strong with a fast
step. Then, Pierce decided to take a shot he was given for two
more, tying the game at 5. Blount made another good block at the
other end. Boston crashed the boards on the offensive end as
well, with Blount and Baker making their presence felt.
But Blount opened up another aspect of his game, making two consecutive
great passes, the first to Pierce for an easy two, the second to Baker
for what would have been an easier two but for a Miami foul that sent
Vin to the line. Baker made one of two. Please, guys, you
need to make your free throws!!! And before anyone throws
relative stats at me, I firmly believe that at the NBA level, 80% is
marginal at the line.
Kedrick Brown had to sit with two early fouls. I had wondered if
Coach O'Brien would do as he had in the preseason, letting players play
with three early ones, but the answer was evidently "No." In any
case, this brought Eric Williams into the game.
Then, Baker tore a rebound away from his opponent, and made the quick
outlet to James. Eric Williams took the ball from Vin at the
other end for two more. Timeout was called with 6:07 left, and
the Good Guys up 10-8.
Following the timeout, Miami closed the gap once more. Then Baker
hit an outside jumper off a pass from Pierce. He was one of the
few C's players really moving smoothly out there at first. But
the C's defense was not quite where it needed to be.
Cooz commented about Pat Riley, "God, he's aged tremendously in the
last couple of years." He also thinks Riley's health may have
Then, the first of two bad calls against Baker, as his defender--rookie
Udonis Haslem--flopped like a rock on Jupiter, and the refs gave Haslem
the call. The C's made it clear they wanted no easy hoops as
Blount made another block, fired to Pierce, who got the pumpkin to
James for two more.
Then Eric Williams took a rebound and Pierce took it the rest of the
way. The Boston defense was working better, now. With 2:37
left, the C's led, 16-13.
Following a timeout, Cousy was cautious about reading too much into the
first quarter, when Tommy growled, "Aw, don't be a grouch!"
Banks came into the game, and had a nice pass to Raef, also just in,
that was just a bit too fast for LaFrentz to control. Even so,
running is good, and the C's were now running. Pierce tried
splitting a trap that was slow to form, and drew the foul.
Waltah! came in for Pierce. Battie then got a nice basket from
outside. Then Eric Williams added to his point totals. The
C's offense was finally catching up to it's defense. But the
final shot was taken just after time expired in the quarter, which
ended with Boston leading, 20-15. In the opening quarter of the
season, Boston shot 47%--frankly better than I thought--while holding
the Heat to 30%. The C's took only one three, which didn't go in;
and had only 2 turnovers. Frankly, Miami deserved credit for not
giving up on the game from the outset. Cooz called the opening
quarter "a good start".
Cousy's initial assessment of Banks was critical, as he felt Banks was
possibly trying to create his own shot more than was reasonable.
This happened a couple more times, and he was right. Eric
Williams was being allowed to shoot what he wanted as the Miami defense
got more porous.
Banks missed another shot and Heinsohn was quick to tell Cousy that
Banks was a better shooter than that. To which Cooz replied with
feeling, "I HOPE so." Well, Banks will have lots of opportunity
to learn his craft.
But overall, the C's offense was beginning to roll. When Miami
showed some pressure, the C's passed their way out of it, and Pierce
showed rookie Dwyane Wade how easy it is to be scored against.
With 8:50 left in the half, time was called with Boston extending it's
lead to 28-18.
Waltah! missed an open jumper, and the C's had one of their few
breakdowns in defense as the Heat were able to sweep in from the side
for a quick hoop. Raef got in a nice inside shot to get it
back. Next trip up, James showed Banks how to play point, as he
drew the defense, and kicked it back to an open Pierce.
Battie made a nice defensive play, saving it off his opponent.
Wade tried to guard Pierce again, with about as much success as last
time. Baker then went to the hoop on the next possession, where
once more, Haslem flopped and Baker had another foul, causing him to
sit. Baker could easily have become visibly frustrated, but his
demeanor remained calm as he returned to the bench.
Mike James impressed Cousy with his inside work, though both Cooz and
Heinsohn allowed that the outside shooting of both Banks and James is
"spotty". Cousy still felt that both guards should be working
more at creating shots for others.
Kedrick made a steal, but instantly got it stolen back. Then Raef
stuffed Eddie Jones, but the ball was called out on the C's.
Bleah. Then James sat with another foul as Banks came back in.
Battie flushed another basket as Cousy made the same kind of comments
about speed and quickness that Heinsohn had made in recent weeks.
Battie saved the ball with a wild flip pass backward over his head as
he sailed out of bounds. The pass went straight to Banks, who
zoomed upcourt. They didn't score, but they should have.
Next time up, they took a better shot, and scored two. Raef
looked very smooth from the midrange jumper.
As clock wound down to halftime, the C's noticeably slowed down the
offense, and Miami played decent halfcourt defense. Even so, the
C's had stretched out their lead from the end of the first
quarter. As in the first, Boston had the last shot of the
quarter, and failed to get it off in time. The second quarter
ended with Boston leading it, 49-39.
Well, so far, so good. The C's played well, though they seemed to
be playing just well enough to stay ahead. But Cousy--normally a
doomsayer, said "I like the new look Celtics!" Boston was
shooting 49% while holding Miami to 36%. The C's had a 12-7 edge
in assists, an 5-3 edge in steals, a 4-1 edge in blocks, and the Boston
bench outscored the Miami bench 19-10.
The only thing I didn't like so much was that the Good Guys only had 7
fast break points to Miami's 5. The Heat were, by and large,
getting back on defense. But more worrisome,the C's were not
running as consistently as they should have been. I was hopeful
that Boston would come out running hard to start the third quarter.
We found out how Baker reacted to ref adversity as he opened up the
quarter with a stuff off a no look entry pass from Blount. Pierce
showed his passing ability, and Kedrick Brown benefited by hitting a
three from the corner. Paul is starting to get quite adept at
passing the ball out of the tough defense.
Pierce then went to the floor to tie up Eddie Jones after Baker
bothered Jones. Boston won the tip and passed the ball into Baker
for another basket. It still needs some work, but the C's ball
movement is getting appreciably better. Kedrick made a great pass
inside to Blount who was fouled hard to prevent a dunk. Blount
went to the line and made one of two. Aaugh. But Blount
made a great block, and outlet pass to James at the other end.
James then got it to a running Kedrick who put it down for two.
Then Kedrick saw Baker open inside and dumped it inside. Baker
went to the line for two on the play, making both. (YAY!!!!)
Miami tried going to a straight up zone defense, gambling that the C's
wouldn't run fast enough or often enough to beat them. Baker
committed a real foul, and went back to the bench. But the C's
were definitely running a halfcourt game now, and that was NOT
good. With 6:47 left in the third, Boston's lead was now 61-51.
Cooz and Heinsohn were bemoaning the C's lack of running against the
zone as Raef got a quick two inside. Then Pierce made a "lean out
of bounds and pass around the defender" pass, resulting in Battie
getting another strong hoop.
Boston was moving the ball well, but the players themselves were not
moving quickly. But the C's offense finally started working
better, and the Good Guys began extending their lead at long
last. With 2:08 left, Boston led 72-54.
Raef's offense looked much smoother, and Eric Williams was putting it
down with authority as well. Baker did pick up his fourth foul,
but only two of those were Vin's fault. The third quarter came to
and end with the Celtics stretching the lead over Miami, 79-61.
To this point, the C's were playing deceptively well, shooting 53%,
though the Heat had increased to 40%. Boston's passing game was
paying off, with 24 assists to Miami's 12. Miami also had 13
turnovers. Boston had only four. The only real negative so
far was that the C's weren't running like they should have been.
They were missing fast break opportunities.
Banks tried a little too hard on the offense, and obviously needs to
work on his passing options a bit more. Yet, Heinsohn was still
waxing enthusiastic over Marcus. But Boston continued not to run
consistently, often failing to see the lead player in favor of the
Eric Williams made a nice steal of a rebound, which eventually put
Pierce at the line. He missed the first, and made the
second. Boston's defense tightened considerably then, and with
8:47 left, the score was 80-62 with the Good Guys in front.
Blount made ANOTHER incredible pass off his dribble to Eric Williams
for another easy hoop. Then he passed outside and found James on
the next trip. The passing game is getting much better than it's
been in ages. Pierce hit again and with 5:30 left, the score was
87-64 as timeout was called.
Boston was spreading out the offense as the sixth player hit double
figures for the night. Pierce sat down to relax. Tommy
voiced outrage that Miami committed a backcourt violation from about
three feet away with no call. I looked at the tape and he was
right. But it's Boston, and we all know how calls go here!
The Heat got two out of the deal.
Vin Baker was back in the game, getting the hoop and a foul, which he
did not (ACK!) convert. Cooz was impressed with the C's
discipline at the end of the game, not giving up on the attack or the
Heinsohn sagely noticed that the C's blew a play with the wrong pass,
and mentioned the correct type and placement of pass. Cousy wryly
commented, "You've got good Point Guard instincts, Tommy--from a guy
who has yet to make his first pass!" :>))
The Celtics did, however fail to see some open people on the break, and
weren't moving the ball up as fast as they could be. Eric
Williams sat in favor of Jiri Welsch for the final three minutes.
This was as close to garbage time as the game really got, but proved to
be the least productive offensively for Boston. Their defense,
however continued to be solid. Vin Baker sat with a few seconds
left, to a thunderous standing ovation, having scored 15 points on 6-8
shooting and grabbed 5 rebounds.
The only matter of consequence left was the final score as the Celtics
went up 1-0 winning 98-75 to get the season off on the right paw.
Cookies and Crumbs:
Cookies go to:
The Celtics offense gets a cookie, but only a small one because they
stopped running in the third quarter.
The Celtics passing game gets a cookie.
Vin Baker gets two cookies. He played 26 minutes, got 15 points
on 6-8 shooting, made 3-5 from the line, got 5 rebounds, 2 assists and
a steal--all while being saddled with 2 cheapie fouls.
Mark Blount gets two cookies. I had NO IDEA he could make passes
Paul Pierce had a good game, but he only gets one cookie because he
only had 4 assists.
Raef and Eric both get a cookie.
Crumbs go to:
Mike James and Marcus Banks. James was 2-6 on threes, 4-10
overall, not a stat I want to see from a starting point guard. Both
James and Banks were, ironically, the least effective passers tonight
in several instances.
Waltah! simply didn't get a whole lot done in his 14 minutes--which may
explain why he only played 14 minutes.
Boston's 4th quarter offense, which just wasn't up to the standard set
in the previous three quarters.
I still want to see more of the running game for all 48 minutes.
We know it CAN be done. But WILL it? The next game for the
undefeated Celtics is on Friday at 8pm at the Memphis Grizzlies.
And that's the view from the doghouse.