2003-04 season game 01: Celtics vs. Miami Heat  Wednesday, October 29, 2003
The Celtics Beagle working on his next review.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!!

First Quarter:

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 great season.

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 open two. 

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!!  WOO HOO!!

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 been affected.

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".

Second Quarter:

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.

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.

Fourth Quarter:

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 trailer.

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 defense.

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 like THAT!! 

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.