2003-04 season game 4,
Celtics vs. Detroit Pistons, Wednesday, Nov 5, 2003
Games like this one are very tough to lose. The Celtics didn't
get blown out, it was a close one most of the way.
But for the love of Peanuts, all Billups had to do was glance at the
hoop and another three went in. Someone needs to just slap Rick
Pitino for letting Billups go--ah, metaphorically, that is.
C's fans, myself included, felt good coming into this game.
Boston had a few days off after watching the New Orleans Hornets
dismantle the C's with a press to practice how to get the ball over
halfcourt properly. The Pistons are normally not what you'd call
a great offensive team, and Eric Williams, thank goodness, had only a
bone bruise from which he expects to recover in about 1-2 weeks.
I can't report on Gorman's and Heinsohn's comments, since DirecTV had
the Detroit feed, But I do have a few comments for Fox Sports Net in
general before we get to the game.
We know that "Master and Commander" is about to hit the theatres. We
know that it's a Fox film. I, for one, am well and truly tired of
your obvious directive that the team broadcasters must somehow tie in a
movie about warships in Napoleonic times with a basketball game
today. You went so far overboard that your Detroit team--in
keeping with this pitiful attempt at a nautical theme--announced that
the Celtics came from the Back Bay.
It's the North End, you Ship of Fools (that's a John Renbourn
reference, if you care).
Also, your team in Detroit has the same problem as FSNE in
Boston. The one where they keep cutting to a slow motion replay
at the expense of what's actually happening now. If you want to
replay everything we just saw, fine. Cut down on the commercials
and we'll watch happily. Otherwise, let us watch the game in
peace. Now, let's hoist the Mains and heave to, heading for the
stormy waters of the game.
See how annoying that is after one sentence? Imagine how WE felt
after several unending scenes of that.
Ok, rant over.
The Celtics went with a starting lineup of Vin Baker and Kedrick Brown
at Forward, Mike James and Paul Pierce at Guard, and Mark Blount at
Center. The Pistons sent forth Ben Wallace and Tayshaun Prince at
Forward, Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton at Guard, and Elden
Campbell at Center.
The opening tip--which took quite some time as the ref was apparently
posing for pictures--was won by Wallace, though Blount made a valiant
effort. Pierce made a well-timed block and then came up with the
loose ball, which he promptly passed upcourt to James.
James then tried to drive to the hoop, but Billups poked the ball away,
which bounced off Mark Blount and right into the hands of
Billups. Chauncey launched a three--one of his few misses, and
Wallace tipped the rebound, but the James snagged it and launched a
great pass up to a zooming Kedrick Brown.
I can't understand why things happened the way the did next.
Kedrick had his man beat, and was past the free throw line on his way
to an easy two. All he had to do was take it up strong and keep
his back to his would-be defender. But Kedrick never got any lift
off the floor. He ended up trying to lay it up and in as he went
by the hoop. That allowed his defender to foul him on the shot,
which ended up a miss.
I KNOW that Kedrick CAN elevate. But he did not, that time, not
even close. He was running hard, but his attempt at a any kind of
altitude was a total failure. There's something wrong with him,
physically. There HAS to be. This wasn't confusion, or
hesitation. He was running and preparing to do what he'd been
doing all preseason, leap over tall defenders in a single bound while
pushing the ball through the hoop from above. Nothing happened.
At least he made up for it at the free throw line, making both.
On the next trip up, Kedrick worked the land and got a nice hoop off a
pass from Pierce. But again, there was no real leaping evident on
Brown's part. Heck, CHARLIE Brown could have gone higher.
Well, you knew THAT was coming, right? Celtics Beagle, and
all? Ok, ok.
The C's were now up 4-zip and we were a minute and a half into the
quarter. That's my kind of game so far. The C's played good
defense, but Prince hit a deep two over Pierce. As this happened,
the announcers were going on interminably about how Walker was no
longer with Boston.
There's about 2 dozen teams we haven't played yet this season.
Are we going to hear that every time the opposing team gets the
broadcast? Mike and Tommy are looking better and better
Pierce got off another nice pass to Vin Baker, who nailed the
jumper. Comeback Player? At the rate he's improving, he may
end the season as an MVP candidate! I know it's still a longshot
now, but what's life without some long range goals?
As the Pistons brought it up, you could hear Coach O'Brien hollering a
warning to the C's to watch for the back door play. They did so,
but Prince hit what was to become the Celtics' bane this night: the
three point shot. There must be something in the water, because
suddenly, everyone's offense THIS season is just like Boston's was LAST
season. Lots of one-and-done threes. The main difference is
these guys are hitting them at an absolutely ridiculous rate.
Pierce then got an open look from the free throw line, hitting the kind
of shot we'd all like to see more often.
Mark Blount then got the ball and passed it up to Mike James.
James got it to Baker. Vin got stuffed by Wallace, and went to
the line. Why is it, by the way, that everyone on the C's can
make the long pass upcourt except the point guards? Anyway,
Vinnie hit both free throws.
Blount then intercepted a pass and the C's were off and running once
more. Pierce made a great pass to baker, who was totally alone on
his side of the court for an easy hoop. Then Kedrick got called
for what I thought was kind of a cheap foul. But Brown looked a
bit down on himself.
On the next play, Blount gave Billups what could easily have been
called a hard foul. Mark has a very physical game, but his habit
of swinging that arm down is going to get him in hot water if he's not
careful. Yet, on the next trip up, Mark showed restraint--and patience,
as Battie made a VERY dangerous pass cross court to Pierce, whose
subsequent shot looked queasy at the hoop. Blount got in perfect
position for the cleanup rebound, but was careful not to interfere, as
the ball bounced gently through the hoop.
This made it 14-7 in favor of the Good Guys with 7:23 left in the
The C's defense looked quite good throughout, with strong help defense
and quick hands. The offense was looking good, as passes were
crisp and players took good shots. The general good feelings on
the court were marred only as Kedrick picked up his second foul and
sat. Welsch came out and immediately got scored on by
But James got stripped as he got caught waving the ball around with co
clear plan what to do. This led to a fast two for the
Pistons. James was reading the court better than the last game,
but still has a ways to go.
The C's defense was generally good, though, forcing Detroit to the
outside. At the other end, Jiri Welsch nailed a three on a nice
kick out pass from Pierce. Pierce had taken the ball into the
lane and saw the triple team closing in on him from the hoop side--plus
a fourth defender coming up from behind. Welsch was all alone at
the arc, so Pierce sent the ball over to keep him company. For
his part, Jiri launched the ball like he was Danny Ainge, and got the
same result. Well, the result Ainge used to get in later years, not in
his rookie season. :>)
Then, James had one of those good plays/bad plays that have plagued
him. He dribbled the ball hard and fast upcourt--well, if he's
not going with the long pass, at least he runs quickly. That was
good. The bad part was, he dribbled right into a double team and
got stripped. Battie was open at the free throw line. a
crisp bounce pass would have turned to an easy two from Battie, who had
room. James was obviously trying to draw a foul, but with 15
seconds left on the shot clock, that's not the time to try a suicide
Belatedly, he tried to pass the ball out from under the hoop back to
Tony, who was still at the free throw line. The problem was, now
Ben Wallace was in front of Battie instead of several steps behind and
James did not make a bounce pass. Wallace barely had to leave his
feet to take the pass. Battie ended up having to commit a
deliberate foul to prevent the easy hoop at the other end.
For the second time tonight that I noticed, Vin called for the ball
when he was pretty far away from the hoop. And, for the second
time, from that range, he missed. Vin has a great shot inside of
about 12 feet. Further out, it's more iffy. I'd prefer him
down low and let someone else launch deeper shots.
Speaking of deep shots, James launched ANOTHER three with 15 seconds
left, and both Raef and Jiri open at the other side of the arc.
Pierce was four feet in front of him and in position to take the ball
on a give and go. But no, he saw fit to rise and shoot the three,
which clanged up off the front of the rim, rebounded off the backboard,
and ended up in the hands of the Pistons.
Next time up, James was much smarter. He drove in, then kecked
out the ball to Welsch--who SHOULD have shot the three, and
didn't. Waah. James snagged the rebound, and this time, the
three was the right shot to take, as the Detroit defense was now
set. It didn't fall, but it was a better decision.
Pierce would then split the defense beautifully, and made a goaltended
basket. Larry Brown wasn't happy with it, but I went frame by
frame from two angles. It was goaltending. The ball was on
the downward arc, barely, but it was. At the other end, Pierce
drew a charge. then back to offense, and Pierce kicked the ball
to Welsch, who was backing up so far, I thought his heels were on the
sideline when he caught it. It was a good attempt, but missed.
The C's defense kept Detroit from getting their running game going with
any continuity, and despite the ill-considered shot selection in some
places, the C's were holding the lead. Banks got stripped as he
tried bringing the ball up. I saw an indication of how
ineffective Banks was when on the next offensive set he did not touch
the ball. In fact, the ball clearly stayed on the opposite side
of wherever he was. Raef sent the ball inbounds, with Banks and
Welsch equally available on opposite sides. Jiri Welsch was
chosen to bring the ball up. Battie and Welsch passed the pumpkin
back and forth at the top of he key. Raef ended up taking a shot
that was partially deflected and Jiri took the rebound. Detroit
committed the foul, and Waltah! sent the ball back into play.
Only then did Banks get the ball at the top of the key. He made
an outside-to outside pass to Jumaine Jones, who got it into Battie for
Yes, I said "Jumaine Jones".
He had just come into the game whilst Waltah! was preparing to put the
ball into play. As recently as this afternoon, I figured he
wasn't even going to be available until next week. But there he
was, in the game. Banks redeemed himself on the next trip up when
he zoomed to the hoop, blowing past the defense who fouled the rush of
green wind that passed by them, and made the shot though he missed the
subsequent free throw.
The C's defense was caught napping on the way back as Williamson made
the kind of basket that Baker's been making hay with. Banks
replied as the defense fell totally away from him and dared him to take
the open three.
Oops. Banks can hit that shot, when he has time to set himself.
Billups followed a great shot with a dumb foul that sent Banks to the
line. Marcus' free throw form looked good as he made both.
The first quarter ended with the Good Guys leading it, 30-23.
For all of what might be perceived as nitpicking on my part, The C's
had a positive first quarter. It was a gigantic improvement over
the last couple of meetings with the Pistons. The C's did a much
better job of getting the ball up against the press, and the passing
overall was much better.
The C's opened up with strong defense and the Pistons still hit their
first shot of the quarter. Banks still has more trouble than
James getting the ball up against the press, but at least he didn't
look like he's wandered into the building by accident tonight.
Jumaine Jones got his first points as a Celtic player on a cleanup
rebound. Boston wasn't playing Jones at Point Guard, they were
just working him into the lineup.
Then Jones showed how healthy he was as he went up high for the
defensive rebound, executed a 180-degree turn in midair and came down
running on the break.
Yeah, I'd say his legs are felling better now.
The left Jones open at the other end as they tripled Pierce, so Paul
tossed him the ball. James' three was short off the front rim,
but his follow-through looked good. I'm cutting him slack because
he missed ALL of the preseason, and the first three games of the
regular season. He will need some time to get it together
The C's ran fast, but not well, as Pierce got the ball poked away from
him. It seems that the Good Guys ARE running, but just not quite
fast enough to really beat the defense on a consistent basis.
They have a ways to go, yet.
Jones was sent flying as he tried to block the path top the hoop, and
nothing was called. This was going to be a problem for Boston, as
a number of Detroit transgressions would go unremarked throughout the
game. The saving grace was that the Pistons were really pitiful
at the free throw line.
Raef wasn't ready for Ben Wallace to run the baseline, and ended up
fouling from behind. Ok, no one else was ready for that one,
The Pistons then began heating up from the three point line as
Williamson put one down. Detroit's defense also tightened up
considerably, as the C's were not able to make the fast moves to the
basket that had been a hallmark of the opening quarter.
Boston did their work on defense, but when Okur starts hitting deep
jumpers, you know things are not going as well as they might. The
Pistons did occasionally leave Pierce open, a two point mistake in this
case. With 6:52 left in the half, the Celtics led 38-33 as
timeout was called.
From the start of the quarter, the Pistons had outscored the C's
10-8. That was NOT what I wanted to see. But the C's
offense slowly got back on track, though Pierce missed a play--he was
doubled near the elbow of the arc, a teammate was open at the top who
had an easy pass straight down the lane to Vin, if they moved fast
enough. Instead he opted for a pass back to Battie near the
corner. Tony missed, and Vin just couldn't get the rebound as he
was obviously pushed out of bounds from behind. No call, of
course. But Williamson got brushed slightly a few moments later,
and went to the line--again.
This bit of officiating idiocy gave the Pistons the lead at 37-36, and
brought the crown back into it.
James apparently thought he was the second coming of Cousy as he tried
to dribble through more traffic than the Big Dig, ending up without the
ball. Detroit made two off that. Then Blount got the ball
to Baker under the hoop at the other end, and Vin somehow twisted so he
faced the hoop and put it in.
Shortly afterward, Vin grabbed a rebound despite being elbowed by a
defender, and either a) spun beautifully away from a second defender,
who flopped to no avail, or b) made a GREAT hip check before sinking
the basket. Either way, nice move. That put Vin in double
figures for the night.
I might add that Jumaine Jones spent an extended amount of time on the
floor in the second quarter, pretty cool for a guy not expected to play
until next week. But I think overall, the C's were realizing this
game was going to be harder than the first quarter made it look.
But Mike James was the recipient of a pass off a turnover that landed
an easy to as he zoomed upcourt. I was hoping we'd see a lot more
of that. On the bad side, James does not handle a pressured
double well at all. He tends to lose the ball. Worse, that
generally happens far enough out that a fast break is inevitable.
But he made a dumb play when he could only be loosely described as
having control of the ball on one quick trip upcourt. As he
allegedly kept up with the ball, he then tried to pass it in to Jones,
but Billups was right THERE, and easily picked off the pass. The
Detroit announcers were eager to point out the C's turnovers, only to
see the Pistons throw it out of bounds before the echo died.
On the last play of the half, with time running out, Vin got a
rebounded miss that he had to flip up behind his back in the general
direction of the hoop. Considering the circumstances, it was a
pretty darned good try. Even so, as halftime came, Vin had 12
points on 5-7 shooting and 2-2 free throws. The C's lead in
general was now 54-45.
So far, so good was the sum of it. The C's had started to stomp
the Pistons, but Detroit came back to make a game of it. Now the
C's were poised once more to begin stomping. What had threatened
to be a low-scoring second quarter became quite respectable by the time
the teams took their halftime break.
All the C's had to do was come out roaring in the third, and somehow
defend the three a little better without sacrificing their interior
defense. Also, the had to be careful that the Pistons didn't gain
confidence in the pressure defense against the C's. Basically,
the Celtics had to run like there was no tomorrow.
Kedrick Brown came back in to start the quarter and committed an
offensive foul. This is going to sound mean, but Kedrick is
starting to remind me of Vin last year. No lift in his legs,
silly fouls, and quick to get down on himself. Though I'm still
of the opinion there's an injury we aren't being told about.
Kedrick isn't a GREAT player, but he's a good player, and certainly
better then the last couple of games have been showing.
Trouble was quickly brewing as Detroit's defense tightened and their
offense spread out more. The Pistons were doing exactly what I
was afraid of, while the C's not getting good shots when they moved the
Boston was obviously starting to look frustrated. They are an
emotional team this year, with players more ready to show what they're
feeling on a play. But Pierce was working hard, making two more
free throws to bring the C's lead back up to nine points.
But that's when the universe went "Squeak", and the Pistons began
hitting outside jumpers and threes. It was exactly what happened
in New Orleans. The other team hits threes at a nearly
unprecedented rate, and the C's offense, now moving away from the
three, cannot keep up.
Baker did his best, making a nice low post move for two, but even
though the C's defense was holding up well, the Pistons made some great
One thing I noticed had changed for Boston--different people were
taking it out of bounds, instead of always waiting for he Point Guard
to do it. That helped a bit, but not enough as the C's offense
was growing cold, and the Piston's defense was smothering at times.
Someday, they're going to put a stop to that ridiculous gong sound that
happens whenever Ben Wallace makes a basket, a rebound, or a funny face
at the crowd.
With 4:37 left in the third, the score was now tied at 62 as time was
Battie then made a GREAT block, but the Pistons got the rebound and
ended up with--yep, another three.
Last year, everyone in the NBA blasted Obie and the C's for relying on
the three. Now, everyone else is shooting without a care.
Jiri Welsch went to the floor to go after a loose ball, but he had no
help, and wasn't able to do it alone. Pierce then went to the
hoop to make two back--his first two points of the third quarter!
I know he's working on his passing game, but I wouldn't be all that
upset if he fine tuned his scoring game too.
Banks went end to end at top speed and drew a foul. He made
both. He went back again to close the quarter, making both then,
too. The third quarter ended with Detroit leading it, 73-70.
There was a short scare as the final quarter opened, Atkins of Detroit
turned his ankle a bit. It was painful, but apparently ok, as he
stayed on the floor. Vinnie took it to Ben Wallace and silenced
the gong with two points in Ben's face.
It was obvious that Obie knows about the clock-challenged nature of
some of his guys as he was hollering out the count as Welsch tried to
make something happen. Well, an offensive foul IS "something",
but probably not what his coach had in mind. Danny Ainge was
watching the play, looking pensive, possibly wondering, "If I get
a shaggy wig, and grab Jiri's uniform, maybe no one will notice."
Raef put the C's back in front with a good three. Vin was
starting to look tired, hunched over, and picking his spots a little
bit. God knows he'd been giving it his all tonight. He
ended up with the ball and an outlet pass that resulted in a fast break
basket for the C's. There are moments--brief ones--when I think
Baker makes a better point guard than Banks or James. But now the
Good Guys were back in front, 76-73, with 9:37 left in the game as time
Frustratingly, the Pistons came out of the timeout with an
old-fashioned three point play opportunity, but missed the free throw
once more. Pierce nearly had a good pass to Baker in the corner,
but Baker was unable to drag 230 pounds of defender that had grabbed
him as he moved toward the ball. Alas, no call.
Then Billups really started cooking, launching another three that went
in. There was a weird play by Baker that I don't get. He
was down low against Okur and waved his hand in a quick circular motion
in front of Okur's face, but his fingers were cupped and he swiped
Okur's face twice--while standing directly in front of the ref, who
could have literally reached out and touched both men without extending
his arm. Nothing was called--amazingly--and Okur seemed to be
ok. A makeup call was made on the next play against Vin.
The C's now had to play catch up, and with Billups hitting threes the
way I eat chocolate chip cookies, that was going to be a problem.
Between that, the fact that the Pistons seemed to come up with every
loose ball despite strong effort by Boston--and some questionable
officiating at times--the Pistons were managing to stay ahead
throughout. Boston never was able to make it happen, and the game
ended with a Detroit victory, 96-88.
Tough to lose, because overall, the C's played well enough that they
could have won this game. Once more, they got burned by a
ridiculous percentage of made threes, abetted by a ludicrous disparity
in free throws. Detroit's defense was very good at times, but the
C's did a comparatively better job of breaking it. And, those
threes--Detroit as a team shot 44%. Prince alone was 4-4,
outside, and Billups was 4-8. Crazy stuff.
Cookies and Crumbs:
Cookies go to:
Vin Baker: 20 points on 9-14 shooting, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals
and 2-2 at the free throw line, while playing 35 minutes. Heck,
Paul Pierce: 20 points on 8-19 shooting, 7 rebounds, 10 assists,
a steal and a block and he was also 4-4 at the line. He just
missed two cookies on his shooting percentage.
Jumaine Jones: Came back early, played well with 4 points, 5
rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block.
Crumbs left for:
Marcus Banks: ZERO assists from a Point Guard??? Bleah.
Waltah! McCarty: Not very lovable. Didn't hurt the team, but
didn't do anything to help and they NEED help.
The officials: Bleah, bleah, bleah.
Rick Pitino: You booted out Chauncey Billups, AAUGH!!!
Well, the C's get to go home and face the New Jersey Nets on Friday at
7:30pm. No rest for the weary.
And that's the view from the doghouse.