2003-04 season Game 6: Celtics vs. Sacramento Kings, Sunday, Nov 9, 2003  6:00pm
The Celtics Beagle, hard at work on his next review.
Now this is what we needed.  Sacramento was coming off a loss to the Knicks.  The C's were annoyed over three consecutive needless losses.

The Celtics needed a team they could beat the stuffing out of, and show that they were, in fact capable of playing defense, rebounding, and running--not just talking about it.

It took a while for the Good Guys to get started, but once they got going, they jammed both feet on the gas pedal and tore up the road.

Tonight's game was the first this season for the C's on NBAtv and while I'm still annoyed over the way they've been taking most of the best games from League Pass holders--particularly for some cable subscribers who get the Pass, but NOT NBAtv--I have to admit they have one or two good points.

First, they were using the camera feed from FSNE, but where FSNE typically overdoes the replay, the NBAtv picked a feed that had more real-time action on it.  Portions of plays that were missed on the FSNE broadcast were shown here.  Also, whenever FSNE went to yet another on the air commercial, the NBAtv feed showed something more interesting to look at.

But we did get the good part of the feed, as Gorman, Heinsohn and Cousy once more shared broadcast duties.  Frankly, I'd like to see more of that.  Cooz by himself sometimes comes across as a downer, and Tommy is so up I bet the guys at the space station get a realtime feed.  Between them it balances out, at least for me.

Ok, I'm also a big fan of Cooz in general--after all, he's my mom's favorite player!

First Quarter:

Eric Williams was back tonight, a few days earlier than I frankly expected.  I thought he'd go a few more practices, and play next Tuesday in Indiana.  But here he was, ready to go.

Boston went with a starting lineup of Vin Baker and Kedrick Brown at Forward, Mike James and Paul Pierce at Guard, and Tony Battie at Center.

Sacramento sent forth Brad Miller and Peja Stojakovic at Forward, Mike Bibby and Doug Christie at Guard, and Vlade Divac at Center to start.

When the game started, the C's were apparently not notified, as the Kings began doing what they routinely did this season--run fast and score points.  Kedrick Brown fell asleep on defense as he failed to front the cutter to the hoop as Vin was behind the man.  On the offensive end, the C's were walking the ball upcourt and inevitably, Pierce was forcing up shots.

I like Paul Pierce as a player, really.  But tonight, his forced offense really hurt the C's.  He and Baker ended up with similar stats, but I liked Baker's shot selection a whole lot more than Pierce's. 

But Sacramento showed why they were leading the league in scoring and assists as they ran hard and moved the ball to find the open man--yeah, the same stuff the C's are supposed to be doing.  The Kings aren't known for being able to push past a good defense, though--one of the reasons they don't get far in the playoffs.  And they are vulnerable to a running offense.

If only the C's were providing one.

Boston was settling for quick outside shots as if they were holding a tribute for Antoine Walker.  With about the same results.  Even when Tony Battie went inside, he threw an airball.  The Kings were goosegging the C's, and I was ready to scream at what looked to be a really, really long night.

But when there was a cry for help, there he was--Super Vin Baker, taking the ball inside and scoring the first Celtic points of the night.  That made it 10-2, Kings leading, with 9:10 to go.  That's right, the C's took three minutes to score two points.

The C's defense wasn't rotating fast enough to beat the Kings' passing game.  But one minute after Vin scored, Kedrick Brown went to the line for two free throws.  He made one.  Aaugh.  That made it 15-3, with 7:51 left in the first quarter.

Pierce finally remembered to pass out of the double team, this time to Battie, who saw Baker open.  Vin then made the shot, and he was now responsible for 4 out of the 5 points Boston had.  He then took down a defensive rebound, and made the quick pass to James, who went to Brown.  When the Kings knocked it out of bounds, Pierce took a quick inbound pass for a basket.  The Celtics were slowly coming alive as the quarter progressed.

But the C's defense was still a step slow, as even super Vin got snookered on a Divac pass that let to an easy hoop.  But Baker kept up the offense, getting another hoop against a double team.  Yep, they're starting to double Vin, at least occasionally.  The difference is, he knows when he has a shot and when he doesn't.  This meant that Vin had 6 of the C's 9 points so far.  Tommy emphasized that the C's needed to go to Vin every time up until the kings adjusted.  I agreed completely.  Vin got stripped the next time up--when he was unexpectedly triple teamed.  But it was still a good move inside.

Pierce got a nice steal and got it to Baker, who made the correct pass--upcourt to Mike James.  The only problem was, James wasn't ready for it.  Baker had taken one dribble and made the pass, which, when I looked at it in slow motion, appeared to be a little behind James, who tried to reach back for it and couldn't maintain control, going out of bounds.

Mark Blount came in and took down a rebound.  But the Kings came back down for two more.  Kedrick went up in the air without knowing what he was going to do with the ball.  It should have been an easy shot, but he got zip and lost the ball.  I was beginning to wonder if Kedrick was still having problems, though in Friday's game he'd seemed much better.

Baker showed no hesitation as he drove the baseline for a reverse under the hoop.  Vin had done everything but start calling his shots against the helpless Miller.

Kedrick made his first hoop on a nice fake from the corner.  The C's were doing slightly better on defense, and good things started to happen.  Timeout was called with 2:41 left in the quarter and the score a more respectable 23-15, Kings leading it.

When time came back in, Cooz and Heinsohn were declaring that Pierce needed to learn how best to help the team--and obviously it wasn't by forcing his offense.  As they mentioned this, Mike James was hitting his free throws.  Tommy in particular thinks--as I do--that passes to Pierce need to come when he's close to the hoop.  I would add that if he's left alone at the arc and isn't struggling with his shot, feed him the ball and let him try it--occasionally, not all the time.

At this point, the bench came in.  Mark Blount, Eric Williams, Raef LaFrentz, Jiri Welsch, and Mike James.  Eric quickly drew a foul as he went in, and made both.  The C's defense was already better, and the Kings found they had to work harder for the baskets.  Eric drove to the baseline and made two more.

Cooz pointed out that Sacramento wasn't a physical team, saying "If you take it to them, I think you can get them to back down."  Then James stole the ball, and turned on the burners, with Mark Blount right behind him.  One bounce pass to Blount made it an easy hoop.  Jiri Welsh was running, but muffed the pass, otherwise another easy hoop on the next trip.  But the Celtics WERE RUNNING!!

The C's went for the last shot of the quarter, when James made a three to give the Good Guys a lead to end the first quarter, 26-25.  The first quarter opened up miserably, but ended brilliantly, as the bench came in and did everything they were supposed to do.  For that matter, they ALSO did what the starters should have done and matched the King's 15-2 opening run with a 15-2 run of their own.

Second Quarter:

You go with what works, and the C's started the second quarter with the same group that finished the first.  Eric Williams made it pay early, drawing the foul and going to the line, making both.  The C's continued to pressure the Kings on defense, and Sacramento's shooting percentage was dropping fast.

Jiri got a rebound with Raef's help and drove upcourt.  Take notice that everyone else on the C's was already there, running hard.  To the Kings' credit, they got back fast on defense.  Jiri fired the ball up to Eric Williams, who drew the double while laying the ball back to an open Mark Blount, two feet behind Eric.  Blount got a good look that bounced off the back rim, and Eric swatted the ball out of the eager hands of the Kings.  Jiri Welsch gathered it back in at the arc, and since he was open, fired up a three.  It just missed the target, but was a good shot under the circumstances.

The Bench Bunch, now joined by Marcus Banks, was moving much better on defense, and running whenever they could.  Jiri played excellent defense on several sets, but his shot is still a little iffy at times.

Then, Eric got a rebound and shot the ball to the already-zooming Banks.  He was homing in on the hoop when he ran into a couple of defenders, and was called for a charge.  Tommy was indignant, proclaiming, "That CANNOT be a CHARGE!"  but on seeing the replay, he realized it was indeed a charge.  Tommy laughed louder than anyone at the realization that he'd been wrong in his assertion.  Give the man credit, when he realizes he's wrong, he says so.

The Eric tore down another rebound and fed Raef as he cut to the hoop.  Raef's shot rolled out, but Blount's cleanup rebound didn't!  Cooz used Blount's tip in as an illustration of why it's important to stay in the play, and not take it for granted that the shot will go in.  Williams then drew a blocking foul, and Cooz credited Eric with being the source of the team's rediscovered energy tonight.  I'd have to agree.  Tommy proclaimed Eric a spiritual leader of the C's.

Then, Raef grabbed a rebound and shot the ball upcourt to Banks, who ran straight down the middle, then made a no look pass to Jiri on the wing.  Welsch held the ball just long enough to draw the defense, then dropped it off to a wide open Blount three feet from the basket.  Mark put it down with authority as Cooz cried out "Well done, well done!!"  Time was called with 8 minutes left in the half and the score tied at 32.

What was keeping the Kings in the game was their outside shooting.  I have to hand it to them, they're pretty darn good from way out there.  Pierce was getting the ball in slightly better position when he came back in, and doing much better with that.  Neither team could pull away after the seesaw battle of the first quarter.  Pierce made a bad pass in to Baker, lobbing it up a bit.  Baker does not jump like Kedrick Brown, and the pass was stolen.

But the C's were working harder on the boards, with Blount tipping a rebound to Vin.  Baker made one of his few bad decisions, as Banks called for the ball from a foot away, with three defenders converging on him.  The ball popped down from Banks' hands, and Marcus went to the floor to try to retrieve it.  But the Kings got it, and when they saw Baker protecting the lane, they passed it back outside and moved the ball around looking for a good shot.  But it didn't fall, and Kedrick came away with it.  Brown found Banks, thankfully open this time, and passed the pumpkin his way. 

But Banks made a bad decision of his own.  As he reached the top of the key, Baker was wide open under the hoop and calling for the ball.  If he had made the proper pass, Vin had an easy two.  Instead, with 19 seconds left on the shot clock, he fired up a deep, deep two.  Granted, he was open for the shot, but that's not really what I want my point guard doing.  The ball bounced off the rim, and Blount almost snagged it.  Pierce took a swipe at it and nearly got it, but it sped out of bounds.

Blount took down another rebound, and passed the ball up to Pierce.  Paul did okay until he tried that spin and dribble move.  He never saw the second defender running up from under the hoop behind him.  Well, not until he'd spun right into him, and lost the ball.  The Kings were about to recover the loose ball, but Blount was a blur as he flew down the lane to pick it up and fire it off toward the basket.  It was too high for a pass and too low for a shot.  I think he was looking to alley-oop it to Kedrick, but the play developed before Kedrick realized he needed to be going up.

The Kings tried the break, but Banks broke it up, and Kedrick committed a foul on the rebounding action.  Time was called with 5:35 left in the half and the Kings leading it, 36-33.

When time came back in, Tony Battie got into a jump ball with Tony Massenburg, which the Bat-Man won.  Eric tried a back door cut to the hoop, but the defense was ready and waiting this time, and he got stuffed.  But the C's defense was taking it's toll on the Kings as they started missing shots they had hit easily in the opening quarter.  Pierce drove into the hoop and got stuffed.  There were flashbulbs going off at inopportune moments and from my angle, I couldn't tell if Pierce got fouled or just lost the ball.  Either way, it was not a good decision on Paul's part.

Then, Baker unveiled a running skyhook.  First Blount, now Baker.  What a joy it would be if that shot became established with the C's?  Blount and Baker are perfect for that shot.  Vin took the ball from Banks just outside the lane, took one dribble and spun in toward the hoop, right arm already arcing upward.  Using his left arm to fend off the defender in front, he elevated--much higher than I thought he could--and launched the ball perfectly.  That got Tommy's attention.

Then Marcus Banks blew by everyone for two more at the hoop.  Cooz praised Pierce's choice to pass the ball to Banks to start the break.  Tommy enthused that Banks was faster with the ball than most players could run without it.  Cousy said that when Banks "gets it all together", he's going to be a solid player.

The quarter ended with the Kings leading a close game, 45-39.


The numbers here didn't lie.  Vin Baker had 10 points and 7 rebounds at the half.  Pierce only had 5 points and three rebounds.  Pierce was outrebounded by Baker, Williams, and Blount,  He'd been outscored by Baker, Williams, Blount and James.  Unquestionably, Pierce's best work was being done by passing tonight, not shooting.  It was good to see the scoring spread out--Baker was the only one in double figures in scoring--but this was not a game you wanted to be close.  The C's had clearly played better when they ran and passed the ball.  It was equally clear that things happened faster when the starters were on the bench. 

Boston had a 24-16 edge in paint points. 

Sacramento could be stopped by tough defense.  The C's were proving that, as the Kings were shooting worse than at any time this season.  The Kings could also be beat by a fast offense, if the C's could cut down on turnovers.

The question was a simple one.  Could the Good Guys play like this in the second half and win the game?

Third Quarter:

Vin kept up the pace as he put in another hoop.  Vin has had higher-scoring nights, but no games so well-rounded as this one was shaping up to be.  Then Vin showed his outside shooting touch.  He was that prevalent in this game, seemingly involved in every play when he was on the floor.  His average shooting was 64% for the season--and 70% so far tonight!!

Conversely, Pierce and Kedrick weren't running very well.  They just weren't moving as fast as Baker and Blount, to name two.  James stole the ball and zoomed downcourt and Bibby had to take him down to prevent the layup.  I looked at it frame by frame and realized two things.  One, it was a clear path foul, as Bibby took James from behind.  Two, Bibby hacked down on the arm, and made no play at the ball, just hooking James' arm and sending him careening into the backboard support.  It wasn't--quite--a flagrant foul.  But it should have been called clear path.  Bibby himself ended up in the lap of a blonde in the front row.  She looked unhurt, though.  James went 1-2 at the line.  Aaugh!

James must have been rattled by the collision with the support because he made several bad decisions in one trip upcourt.  First, he missed an open Pierce, who had run this time; then he failed to realize his teammates were perfectly set up to pass around the arc; then launched a three with 17 seconds left on the shot clock.  The next trip up, Kedrick, Pierce and Battie did it right, and Tony made the open shot.

Vin was starting to miss a few shots--I think he was getting tired, as he would end up playing 38 minutes.  Kedrick was making some mental mistakes as well.  But then he went and hit a shot clock three.  Timeout was called with 5:37 left in the third, and the Kings holding a 55-53 lead.

As time came back in, Tommy expressed his belief that Pierce was in the process of learning how to shape his offensive efforts more positively, and that he would succeed.  Then Mark Blount unlimbered an outside jumper.  Banks does have a tendency to sometimes hold the ball too long before the pass.  Not as badly as in some previous games, but he needs more work.  Tommy thinks Banks is being confused by shouted instructions from Obie, and commented that when you're on the break and Pierce is ahead of you, pass him the ball. Cooz counseled that Banks should just let his instincts do the job--in other words, "Trust the Force, Marcus."

Raef got a nice rebound, but I was dizzy watching as they used that camera directly on top of the shot clock to show the ball bouncing upward--toward the screen.  I think they need to not use the zoom lens there.  But Raef got a good look at a three and put it in uncontested.  Time was called with 2:30 left and Boston leading it, 62-61.

When time came back in, there was a fragment of conversation from Willie Maye and Mike Gorman about someone getting free movie tickets.  Gorman commented it was a fine movie and a good series of books.  For the sake of my relative sanity, I hope he was talking about "Lord of the Rings" and not "Master and Commander".

Tommy commented that it had become apparent that Coach O'Brien has shortened his rotation at the expense of Jumaine Jones and Waltah!, neither of whom would play tonight.  Meanwhile, Raef was tipping a Baker miss, and on the next trip, Eric Williams drew the foul on the way to the hoop.  Eric rattled the first one in, and smoothly hit the second.

By this time, Pierce had taken a seat on the bench once more, which I was now betting would lead to more Celtic running.  Jiri proved me right by driving along the baseline for an easy two.  Then Jiri found an open Banks for a three with 7 seconds left on the shot clock.  That's more like it, Marcus.  But on the other end, Banks got crunched on a pick.  Oops.

The C's held for the last shot of the quarter, and Banks made it.  The C's ended the quarter leading it, 73-69.  Boston had outscored the Kings in the quarter 34-24, shooting 57% to the Kings' 42%. 

Fourth Quarter:

Obie left the bench out there to start the fourth and Eric Williams proved it a good idea as he made the basket and drew the foul.  Unfortunately, his free throw cluncked off the front of the rim.

The C's were slowly dismantling the Kings on the boards, and their offense was looking better than it had in four games.  Then the Kings got caught on three seconds on the offensive end.  The camera panned to Kings Coach Rick Adelman, with his hand over his face, looking tired, as if he was saying he couldn't believe this was the outcome of a 15-2 opening.  Gee, was I smiling?  Well, yes.  Yes, I was.

How fast is Marcus Banks?  Jackson had the ball near the sideline, and Marcus came around a screen, and as Jackson thought reversing direction would lose Banks, Marcus reached back, and poked the ball away from Jackson's left side.  By the time Jackson realized he no longer had the ball, Marcus had cut around his right side to grab the ball and start upcourt.  Jackson had to commit the foul to stop the break.

With 8:30 left, and Boston leading 75-69, Pierce was sent back into the game.  I wanted to see what he would do now.  Well, his outside shot didn't fall, but Raef was there for the tip in.  Paul also was, in Tommy's words, "jogging" upcourt.  Frankly, jogging was a little fast for what Pierce was doing.

Then James got another steal, got the ball inside to Blount, who made a no look pass back to Kedrick, who was right behind him.   Kedrick had a bit of trouble handling the pass, which gave the defense time to react with a triple team, but Brown somehow popped out of the pack with the ball and put it through the hoop.  Cooz said that Blount was "doing things I'd never seen before".

Kedrick missed his free throw, but the ball came right back to him, and nearly scored again, but Baker got called for a foul under the hoop.  But Blount unleashed another running hook, to the delight of Tommy Heinsohn.  Pierce made a smart play next trip down, faking out his single defender and making an open shot.  This led to a timeout with 5:32 left and the C's leading it, 83-72.

When time came back in, Blount found Pierce under the hoop for an easy two,  That's the kind of situation that Pierce should get the ball in.  At the other end, Blount was called for fouling Jackson. Mark waved his arm in literal dismissal of Jackson as he walked away.  Jackson missed one of his free throws.

Pierce got hooked and pushed on his next shot attempt, to Tommy's vociferous dismay.  Pierce leaned a bit, but there was a foul.  Then James got off a nice downcourt pass to Pierce, who took it to the hoop against single coverage.  He was called for an offensive foul--but it was a bad call.  I don't think the defender had position. 

Tommy asked Cooz, "What was the old adage" about those who tried to take a charge.  When Cousy asked "Was there an old adage?", Tommy said, "Make sure that he never does it again.  In other words, hurt him so bad, that he never sticks his face in there again.  Step on his chest, and if you can, step on his face."

"We don't have anyone that mean." Cooz responded.

"Pierce could be that mean." Tommy shot back.

And they say Basketball isn't a contact sport.

Meantime, Raef shot through the lane for two, but there was barely time to be happy about it, as the Kings came right back with ridiculously easy basket that had Tommy yell "AAUGH!!" as it went in.  Baker made up for getting beaten by his man by taking a pass from Kedrick to get it right back.

Timeout was called with 2:10 left and the C's leading it, 89-77.  By this time, the Kings were shooting a paltry 35% from the floor.  That's the kind of Celtics defense we need to see lots more of.

At this juncture, Mike Gorman awarded Tommy Heinsohn a "Tommy Point" for his willingness to correct his miscall of the charge earlier in the game.  Cooz interjected it was the first time Tommy ever admitted he was wrong.  Tommy endured the teasing from his old friend with humor and grace.

Baker, in a sign of great respect got the ball, and was quickly doubleteamed, going to the line for two.  He made both, and with 1:28 left, the score was 91-78.

The Celtics held off the Kings last push and won the game, 91-82.

This was a game the C's won more with defense than offense--The Kings normally shoot 48%, and tonight, they shot only 35%, going 32-90.  Boston was 43% on 36-83 shooting.  Sacramento averages a score of 106 ppg.  Tonight, they only scored 82 points.  The C's ended up outrebounding the Kings 52-42.  There were some very good things to take home from this game.

Cookies and Crumbs:

Cookies go to:

Vin Baker.  18 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks and an assist.  His assists were low because he was the main scoring option for a good part of the night.  But he made great passes and kept his head and body in the game--in fact, he played 38 minutes.

Mark Blount:  10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and a running sky hook.

Eric Williams: Wow.  Obie should whack Eric's knee every so often.  12 points and 6 rebounds.

Raef LaFrentz: 9 points, 9 rebounds.  Nice work.

Marcus Banks:  He made some great moves and showed improvement.  I'm still not fond of him taking threes, but he was far from the only one tonight.

The Bench Bunch:  When the starters--except Vin--were flatter then a pancake on Jupiter, the bench Bunch came out and ran.

Crumbs left for:

Kedrick Brown:  he did some great things, but they were negated by some dumb things.

Paul Pierce: I know--His stat line and Vin Baker's are nearly identical, and Vin got a cookie. But Vin took better shots.  A lot of Pierce's misses were directly attributable to bad offensive judgement. 

The starters first few minutes in the first quarter:  Bleah.  No running, no scoring, and no defense.

The C's get a bit of time to recover before they go to Indiana on Tuesday--Veterans Day--to play the Pacers at 7pm.  Maybe they can work on those passing options.

And that's the view from the doghouse.