2003-04 season game 7:
Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers, Tuesday, Nov 11, 2003 7:00pm
Tonight's game was bound to be interesting. In their last meeting
during the preseason, the Good Guys finally beat the Pacers with Larry
Bird serving Indiana in a professional capacity, something they never
did when Larry was the Pacers coach.
Larry has a special love of Boston, and a competitor's respect that
requires him to be at his absolute best when the Celtics are
The spectre of Isaiah Thomas has been banished with a Pacer five game
win streak with Rick Carlisle at the helm. There's also been an
amazing transformation of players like Ron Artest, the former poster
boy for technical fouls, into a respectful--and amazingly
productive--player, who just got named the EC Player of the Week.
Kenny Anderson may want to make a statement or two against his old
team. Then, there's the fact that the C's wiped the Pacers out of
last year's playoffs. All of which means the Pacers are
emotionally and physically ready to try to run the C's out of the
On our side, the Celtics come off one of a woodshed whacking of the
Sacramento Kings, where Vin Baker showed that as far as the Celtics are
concerned, the EC Player of the Week doesn't play for the Pacers.
Eric Williams is back and playing well, and the running game is
to take shape. The C's would also like to establish that the win
in the playoffs and the last preseason matchup weren't flukes.
And you can bet that Danny Ainge would like nothing better than to go
1-zip on Larry in the regular season.
Like I said, the makings of an interesting game.
The NBA League Pass gave us the Indiana Pacers broadcast tonight, with
two guys who looked and sounded like they were picked out of the crowd
at random--Al Albert and the Mighty Quinn Buckner. Certainly,
they had a near-encyclopedic knowledge of cliches. I also learned
there's nothing like an Indiana tourism commercial recycling an old
"Brady Bunch" song to make you long for a Foxwoods commercial.
The Celtics held forth with Vin Baker and Kedrick Brown at Forward,
Mike James and Paul Pierce at Guard, and Tony Battie at Center.
The Pacers countered with Ron Artest and Jermaine O'Neal at Forward,
Kenny Anderson and Reggie Miller at Guard, and Jeff Foster at Center.
Quinn figured they needed to take Baker more seriously now, along with
Pierce. Gee, really? What incisiveness, to state that the
guy currently second in the league in scoring might be someone your
defense might want to cozy up to.
Indiana won the tip and brought the ball up. The Celtics played
strong defense and took control of the ball. The long pass was
made to Kedrick, but the Pacers were back quickly on defense.
Pierce made a nice pass to Battie, who banked it home. I was
happy to see this as I thought it meant that the lessons had been
learned from Sacramento, and the C's would be a strong running
offensive team and a tough minded defensive team right from the start.
I never win the Celtics win/loss predictions either. Waah.
The next Pacer trip was also stopped by the Celtics defense. The
C's ran it up and got a good look that didn't drop. That's when
the boom was lowered, as Reggie Miller showed he can still hit
That's when the C's stopped running. Indiana was beating the C's
on the offense, and Jermaine O'Neal was having his way inside.
The Pacers were outrebounding Boston at seemingly every
opportunity. For all of Jermaine's postgame tantrum over the
officiating, he sure didn't refuse a trip to the free throw line when
Battie was called for a cheapie.
His own first came on the next play, when he slammed headlong into Mike
James, who was set outside the circle. A close call, admittedly, but a
The simple fact is, there were no individual players to single out for
good or bad play. Defensive assignments were missed as often as
shots were. Individual efforts were just barely enough to keep
the C's in striking distance. Indiana remained turnover-prone,
which helped. But overall, The Pacers played a superb quarter.
Vin Baker was a bright spot, hitting a deep two. I shouldn't make
it sound like the C's defense was nonexistent. It was just
ineffective, as the Pacers either found the open man, or hit an outside
jumper. Boston just didn't dig in like it needed to.
When the C's did move a little faster on offense, it was frequently for
a quick jumper that didn't drop.
But when I thought things were fading fast, Pierce fed Blount for an
easy two. Eric Wiliams hit an outside jumper for two more.
Pierce was getting reasonably good looks--considering he was often
getting the ball late in the shot clock--that just didn't go in.
At first, I thought the C's were playing badly. But reviewing the
tape, I realized that the C's took reasonable shots against a tough
Blount took one of those drop swings with his arm on O'Neal, and Pacer
Coach Carlisle got a "T" for complaining when a call wasn't made.
On the replay, Blount may have indeed swiped O'Neal's arm a bit, but
Jermaine needs acting lessons, as he responded like someone had tried
to tear his arm off.
Off a Pacer turnover on the next play, Eric Williams ran hard and got a
hoop with a minute left. That made it 21-18, Indiana leading, and
things looked ragged but not too terrible. But Harrington capped good
Pacer play by hitting a three to end the quarter with the Pacers
holding a 26-18 lead.
In some ways, the game played better in the quarter than I thought at
first. Boston shot 8-18 from the floor, Indiana went 10-20.
The C's held a 7-5 edge in assists. But The Pacers were killing
the C's on the boards, with a 14-6 edge.
The Celtics began as they ended--throwing up one-and-done shots in a
playing style distressingly reminiscent of last season. The
Pcaers did the same, passing the ball well and scoring far too easily
over the C's defense. At least Blount refused to let Fred Jones
get an easy hoop on a takedown.
But the C's had yet to score a basket in the second quarter, and Kenny
Anderson was laughing at the C's on the court. It wasn't until
Pierce hit with 8:30 left in the quarter that the C's scored at all.
The Pacers, by this time, had added 12 points to their score. The
timeframe to the Celtics' next basket was much shorter, as Baker fed
Battie through a crowd for a hoop. Jermaine picked up foul #2
when Vin was shooting. Vin made both.
That means that out of the eight points the C's had taken nearly seven
minutes to score, Vin was a clear factor in four of them, with the
other four coming from Pierce. The announcers referred to the
point guard position for Boston as a festering sore, obviously a
mistaken reference to Jermaine O'Neal.
Then Pierce hit a three, and the clouds seemed to part a bit.
With 4:26 left in the half, the Pacer lead was 36-29.
Jermaine did some better acting and Battie was called for his third
foul. He missed his free throws. How can you complain about
not getting calls when you don't hit your free throws?? By the
way, to this juncture, The Pacers were 10-12, whilst Boston was 4-7 at
the line. Not exactly a cause for complaint for the Pacers.
Pierce fed Blount inside for two more, but the C's were still moving
far too slowly on offense. Kenny Anderson hit a sky hook as a
drove past the hoop. The half ended with the Pacers leading it,
Either the Celtics were actually playing better than I'm giving them
credit for, or the Pacers didn't take full advantage. This game
should, by all rights, have been a total blowout by halftime. The
C's were not consistently doing any of the things they needed to to to
stay competitive, never mind win.
The halftime stats told me the game was closer in some ways than it
first looked. Boston shot 14-43 from the floor, while Indiana was
17-34. The Pacers made more shots, but the C's had actually
gotten more looks. Boston had a 13-9 lead in assists and led 8-4
in steals. But the Pacers countered with 11-14 from the line and
Boston was only 4-7. The Pacers also led in rebounds, 27-19, and
in Bench points, 13-10. But the turnovers were in Boston's
favor, only 7 against 10 for Indiana.
The Pacers were playing very well, but weren't quite putting the C's
away completely. The Celtics needed to wake up and play the game,
or it was going to be an even longer second half. O'Neal had been
a monster in the first half, with 21 points and a full head of steam,
as no one on the Celtics seemed able to stop him without the use of
firearms. The C's needed to find Baker better in the second half,
as he only had 6 points.
Hmp. Last season, 6 points was better than Baker's season
average. How quickly I forget.
The C's did better ball movement on their first possession, and Kedrick
hit an open three off a Piercepass as a result. Then Battie drew
the Pacers' broadcast team called a flop.
When O'Neal got the ball, Battie was right behind him, in good position
and clearly outside the semicircle. Going in slow motion, with a
perfect view, it was clear that O'Neal had dipped his shoulder and
moved up into Battie, who had maintained his established
position. Jermaine knocked Tony down and properly got called for
it. That's not a flop, and O'Neal had his third foul.
There was a weird happening at the other end, as Pierce had the ball
and somehow lost his left sneaker as he began to drive to the hoop with
a sharp turn at the top of the key. It looks like one of the
Pacers had stepped on his foot as Pierce went around him.
Pierce didn't even know until he put the left foot back on the floor
and slid, losing control of the ball as he went down. That's how
fast it happened. Artest took a long pass to complete a fast
break hoop in the other direction. The C's took a 20-second
timeout to take re-sneaker Pierce's foot properly.
Battie started hitting clutch shots, the first off a pass from Vin
Baker. The outside jumper is not normally the shot I want to see
Tony trying--I prefer him working close to the hoop--but he looked good
under pressure from the defense and the time clock. The Pacers
started committing more turnovers and were looking less smooth than
they had in the first half.
Speaking of flops, O'Neal did a nice one, dropping like gravity had
doubled after brushing against Tony Battie. Funny, I don't
remember Tony complaining about cheap fouls after the game. But
the Pacers threw the ball away on yet another turnover.
Pierce went to the floor twice in succession to go after the loose
ball, and the second time, pushed it out to Battie. Tony's first
attempt missed, but he got his own rebound, and made good on the second
try. I was just thrilled that someone on the C's was successfully
The announcers made fun of Tony, joking about Battie having "one of his
great offensive nights", then laughing and saying "You've gotta be
kidding me!" Low class, guys, those Pacer announcers, and
Quinn--as a former Celtic player--should know better.
The C's had it within nine,
until Miller hit another shot. Then Mike James hit a deep two in
response. Foster hit a deep two of his own. Baker had a
good look, but iot didn't drop. By the way, when you look at
Baker's shooting percentage, keep in mind he didn't force his
offense. His shots looked good and just didn't drop. None
of them looked wild, or poorly shot. The Pacer defense was
definitely paying a lot of attention to Vin.
Then Jermaine O'Neal picked up his fourth foul--offensive--against Tony
Battie when O'Neal clearly used his extended left arm to push Battie
away. I studied this a couple of times in light of Jermaine's
post game carping. Jermaine got caught playing a physical
offense--in honesty, these are the kind of calls the C's didn't
get favored with last season, and I was pleasantly surprised to see it
happen here. O'Neal had to sit with four fouls and 7:22 left in
the third quarter. It's interesting to note that the Pacers
broadcast chose a replay angle that was much worse than the original
shot, and masked the fact that Jermaine's arm was hitting Tony's neck.
This was huge for the Celtics. O'Neal was the only real shot
blocker the Pacers had tonight. The Celtics now had an
opportunity to break past the Indiana defense--if they went to the hoop.
They did, as Pierce drove in for two like he'd just been
liberated. Then the C's mounted a defensive stand that forced a
turnover and the Good Guys were off and running. Pierce took a
wide open three and it looked and felt good all the way through the
hoop. Timeout was called with 6:31 left in the third and the
score now 55-48, with the Pacers' lead considerably smaller than it had
The Celtics defense forced the Pacers down to three seconds on the shot
clock as Harrington made good on a tough shot. But the C's
defense was finally coming alive.
At the other end, Pierce got away with a walk, and fed Mike James for
the open three. I'm surprised Paul got away with that one,
really--it looked kind of obvious to me. But they're the Good
Guys and the Pacers aren't. Nyahh, nyahh!
Then Kenny Anderson committed a truly stupid turnover. He was
casually walking the ball back up, and lost the ball right at
halfcourt. He had to reach back to get it, and made the 8 second
violation. There was no pressure on him, he just lost the
ball. This was the kind of thing that bugged me about Kenny when
he was here, and he's still not learned his lesson. I expect the
point guard to take better care of the ball. Pierce made him pay
on a drive to the hoop for two more. Now it was 57-53 with 5:12
left in the third quarter.
The game looked a lot closer as the C's finally put some speed on--not
a true running game yet, but a definite improvement. Likewise,
their defense was better than in the first half, beginning to make
Kedrick worked hard for a rebound, but the C's lost the ball on an
intercepted pass to Baker. Foster saved it from out of bounds,
but to me, it looked like both feet hit the baseline before he got rid
of the ball. But the ref didn't see it that way, so it was Pacer
ball. But Artest wasted the effort with a silly three that was
rebounded by Vin Baker.
Battie tried to pass in to Vin at the other end, but Vin didn't get a
good handle on it. The Pacer broadcast team tried to pass it off
as good defense, but Vin just didn't handle the pass well. Miller
tried a deep three with the defense in his face, and missed. At
the other end, Vin Baker took the inside pass for the easy two, a play
the C's had tried to run all night and finally started working.
The Pacer fans wanted a goaltending call on a Blount rebound, but it
was a clean sweep. Boston was crashing the boards like they
finally discovered their
location on the court. Harrington tried an outside jumper and
Raef took the rebounded miss. On those occasions the Pacers went
inside, they got zip.
Eric Williams scored a basket that let the C's to cap a 14-5
run that put the C's within three, 60-57, with 1:18 left in the
quarter. But while the Celtics were slowly climbing back, Boston
couldn't mount the kind of explosive scoring that would have put the
game away early.
The third quarter ended with a close game in progress and Indiana
leading, 62-59 as Jiri Welsch hit a shot. Ideally, the C's could
make their push in the opening part
of the final quarter and hold on for the win. But it depended
entirely on the defense holding up against a very good Pacers team, and
Boston making the most of it's scoring chances.
With three quarters down, the C's shooting percentage had risen
to a respectable 40%, while dragging the Pacers down to 46%.
There was an incredible discrepancy in free throws, with Boston going
4-7 while the Pacers were 14-17. Makes you wonder what Jermaine's
been smoking. Turnovers also favored Boston, which had only 11 to
the Pacers' 16.
The C's unleashed the running game with the opening possession and Raef
made the cleanup rebound for two, to make it a one point game.
Eric Williams was fouled going to the hoop, and went to the line to try
to give the Good Guys their first lead since 2-0. He missed
The Pacers weren't scoring, and the C's needed to strike
NOW! But time after time, the C's couldn't get the go-ahead
hoop. Eventually, someone had to score, I hoped, as both teams
blew golden opportunities to score. Raef did it from the corner,
and with 9:02 left in the game, the C's led it at last, 63-62.
This was the fist Celtics lead since 2-0.
Indiana committed their 20th turnover and Mark Blount made them pay
with a dunk. Now the C's had the momentum. James hit a
three, and the C's lead was 68-62 with 7:59 left. I can't credit
the C's totally--to an extent, the Pacers were shooting themselves in
both feet with turnovers and poor shooting.
Neither team could seem to score when opportunities presented
themselves. Blown dunks, missed free throws--and a few blown
calls, conspired to keep either team from scoring well. It was
going to be a case of which team could put together an offensive run or
a withering defensive stand. But the Pacers were faring far
worse, going over nine minutes without a field goal. Jeff Foster
broke that drought with 7:38 left in the game.
Pierce got so obviously whacked by Reggie Miller on his shot even the
Indiana broadcasters had to acknowledge surprise at the non-call.
At the other end, Ron Artest took Raef's arm for a stroll and drew the
foul against Raef for the "hook". Jermaine O'Neal had come back
in and missed his shot off the side in. Eric Williams got a good
look from the corner at the other end, but couldn't convert.
O'Neal tried an identical shot at the opposite end, with identical
Foster got a rebound he shouldn't have as he was one against four under
the hoop. Give the man credit, he got the job done there.
But he couldn't convert when he drove to the hoop at the other
end. His first free throw bounced out as Vin Baker came back into
the game, then he made the second.
Timeout was called with 5:54 left in the game as a jump ball was
called, and the score now 68-65 favoring the Good Guys. Indiana
took the jump, and missed another shot, with Baker getting the rebound
Vin took a good hook shot, but the ball bounced out. While
neither team seemed able to score, the difference was that the Celtics
were getting inside, and the Pacers were taking outside jumpers.
on the outside jumper was hurting them now, but Boston wasn't
able to capitalize on it.
Then Anthony Johnson tied it up with a three with 4:15 left. Eric
Williams couldn't answer and the rebound got taken away from
Blount. Pierce took a charge but there was no call as Artest put
in two more for Indiana. Vin Baker got it back with a two, and
the game was tied at 70 with 3:10
The Pacers nearly committed another turnover, but got lucky as Jermaine
O'Neal came back in for two more, and Indiana took the lead on his
hoop. Miller committed a foul and timeout was called with 2:53
left, and the C's down 72-70. Following the timeout, Harrington
committed a foul, but the Pacers--not surprisingly--were not in the
penalty. But James stepped out of bounds after the side in.
C's defense stopped the Pacers, and Eric Williams drew the foul as he
got the rebound. He then converted the hoop at the other end,
tying the game at 72 with 2 minutes left.
Harrington got it back as he squeezed in for a basket. James hit
a shot clock deep two--his foot was on the line. Pierce rebounded
Harrington's miss, and drew a foul on Harrington at the other
end. Pierce missed the first free throw, and made the
second. With 54.9 seconds left, the C's led 75-74.
When time came back in, the Pacers took the pumpkin inbounds.
Jermaine rattled in his second attempt after the C's stuffed him the
first try. With 31.8 seconds left, the Pacers led 76-75 as
timeout was called.
After a Pacer foul by Harrington, Pierce went 1-2 at the line, and with
54.9 seconds left, Boston led 75-74. Indiana called timeout, then
came back in to score, as Jermaine O'Neal rattled in his own rebounded
miss to give the Pacers a 76-75 lead. Boston called time with 31.8
seconds left to talk things over.
Following the timeout, the Pacers, as expected, doubled up on Pierce,
trying to deny him any looks. Pierce passed out of the double
team to Vin Baker on the side. Super Vin launched a jumper in
Jermaine O'Neal's face that got nothing but net as with 20.8 seconds
the C's led 77-76. Now, it was up to the Celtics defense.
Time came back in. The Pacers surprisingly dribbled the length of
the court, instead of passing up. O'Neal's shot bounced softly
off the rim, then out, and the C's retrieved the
ball, with Mike James getting fouled with 0.7 seconds left and went to
line, making the first, and deliberately missing the second as time
expired and the Good Guys won it, 78-76.
The funny thing is, the Celtics rebounded the ball in the form of Eric
Williams, who negligently flipped up a one handed behind he back shot
at the hoop that went in. It looked awful close to being out of
his hands before time expired, but it was a nonreviewable play, since
it didn't affect the outcome of the game.
Mike James was interviewed by Quinn Buckner after the game, and it was
interesting that he said that the C's need to learn where VIN likes the
ball, and Paul likes the ball. He said, "Paul is our go-to guy,
but Vin is right up there with him. I would be comfortable with
the ball in either one of their hands at the end of the game."
Vin Baker has officially become a primary offensive option for the
This was a game where the C's almost completely self-destructed in the
first half, then got it together in the second half. This time,
there was no Isaiah Thomas to blame it on. Rick Carlisle is
unquestionably a good coach. The Pacers simply fell
apart--again. This is why I've been maintaining that the Celtics
are a better team.
I switched to the C's postgame, and Vin Baker was so confident, and so
solid. What a boost for Vin, to have a play drawn up for the
Forget Ron Artest.
Vin Baker is the EC Player of the Week, as far as I'm concerned.
Cookies and Crumbs:
Cookies go to:
Vin Baker: 12 points on 5-10 shooting, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2-2 at
the line and the GAME WINNING SHOT!
Paul Pierce: 19 points on 7-18 shooting, 3-4 from the arc, 6 rebounds,
9 assists, a steal and a block. And it's hard to fault his
offense in the first half when no one was doing so hot.
Tony Battie: 11 points on 5-8 shooting, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal
and a block.
Mike James: 11 points on 4-10 shooting, 2 rebounds and 5 assists.
Kedrick Brown: for his defense.
Eric Williams: 8 points on 4-10 shooting, and 7 rebounds.
Crumbs left for:
The Celtics play in the first half: They let the Pacers dominate
by not running as well as they should have.
Jermaine O'Neal: I've seen Pierce take some shots that should
have been flagrants and he rarely complains. Jermaine acts like
the officials owe him something. Here's a hint, Jermaine--if you
don't want to be called for a
foul, don't commit the foul.
The Pacer broadcast team: bleah.
No rest for the weary as the C's go right back home to face the Chicago
And that's the view from the doghouse.