2003-04 season game 8:
Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls, Wednesday, Nov 12, 2003 7:00pm
Well, home came the Heroes, celebrating last night's win over the
Indiana Pacers. After last night, things looked a whole lot
easier. The C's were at home, playing against a Chicago Bulls
team that was more likely to charge each other then the other
team. Fans could relax with the dulcet tones of Tommy Heinsohn,
moderated by Mike Gorman. Vin Baker was eligible to wear spandex
and move to Metropolis.
But for some reason I simply do NOT understand, the Good Guys get run
over by the Bulls. Last year, the Bulls had exactly three road
wins--one of which was over the Celtics, on their home opener.
So I was understandably a bit nervous. After all, it was the
second night of back to back away/home games--and may whoever set up
the C's schedule be made to spend a few days on standby at Logan
Airport on a winter's night when the heat goes out. The C's were
likely to be tired, and possibly looking a bit ahead to Friday.
After all, they might have thought, it's Chicago, not Los
Angeles. Too true. But this season had proven to be
remarkably like last season in one annoying respect--Boston would go
out and win games they weren't expected to be competitive in, then lose
the ones that should have been marked in the "W" column as soon as they
got the schedule.
So there were a few questions to be answered. Would the C's have
learned from their last two come-from-behind games and come out running
hard? Would they mount the kind of defense that would destroy the
Bulls' near total lack of offensive punch? And, would they do
this consistently for the entire game?
Well, no, they wouldn't. This was a game much like their other
losses, where the C's, despite not playing as well as they SHOULD play
and CAN play, had opportunities to win. We'll get to the details,
but it's going to be aggravating. We'll start with the game-long
problems that will probably come up several times here.
The Celtics Did Not Run: NO fast break points. No beating
the other team downcourt before their defense could set up. No
zip in their white sneaks.
The Celtics Did Not Score: yes, the stat line will show too many
threes attempted and missed, but the fact was, that nearly every type
of shot didn't go in for the C's tonight--dunks, jams, jumpers, free
throws--you name it, someone missed it. The caveat to this is
that Paul Pierce did his level best to create offense by passing the
ball. Of course, it helps if the recipient of the pass makes the
shot. Sometimes. Or even once in a quarter. So I'm
not going to get on Pierce too much for his shooting because so far as
I could tell, just about everyone was having trouble getting the ball
through the hoop.
The Celtics Did Not Defend: Yes, some of the shots were
lucky. We all have days when improbable shots go in. But
there's no way the Bulls should have shot as well as they did.
The caveat here is that to a small extent, the Bulls were playing with
eight guys instead of five, as the Refs were curiously one-sided in
their calls at times.
Ok, having given you adequate warning of what lies ahead, here we GO....
Jim O'Brien played musical centers once again, as the starters were Vin
Baker and Kedrick Brown at Guard, Mike James and Paul Pierce at
Forward, and Tony Battie at Center. Brandon Hunter and Kendrick
Perkins both remain in the Injured List, but the C's had everyone else
available to play tonight.
Bulls Coach Bill Cartwright picked the following names at random:
Donyell Marshall and Jalen Rose at Forward, Kendall Gill and Kirk
Henrich at Guard, and Eddy Curry at Center. Tyson Chandler was
out for Chicago with a bruised back, with Marcus Fizer and Roger Mason
Jr.on the Injured List.
Tommy spoke disparagingly of the Bulls internal squabbles, as he
thought it was detrimental to the team's supposed goal of winning
games. Battie won the jump ball and got it to Baker, who dished
off to Pierce. Paul sent it back to James at the top of the key,
and with 21 seconds left on the shot clock--and Kedrick Brown wide
open--James launched a three. It bounced out, into the hands of
Eventually, it's going to dawn on James that the reason the other teams
let him shoot those is because they're low percentage shots. Why
not try faking a three and using his speed to beat his defender for a
better shot, or pass to Kedrick who could use HIS speed to break toward
Kedrick showed this ability on the C's next possession. The C's
were moving the ball up reasonably quickly--that is to say, they
weren't casually strolling upcourt--but they weren't running and
certainly weren't beating the Bulls defense back.
Speaking of defense, at first the C's defense looked pretty good,
forcing the Bulls into a shot clock three that missed everything and
triggered a 24-second violation. But the C's weren't intercepting
the Chicago passes, just trying to keep them from driving to the
hoop. There wasn't that tight defense that the C's had
occasionally used to tremendous effect.
Pierce fed Battie, but Tony's shot didn't go. Next time up,
Pierce was able to easily shoot over his defender. Jalen Rose
came back with a hook shot of his own. I was figuring that maybe
the C's shooting slump was continuing from the last game and maybe the
C's would just concentrate on defense, as James fed Baker and Vin's
hook didn't go in.
By the next offensive trip, the Bulls were playing an out and out zone
defense, which always gives the C's fits. Kedrick broke through
for a basket, but I think the recent admission by Orlando Magic player
Tracy McGrady that he had trouble with the zone kind of opened the
floodgates. Every team without a legitimate scoring threat went
to the zone specifically to frustrate teams like Orlando--and Boston.
To beat it, you either need to pass the ball out, or run up before the
defense has a chance to set. Otherwise, you're stuck in a
halfcourt game, which the C's simply don't do very well for extended
stretches. The C's had the speed to blow past the Bulls.
Vin Baker generally has good short passing skills and can facilitate
something if he doesn't have a clean look.--in fact, there are times
when I think Vin plays better Point Guard than the PG's do.
James knocked down another three, which wasn't as good as one might
think, as it is a deceptive escape from the zone. If you knock
down a lot of shots, great. If not, then it's a disaster.
Gorman mentioned that Vin Baker was "fidgeting" with his diet to drop a
little more weight. Tommy was concerned that Vin might drop TOO
much. At that moment, Vin was moving better than Pierce
expected. Baker had broken the doubleteam from behind and was
wide open in the lane for a pass from Pierce near the top of the
key. But Pierce had fired up an alley-oop pass toward the hoop
based on where Vin had been. Would have been a nice alley-oop,
but Baker had made a nice move to reach the lane wide open. It
would have been a dangerous pass, unless you were sure Baker would get
clear, but I think at this point, we can count on Vin to be
there. Part of the learning curve for Pierce's passing.
The C's defense was clearly willing to give up the outside jumper,
gambling on percentages to fall in the C's favor. The problem is,
several teams had been beating the odds--especially since this
particular defensive scheme gave the opponent time to line up his
shot. I personally think the C's need to occasionally challenge
those shots, and keep them honest.
Tony Battie made a back door pass to James, who dropped off to Vin
under the hoop. Vin was fouled and made one of two. I could
live with those if we went to the line consistently and made the free
throws. Somehow, Curry was able to come down with the ball under
the hoop, gather himself, and dunk the ball--all while four Celtic
players stood around him as if they could stop him using the Force, or
Baker got it back with a jump hook at the other end that eventually
rattled in, and Battie was there for the cleanup if needed. But
the Bulls were lining people up at the arc, and Kendall Gill made the
three this time. Timeout was called with 5:24 left and the Bulls
Waltah! made his appearance on court for the first time in a few games,
as Pierce hit a three. I don't know if the C's weren't able to
run, or weren't willing to run--but they didn't run. Raef's shot
was stuffed by Marshall. Blount snagged the ball at the other
end, and tried an outlet pass to Waltah! but he was running
upcourt and never saw the pass that bounced off his behind. But
Marshall's three missed and James took off upcourt. He held the
ball as the rest of the team came up, and Pierce got a reasonably good
look that didn't drop. Blount got the rebound, but was stripped
as Rose knocked it down at the other end.
Pierce took a shot in the face going up for the shot, and went to the
line for two, making both, thank goodness. But Kendall Gill took
another deep shot that went in. Banks tried to take it to the
hoop, but Crawford rejected it. Raef made a nice jumper off a
Jiri Welsch pass. Raef tried again the next trip up, but it
didn't fall. Blount and Waltah! crashed the boards, but the Bulls
came away with the rebound.
The C's made a good attack on offense to try to tie the game up, but
time and again, good shots got stuffed or didn't fall. Jiri
finally tried a shot clock three that just missed. The C's played
for the final shot of the quarter, but Bank's shot missed too.
The first quarter ended with Chicago leading it, 23-21.
This was a very frustrating quarter, as even in a halfcourt game--which
this C's team doesn't play very well, let's face it--they were only two
points down. What frustrated me was that we know the C's could
have blown the Bulls apart by running. What was even more
frustrating was that for the halfcourt game, Boston was taking decent
shots--they just weren't falling. I know the stats will show a
lot of threes--and a lot of misses of all sorts, as their 38% first
quarter shooting shows. But the vast majority were decent looks,
given the type of game that was played. What also bothered me was
the 45% shooting by the Bulls. There was no previous indication
they could shoot nearly that well this season. Also less than
thrilling was seeing the Good Guys outrebounded 14-8 by a team that
most people thought weren't sure where the basket was.
Eric Williams came in, which gave me hope, as he'd previously been the
one to jump-start the C's running game. Waltah! took a three that
didn't fall. It was the proper shot at that time and place.
Not that I'm thrilled about anything more than the occasional three,
but in this halfcourt, the three was literally their best option unless
they started running.
Eric did make the C's offense look for something better than a three on
the next play and Blount responded with a line drive from the
corner. Marcus tried an honest to God run, but got totalled by
Crawford at midcourt. With 8:54 left in the half, time was called
as the Bulls continued to lead, 27-24.
Kedrick scored on a nice upfake off a Pierce pass. The C's had a
chance for a lead off that spinning jumper of Baker's but it wasn't
going in, either. He recovered his own rebound and dived to the
floor to snag the ball, calling a timeout before a jump ball could
After the timeout, a rather embarrassing situation happened, where
Pierce was stripped of the ball as he was trying to dribble past the
arc, and he dived after the ball as it rolled toward halfcourt.
He couldn't grab it, but punched it away from Pippen, who was on the
floor with him. Kedrick Brown, followed closely by his defender,
tried to catch the ball as it scooted over the halfcourt line, but his
man slapped at the ball from between Kedrick's legs. Mike James
came running up, joined by two Bulls players, and attempted to scoop
the ball up at the other free throw line, but someone jabbed the ball
out of reach. The cameraman under the basket managed to stop the
pumpkin as it bounced past the baseline and out of bounds.
Possession went to the Bulls. Fortunately, Kendall Gill's shot
Mike James nailed a three, but Pippen came right back with a three of
his own. Then, in a bit of irony, James came inside the arc and
was short with the two. Eric Williams made a tough two, and shot
a look at the refs, wondering how severe the injury would have to be
before anything was called. As were we all.
Blount and Baker had point-blank shots that wouldn't drop. That
was one of the toughest parts about watching this game, seeing shots
that people can normally be counted on to make consistently simply
going everywhere but through the hoop.
Tommy was very upset about a player getting hit, but all I could see
from my angle was someone with both hands in Eric Williams' back as he
went up with the ball. I presume Tommy, even at his most
enthusiastic, knows the difference between a hit and a push, so I guess
he saw something not visible to me.
James knocked down another three. At this time, I couldn't fault
him taking the shot--nothing else was going in, and at least his threes
looked good. The C's defense was trying to run Chicago down the
shot clock and Blount tore down a rebound. But the main problem
was the C's couldn't score consistently.
Well, one of the main problems, anyway.
Raef did hit another jumper, but every time the C's could close the
gap, the Bulls hit another shot to extend the lead. With 2
minutes left, Chicago had a 42-41 lead after a Blount jumper.
Then at the other end, Blount flipped the ball back over his head as he
went out of bounds. Eric Williams was the recipient of the
unusual pass as Blount descended from the table he'd nearly toppled at
the baseline. The best shot the C's could get was a Pierce
attempt at a three that didn't go. Chicago missed at the other
end, and the C's had--for the third consecutive possession--a chance
for the lead. Pierce was doubled under the hoop and found Mike
James, who launched another three.
Celtics 44, Chicago 42, with 1:16 left in the half. Take solace
where you can, right?
Jalen Rose came right back with a three from the corner.
Shortly afterward, Rose and Raef clonked heads on a play, which sent
Rose to the line. Raef had taken a run and a flying leap at Rose,
who was driving toward the hoop. Both men were shaken, but
okay. Battie came in for Raef, as it was his third foul.
Rose went to the line for two, making both.
Pierce eschewed the outside shot and went to the hoop, only to be
called for the offensive foul. Neither team accomplished much
more in the remaining seconds, and halftime came with the Bulls
Despite not sticking to their game plan, they were only three points
down to a mediocre team. All the Good Guys had to do was get
their collective act together. The defense was there--but needed
to be tighter against a team in such disarray as the Bulls.
The C's were shooting badly, but the long-distance jumpers were a last
resort measure since the moves to the hoop weren't falling, and the
zone defense was still bothering the C's. I kept yelling at the
TV--yes, I do that too--"Just run toward the hoop before their defense
can get back!" If they'd only do that a few times, the shots
would start falling and the C's would be on their way to a double digit
decimation of the Bulls.
The Celtics opened up the quarter using fullcourt pressure on the
Bulls, but to little avail. The Bulls passed the ball well, and
only just missed the shot. But once more, the C's were not
bothering the Bulls passing at all.
Chicago responded with a zone that tripled Pierce. Paul found
Kedrick in the corner, but that shot missed. Vin was fouled on
the rebound, making 1-2. The C's got a rebound at the other end,
and walked the ball up, to my utter annoyance. Pierce was left
open for a three--a calculated risk, but with the way the C's were
shooting tonight? Another miss. Vin slapped the rebound
back, but it went past James and out of bounds.
The third quarter was "more of the same", as the Bulls hit tough shots
whilst Vin Baker missed an easy stuff. And Vin was one of the
leading scorers for the C's tonight.
James would soon hit a three to bring the C's within 4 points, at
55-51. Then the C's ran the Bulls down to a shot clock heave
that--of course--went in. The Bulls were now hitting 7-13--over
50%--from the three point line.
That's the kind of thing with will drive defenses right up a wall.
Mike James took a charge to prevent a Chicago layup. Raef made it
work with a deep two. Eric Williams went to the line on a smart
play, but missed both. Waah! The C's mounted a furious
attack on the offensive boards, especially Blount and Raef, and Mark
went to the line, showing us how to make your free throws, as both went
Pierce made a nice pass in to Eric, who once more drew the foul en
route to the hoop. Eric's free throw shooting improved, as he
made both. Yay! But the C's were fighting for every
point. There were no easy baskets to speak of. The C's
nearly had a break, but Banks had to heave up a three before the
defense was set, because no one else ran up with him--except the four
Bulls players who beat him back.
Eric was more effective scoring, as a drew a foul once more--this time
on a made basket, to bring Boston within one. His free throw,
however, rattled out. Chicago was fouled on the next play, and
Pippen made one of two at the line. The C's gave Eric a good look
for the last shot of the quarter but to no avail. The third
quarter came to an end as after 12 minutes, the C's had cut one point
of the Bulls halftime lead. Chicago was still ahead, 65-63.
To this point, Chicago had outshot Boston, 43%-33%; and outdone the C's
at the arc, going 7-13 vs. Boston's 6-21. One of the few bright
spots was that the Bulls also had a 14-8 edge in turnovers. It
would have helped if the C's had been able to actually score points off
those turnovers. Funny thing about the threes is that the C's
were shooting between 30-40% from the arc--normally pretty respectable
for any team. But not when they were an overall 33% from anywhere
on the court.
The quarter opened largely as the previous one had ended. The C's
got zip against the zone, and Pippen hit a three at the other
end. Give Eric Williams credit, he was doing his best to work the
ball inside once the C's made it to the offensive end of the
court. But his free throws once more went astray, as he missed
both. Eric was so annoyed at himself for missing the free throws,
that his man--Pippen--scooted uncontested to the other end for two
more. Jim O'Brien called timeout with 11:01 left in the game and
the Bulls lead now grown to 70-63.
When time came back in, Vin faked a drive to the hoop and hit an open
jumper. We needed more of that, badly. Pippen then drew a
foul off Blount, belatedly remembering to collapse to the floor
afterward. Scottie's got an acting career ahead of him--if they
ever revive "the A-Team". The Pipster then went to the line and
missed his first free throw. Maybe if he tried method acting and
became Reggie Miller. His second rattled in, though.
The C's offense got even colder, and the Bulls kept pushing the ball
and making shots. Eric got called for a ridiculous offensive
foul--ridiculous because his man was running alongside him every step
of the way, and not giving him enough room to move, then fell down in
front of Eric. Scottie Pippen strikes again!
Off that nonsensical call, the Bulls added insult to incompetence by
walking the ball up and letting Crawford nail another three to give the
Bulls an 11 point lead. The C's defense just wasn't getting it
Then James took off on a fast break--and blew the shot. Baker's
rebound attempt also missed. Sometimes, the Good Guys "should'a
stood in bed", as the old saying went. But Baker and Pierce tried
to start the Celtic offensive, with Vin making a goaltended shot and
Pierce hitting on a three. That cut the lead in half, as a
timeout was called with 7:40 left and the Bulls lead now reduced to
After time went back in, Pierce was called for travelling. He did
take a small hop--but while it did meet the letter of the law regarding
a travelling violation, that hop is rarely called. To top it off,
just the night before, Pierce had managed to traverse the width of the
lane without steps being called. Some things balance out
overall--but this call was a bit of a cheapie, considering some of the
things Pippen was getting away with--like literally whacking Pierce on
the arm on his way by, as he did on the next play.
Scottie also seems to be under the impression that the rules allow him
to yank Blount's arm back as he goes up for the shot. The refs
couldn't ignore that, as Blount spun backward in midair. The pull
yanked his free throw off aim, too, as he missed the first.
The second looked much better. Referring to Pippen,
Tommy--in an uncharacteristic bit of understatement--said "They
look at these things different now than in years past."
Then Pippen drew a phantom foul on Baker as he missed a three.
There was no sign that Baker even came in contact with Pippen, much
less did anything to physically alter the shot. Pippen went up
for three at the line, making two out of the three. Sure helps
when you have eight guys on the court to the other team's five.
The C's did make a good defensive stand, forcing the Bulls into a
turnover, and Kedrick finally scored a Celtic basket off a turnover,
rebounding and drawing the foul--but missing the free throw.
Pierce then went to the line and made both, bringing the C's within 3
with 4:36 left. But the Bulls got it right back a few moments
later. James knocked in a line drive three from the top of the
arc, and timeout was called with 4:03 left and the score now 80-78,
alas, still favoring Chicago.
When time came back in, another--rather obvious--non call happened, as
Blount was about to snag a loose ball and was shoved out of bounds--the
camera clearly showed the hand pushing Blount in the back, hard enough
to knock him into the second row, as the ball fell out of his hands and
into the hands of the Bulls. That's the kind of idiocy that can
get people hurt--not just on the court, but for whomever gets smooshed
in the seats. But there was no call. Nothing. Pierce
got slashed down on the play as well, but the refs charitably gave the
ball back to the Bulls as it went out of bounds.
Justice prevailed as Blount came back in and tipped the pass to Eric
Williams. James took it up and found Pierce. Sadly, the shot
didn't go. Maybe the swipe on the arm by his defender--a mirror
image of the move that Vin got called for--had something to do with
it. But the whistles remained silent--though the refs called
plenty of fouls on Pierce and Baker at the other end. Time was
called with 2:45 left and the Bulls still up, 82-78.
The refs made a goof after the timeout--as the Bulls were supposed to
be shooting free throws, and instead were given the ball for the side
in. They reset the clocks and set up the free throws, which Jalen
Rose made. Eric Williams drove to the hoop and got it back.
The C's were within 4 with 2 minutes left, and Tommy yelled, "Give it
to Pierce--he'll find the open people!" Whereupon Pierce received
the ball, and fired up a shot that ended up going over the
But the Bulls turned it over and gave the C's another chance.
Pierce was given a much cleaner look near the free throw line, but that
missed too, and while Baker fought for the rebound, the ball went over
to the Bulls. Marshall went to the line, going 1-2. Eric
Williams then threw the ball away. Curry drew the foul on Baker,
sending him to the bench with 6 fouls. With 42.4 seconds left,
Curry was at the line, missing the first badly, and missing the second
even more badly. But Eric Williams was called going for the
rebound, leaving Marshall at the line, making both. Time was
called as the score was now 87-80.
When time came back in, another foul was called--where were all those
whistles on OUR end? The Bulls went back to the line. Jalen
Rose made both. Raef missed a close skyhook, and WOW, the Celtics
went to the line!! Raef made both. Chicago dribbled out the
clock and won the game, 89-82.
Give the Bulls credit--they played the game they wanted to play, and
didn't deviate from their plan. Boston didn't do any of the basic
things they needed--like running and scoring.
I could have understood if the C's had run in the first half and got
tired. But they didn't run at all. We got beat by a
mediocre team. God help us if the C's play like this against a
Cookies and Crumbs
Cookies go to:
Mike James: He shot better than anyone on the C's tonight, 18
points, going 6-14 overall and 6-11 from the arc. Also 2
rebounds, 3 assists and a steal.
Vin Baker: Went 12 points on 4-11 shooting, 8 rebounds, an assist
and a steal.
Paul Pierce: Given how many C's went zip for everything, 4-15
isn't quite as bad. 4-4 at the line, 7 rebounds, 8 assists, and a
Eric Williams: 13 points on 4-10 shooting, 3 rebounds and a
Crumbs left for:
The Celtics' overall shooting percentage.
The Celtics free throw shooting.
The Celtics running game.
Marcus Banks: got nothing done out there tonight.
Mike James: crumbs for his lack of running. He and Marcus should
be making the C's run. They didn't.
The refs: bleah.
The Celtics better start playing a LOT faster on the court and making
their shots before they get blown out by a decent team. Next
time, if they don't run, there's no cookies no matter how much they
Next up, the Cleveland Cavaliers, featuring the first NBA player who
only shaves once a week.
And that's the view from the doghouse.