So, how did the Celtics LOSE? And make no doubt, it was the Celtics losing, NOT the Bulls winning.
Everyone was optimistic, with good reason. The Good Guys were coming off a nice win, ready and pumped to start on their way to Banner # 17. Red Auerbach was at the game, and the fans were ready to rock and roll. The C's had just last week handed the bulls a preseason loss, 115-104, and this was the home opener at the Centah. Ready-made for an impressive opening night win.
Up until the game was over, the beginning of the game looked to be the onlyevidence of a downside to the Celtics's home opener. Chicago got off to a rollicking start, taking a 7-0 lead. But the Celtics quickly regrouped and proceeded to roll off a string of their own, taking the lead. I attributed it to opening-night jitters, as the Good Guys settled in, even getting Jalen Rose to take an early seat with 2 fouls just a couple of minutes into the first quarter.
After the scoring show, the Celtics put on a passing show. Suddenly, the "alley-oops" became a potent scoring weapon, and everyone was passing for the easy hoop. Tony Battie got some nice dunks off Pierce. Pierce was passing to anyone who was open when they doubled him, and making shots when they didn't. Tony Delk seemed unstoppable, hitting nearly every shot.
They followed up with increasing the numbers in the assists and rebounding column. The first three quarters featured really sharp play by Boston. Chicago was barely able to keep up only because they kept hitting tough outside shots. There were few layups--most of the Bulls were hitting with the defense in their faces on the perimeter. At halftime, the only real complaint that Coach o'Brien had was that he wanted the defense to tighten up even more--and they did just that.
The third quarter was more of the same, as Tyson Chandler got booted with his second technical for taunting. By this time, the Bulls were noticably getting official help--or, as I occasionally say, they were playing eight guys to our five, as the officials called the C's for so many offensive fouls, you'd think we had Bill Laimbeer in the lineup. It got really idiotic after a while, as the officials gave the Bulls the chance to hang on late in the game, overcoming a double digit lead by Boston to under 4 points as they entered the decisive 4th quarter.
The quarter began with the C's maintaining their effort, but being constantly undermined by bad officiating. The Bulls, to be fair, took complete advantage of this fact, and hammed it up. They act better than they play basketball, I can tell you that.
By this time, Jalen Rose was once again a factor, and led the way by hitting from outside. Let me re-emphasize--the Celtics were doing everything they should have been doing. The starters were great, the bench was solid, and given a fair game, this one is a lock for the win column. But Things went from bad to worse as the quarter was half over. With 6:00 left, the Celtics led, 91-89. The Bulls tied it on a non-called 3 second violation, and Boston took another lead with 4:19 to go, 93-91. It was close, but nervous by now. I was starting to think about maybe overtime. But then, Boston went cold offensively, and couldn't buy a break defensively, Pierce was a bright spot wrestling a rebound and drawing a foul--after about three ACTUAL fouls had been committed. Moments later, the refs made up an offensive call against the Good Guys to ensure a Chicago possession.
Following a timeout, the Bulls ground out some offense, tying it at 93, and pushing for a lead, which they got on a three at the top of the arc. With 2:21 to go, the Bulls had a 96-93 lead. Chicago did their level best to be mediocre, as they proceeded to blow a series of free throws gifted them by the officials. The Celtics had a chance with 20 seconds left and posession of the ball. Antoine took the shot, even though Delk was open and had been hot all night. I looked at it on tape, and Walker was open and had a good look--I can't call it a bad shot, it just didn't go in. Battie was called for a foul on the rebound, and then Chicago prolonged things by missing at the line yet again.
With 6.8 seconds left, the Celtics took a timeout to set up one more play. They came out with Delk, Pierce, Walker, Eric and Shammond. Eric made the inbounds pass to Delk, who pitched it to Walker in the corner. Walker's shot, once again, was not a bad one, but didn't go in--this time, he was the only one open, so there were no other scoring options. Jay Williams of Chicago took the rebound, and the game was over.
This one HURT. The Celtics had this one, and while it must be admitted that there were a few minor miscues during the game, they wouldn't have mattered without help. I'm NOT accusing the officials of cheating. Just of incompetence. The Bulls, a third-rate team that should have been buried by 20+ points by the end of the third quarter, made the most of the gift they were given.
It feels worse, because the Celtics were doing
all the things we'd been begging them to do in the preseason--inside-out
offense, great passing, rebounding, defense was great, and the bench played
like a team. Vin Baker looked good, and overall, this should have
been a very pleasing win to start the season.
Given the end result, I say, woe unto the Washington Wizards. The C's will be looking for payback.
And that's the view from the doghouse.
Scoring by quarters:
|1st quarter||2nd quarter||3rd quarter||4th quarter||Final|