The Nets were playing really well, and the Celtics had been playing well in spurts. They had yet to really put together what I'd call a complete game. There's been games where the Defense rocked and the offense stalled, games where Pierce stank up the place while Walker rocked, and games where the offense was ok and the offense was nonexistent. There was yet to be a game where everything came together. That brought us to the first official meeting between last season's contenders for the Eastern Conference Championship.
Last year, the C's took the Nets in the regular season 3 games to 1, only to see the Nets prevail in the playoff series 4-2. In the offseason, Paul Gaston was showing what a cheap, miserly son of a muppet he was (for he surely has SOMETHING up his butt that prevents him from acting in a fiscally reasonable manner where the Celtics are concerned) by deliberately allowing the Nets to have Rodney Rogers for the NBA equivalent of chump change. Heaven forfend he might offer something more than the minimum for a player who arguably helped the C's make their stretch run to the playoffs last season. Frankly, last year, he played much better than Tony Delk and we KEPT Delk. (Good thing Delk is playing a LOT better this year.)
So here they were, back in the same
building and you could just feel the hostility in the air--or maybe that
was the people sitting near Gaston...now, let the Game Begin.
The game began slowly as Kidd nailed a deep two to open the scoring, and the Celtics saw that Pierce was having shooting troubles still. The Nets were on the mark early in the quarter, until Delk saved a rebound back to Boston, a good sign that the C's intended to work on rebounding.
The C's started pusing the Nets out to the perimeter for outside shots, and their defense started ratcheting up the defense as the quarter progressed. Unfortunately, Pierce was missing on the offensive end. The Good Guys started using rebounds to get multiple chances to score, led by Tony Battie and Eric Williams. Tony Delk was also working the rebounds.
In fact, rebounds were plentiful for Boston as they had the rebounding edge 10-6 halfway through the first quarter. But the scoring was still quite low, 8-6 favoring Boston. But at that point, the C's defense got more consistent, and the scoring, based on rebounds, began to follow suit.
It's not like the Nets lay down and died, though--they played hard and stayed close, but Walker was again showing why he should be considered the Celtics de facto point guard. The C's were beginning to really work around the Nets defense. This unfortunately was hamstrung by the three extra guys helping the Nets--the Refs, otherwise known as Three (Selectively) Blind Mice. They would make their ineptitude known throughout the game, somehow calling Boston for everything, while the Nets were apparently not going to be called for a foul unless weapons were drawn.
Despite the unwanted interference,
the C's and Nets played each other to a near standstill, as Boston edged
the FGP 39% to 38%; were down in rebounds 15-13; and nearly doubled up
on the Nets in paint points 10-6. The first quarter ended as the Celtics
led by a score of 23-21.
The Quarter began as the C's continued hard rebounding, though they were also starting to pick apart New Jersey's inside game as Kidd took a seat. Vin Baker drew a foul and began something that bugged me ALL GAME LONG.
MISSED FREE THROWS.!!! AAAUUGGHHH!!!!
At this point, the offense kicked into gear, as Shammond Williams hit a foot on the line two. Baker also drew rebounds, and the C's were starting to gel--it wasn't there yet, needed some more flow, but you could see it coming, as the Nets were slowly falling behind as the quarter wore on.
Then, Jim O'Brien got hit with a technical foul, after rightly complainiong about the latest act of incompetence by the refs. bleah. After a couple more monumentally bad calls, the C's took a time out and asked themselves, "How can we generate offensew without getting tangled up in phantom offensive fouls, or emmy-nominated performances by the Nets on defensive work?"
Tony Delk said, "Let me take it up court and try something." One open shot for three points later, the idea proved sound. So sound, in fact, the Celtics tried it again. This was fun, as the C's added a quick six points and didn't bother worrying about whether the refs had bet the spread. A timeout followed as the Nets realized the Celtics were generating Offense, whilst they were not.
Shammond Williams said, "That looks like fun--let me try it!" He was right--shooting an open three IS fun! He also foud the Rebounding is Fun. then New Jersey left Tony Delk open in the same spot he'd hit from twice before. Boom--three more. Well, if you're going to build the offense on the three, it sure is a lot more fun when it falls!!
The First half came to a close as
the Good Guys were ahead of the pretenders to the Conference Championship
by a score of 44-37.
The first half was just right, so far as I was concerned. The C's had a lead, but weren't so far ahead that they would get cozy and stop working hard--New Jersey never lets up. The C's were shooting 40% to the Nets' 35%, which might have made Coach O'Brien happy if the Celtics didn't need to shore up the lane a little more. The threes were definitely on tonight, as Boston had 6-11 at the half, whilst the Nets only had 2-5, and bad shots at that.
Free throws. Yes, I'm gonna keep complaining until they hit them consistently. 4-10 is rotten shooting at the line. The Nets were making the most of their trips--5-7 to this point.
Rebounds were really a pleasure to see here--the C's outrebounded the Nets in the second quarter 15-9, for a halftime edge of 30-24!! YAY! Not only that--the C's outdid the Nets on the Offensive boards in the half 8-5. The only other negative for Boston was the blocked shots, 8-3 favoring the Nets, but Mutombo will do that, unfortunately.
The way to win was simple--keep doing what they were doing, only better. they had the right idea, they just needed to fine-tune it.
And please--for the love of Cousy,
HIT THEIR FLAMIN' FREE THROWS!!! (^(^(^%#@#)^(&@&*#*)
(for those of you new to this site,
the proper cookie break is taken with Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chip Cookies
and the beverage of your choice--I usually vary between Pepsi and chocolate
Tony Battie IS the Bat-Man. Keep that in mind. Let Eric Williams be Nightwing (Face it, he's a little old to be Robin). The C's were committed to working the boards and it was working. In addition, while Pierce was so cold shooting wise that he could be Mr. Freeze, he was right on target with his passing.
Though, he DID nail a buzzer beating three, that he just launched--maybe he needs to defy wisdom and just throw the ball up--it's possible he's not trusting his shot, though I maintain there's some kind of physical problem, not a "slump"--too many other aspects of his game are on track.
Finally, Delk and Walker were giving help on the boards at both ends and it was making it easier for Boston to get the Pumpkin. Between the rebounding, the defense and second chance points for Boston, the Good Guys were pusing their lead ever upward. With 7:44 to go, the C's were ahead 52-39 as the Nets called a time out.
That was the beginning of a tough stretch, as the Nets worked with the refs to try to get Boston in foul trouble. Yet, I never saw the C's lose their poise. Though I thought Tommy Heinsohn was going to have kittens over the bad calls...
Shammond also found he was being given room to make threes, so he did. You'd think by this time, the Nets might have started defending the perimeter and making Pierce handle the ball, but by then the Nets were unglued--even Kidd was missing free throws, so it wasn't just our team.
I liked that Shammond then faked a three and drove to the hoop, getting fouled en route--the only problem? yep, one for two. Again. AAUGH!
With less than half the quarter to go, the crowd was chanting "De-Fense"--that was doing fine. What they need to start chanting is "Free-Throw".
Pierce then had to sit with four fouls, as Walker had already sat with three, the game now hinged on the bench--could they hold the defensive line and still generate offense?
Well, they sure weren't generating points on the free throw line. Aside from that, they showed they were still playing hard defense as the Nets had only three FG's in over 8 minutes. The offense wasn't quite there, but they were eating up clock on their posessions and that was in the Celtics favor as the lead held 60-48 with 3:15 to go as a timeout was called.
Following the timeout, Baker added to the lead, and Walker came back in to run the offense. The refs continued to favor the Nets, but that was mitigated by the fact that they weren't so hot in the lane either.
Shammond then made an old-fashioned three point play, and really displayed why Boston was in total control of this game. Simple, smart basketball. Waltah! was also on the boards, and I think he's getting more lovable with every game.
Then Delk was once again left open in the corner, and said, "Cool--I can hit this." :>)
Shammond hit a beautiful shot and was called for a "T" for hanging on the rim--even though TWO people were holding him up UNDER the rim. But the C's exacted their revenge as the third quarter ended with the Good Guys up 73-51.
The third was much like the first
half--by this time, the C's FGP was 43%, while holding the Nets down to
29%. The threes were in Boston's favor--11-18; as New Jersey only
attempted one three in the quarter and missed it. The rebounds were
also pleasing as the Celtics held a 47-37 edge going into the final 12
minutes. All the Celtics had to do was hold the line defensively
and not let the Nets come back.
The Quarter opened as Shammond hit a deep two to his his high score as a Celtic! Way to go, Shammond!!
But the Nets, much as I dislike them, didn't give up, I'll give them that. They pushed their offense and tried to mount a run on Boston. Coach O'Brien took no chances and left his starters out and encouraged them to keep working hard--too many times, a large lead had been eradicated in short order. Pierce seemed to be finally finding his shot, at least a bit.
Of course, it wouldn't count if Walker didn't nail a three, which he did halfway through the quarter, wide open, surprisingly.
In the fourth, the Nets actually
had their best quarter in terms of generating offense. It was
the only quarter where they outscored the Celtics. Yet it was
too little and far too late. With a couple of minutes to go, Byron
Scott threw in the bench. A minute later, Coach O'Brien accepted
by sending his bench in. This allowed us to see Bruno Sundov score
a nice wide open three from the top of the arc to emphasize the defest
of the Nets.
The game ended as the Good Guys won, 96-79.
This was a really enjoyable game to watch. The Celtics carried the day and on a scale of 1-10, it was a solid 9. The Celtics had the edge in many categories--19-16 in fast break points for starters, and speaking of points, PG's Shammond Williams and Tony Delk combined for 39 points on 14-20 shooting.
The Nets were held to 34% FGP. The Nets were also outrebounded 57-46, outshot from the perimeter, and Kidd only had 19 points.
Heroes and Zeros:
Tony Battie and Eric Williams can retire in Stately Fleet Center as the Bat-Man and his partner Nightwing clkeaned up the boards at both ends. Between them they had 15 rebounds and 13 points.
Shammond Williams and Tony Delk: Shammond was 3-3 from the arc, and Delk 6-7. Many of these were open looks. Jim O'Brien will gleefully accept contrite apologies for his offensive strategies from anyone who had previously purchased pitchforks and torches.
Antoine Walker: Yes, his point total was lower, but that was because he was running the offense, with 7 assists, 7 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 blocks, and he squeezed 19 points on the evening as well.
Paul Pierce: 13 rebounds, six assists. His shot is finally starting to look better as he had 18 points.
Waltah! and Vin Baker: They didn't do a lot, but helped in key places when needed. Nice supporting work there.
Bruno Sundov: He played one minute and shot 100%. Can't ask for more than that in the time he was out there.
The Boston Celtics Free Throw Shooting: A combined 12-23 is a real stinkeroo, and one of the few negatives about tonight's game.
|1st Q.||2nd Q.||3rd Q.||4th Q.||Final|
All in all, it was a fun game.
Next up, the Celtics have back to back home/away games against the Atlanta
And that's the view from the Doghouse.