Celtics vs. Toronto Raptors  Friday Nov 29, 8:00pm
This game was really tough to watch, and there's several reasons for that.  The Raptors had several players--notably Vince Carter returning from an injury and Mo Peterson--playing much better then expected, and they were able to sustain that for most of the game.  Another reason was that the C's had a few trips on offense that simply got them nothing.

But there's one reason in particular that bothers me most of all:  Violet Palmer is, by far, the single most incompetent referee I've ever seen in the NBA.  She just cost the Celtics a game they had every chance to win.  If they don't fire her for incompetence, then her supervisors should be fired for embezzlement for letting her collect a paycheck for what she laughingly calls a night's work.
 

First Quarter:

The game opened with Alvin Williams stealing a pass from Tony Delk at halfcourt to finish off inside for a quick two.  Then, Walker went inside and drew a foul and made one of two.  This was indicative of the way the game went for Boston.

Vince Carter, playing at a self-proclaimed 80-85 % started by hitting nearly every shot he made.  The Raptors would go on to repeatedly hit from the perimeter.  The Celtics countered with outstanding work by Tony Battie on the boards, and by Antoine Walker scoring to keep Boston in the game.  The pace--and the intensity--in the first quarter was extraordinary for both teams, but Toronto just seemed to be getting too many easy shots.  The Celtics often had to work hard to get to the hoop, and on the rare occasion that a foul was called, invariably went one-for-two at the line.

As the quarter progressed, the C's fought hard and established a lead at times, but neither team could seem to get a major run.  Despite both teams playing very good defense for the most part, both teams were hitting pretty well in the first, though it became obvious that Toronto was getting better looks.  They also hit some tough shots against the C's defense.

The next sign that this wasn't Boston's night came with 4:32 left in the quarter as Waltah! took down a clean defensive rebound when the ball seemed to spin right out of his hands and out of bounds.  It was a Lucy Van Pelt ball drop.  The hoop got in his eyes, or something.  The C's were down one point, 16-15, but when Toronto got the ball out of bounds, they scored on a fadeaway shot from Vince Carter just inside the arc.

Toronto kept up the pressure on the offensive end, and the quarter ended with the Raptors holding an 8 point lead, at 32-24.
 
 

Second Quarter:

It was reported that Coach Jim O'Brien told the troops to "stop being mesmerized" by the Raptors offensive show in the first quarter.   I'll give Toronto credit--they hit some tough shots in the teeth of the Celtics defense.  Yet, I didn't get the sense that the C's defense was really cranking at 100%--maybe 90%.

In the first part of the second quarter, the Raptors opened up a double digit lead.  By this time, the C's were shooting 50% on 11-22 shots, normally more than enough to be in the lead in today's NBA.  The problem was, the Raptors were hitting 59% on 16-27 shooting.  Granted, a few of those came when the C's defense wasn't quite on top of things, but Toronto was hitting shots at a rate far above their normal ability.  Plus, it wasn't just the "Vince Carter show".  Morris Peterson was doing his share of damage, too, and frankly, the C's hadn't really planned on needing to cover him shooting from the three point arc.

Then, Violet started in.  Jermaine Jackson came in off an impressive save inbounds from Bradley, then while under the hoop, extended his right elbow out as he was moving sideways away from the basket as Vin Baker was blocking out toward the opposite side for the rebound.  Jackson defied the laws of physics as he threw himself the width of the land and slid out near the arc, knowing that the gullible Violet would call Baker for the foul, when she should have called an offensive foul and waved off the basket.  That gave Toronto a three point play, and Baker his second foul.  Aaugh.

Following a timeout--presumably to keep someone from getting a "T" for telling Violet what they thought of her work ethic, Walker used his offense to bring the Good Guys back into the game, reducing what had been a double digit lead to two points with 6:07 to go in the quarter.

Pierce tried to get his offense going, but there was just nothing doing.  He was hitting some of his shots, yet not nearly enough.  Shammond tried to help the cause by hitting a three, and Walker was fouled "before the shot".  I would think that hooking your arm on the other player's shooting arm as he goes up is continuation, but I guess the refs think otherwise.  Pierce showed tenacity as he rebounded his own miss.  Normally, he shouldn't have tried to split the defenders, but Waltah! was the only other Celtics up the floor, and for some reason, he was parked at a bad angle behind the arc.  But his hoop gave Boston the lead.

Waltah! added a three later on to increase the lead, but Alvin responded with a hoop to cut the lead to one point.  That was how the first half ended, the Celtics leading 50-49.

HALFTIME

Cookie Break!!

The main reason that the Celtics were still contending was Antoine Walker.  He played hard and his scoring--23 points in 21 minutes-- picked up the slack from the rest of the team.  Vince Carter tore up the net in the first quarter with 16 points, and rested most of the second--which meant that he was well rested for the second half.  Morris Peterson was scoring at will and no one was coming out to really contest his shot.  The C's as a team were fighting for every hoop, instead of passing the ball more crisply.  There were a lot of drives to the hoop, but rarely any followup for second shots--at least not as much as they should have.

The C's defense was good--not great.  The problem was, the way Toronto was playing, the C's needed GREAT defense.  The teams were playing each other fairly close all in all, but Toronto was just playing a little better.  The second quarter was better for Boston than the first, as the shooting percentage for Toronto dropped from 61% in the first quarter to 40% in the second to average out to 50.5% for the half.  Boston increased from 48% to 55% to come out to 52.5%.  The C's held a 22-17 rebounding edge, but also had a 10-5 turnover edge.  The Celtics also went 6-11 from the arc compared with Toronto at 2-6.

The Celtics would have to defend better to have any chance of winning--and do it fast.

Cookie Break!!
 

Third Quarter:

Things started well, as the Good Guys found Battie loitering under the hoop for an easy two.  They're really starting to take advantage of Battie under there--to the point where people are going to have to work on forcing him further out.  Tony Delk hit an early three, for his first basket of the night--another troubling sign for Boston, as he had been recently shooting well.  But Peterson kept lighting it up from the outside.

Tony Delk got obviously bumped back as he made a shot, but Violet was disinclined to let Delk go to the line.  Then shortly afterward, Battie got his arm slapped down while trying to get an offensive rebound.  Once again, Violet was unresponsive, despite having the best--and closest--view of the play.

The C's contributed to the problem by then leaving Peterson totally unguarded for an open three.  Then Walker was called for going over the back, when it looked to me like he was elbowed in the gut by the man he was guarding.  I'm at a loss to otherwise explain why he lay there in pain holding his side and having trouble getting up.  Even the broadcasters commented it was like he got the wind knocked out of him.  Gee, really?

A minute later, Morris Peterson was inexplicably left unguarded while parked in the same spot from which he'd been sinking outside shots all night long.  On this trip, it looked like Pierce was supposed to be on him, but he'd cheated under the hoop to stop the penetration.  He should have let Battie do his thing, and stayed with Mo.  But he made up for it on the next offensive set by passing out of a closing triple team.  He then blew a layup after a side out foul.  His offense just wasn't smooth at all.  He tried to go inside, got hacked and missed--no call, thanks to Violet.  At least Joe Crawford called it when the same thing happened on the next play.

But next time up, he was pushed and tripped and Toronto got it to Peterson as Pierce was still running back after the mugging.  Toronto took advantage of this to keep pushing their offense.  Shammond had the misfortune to dribble the ball off his foot while trying to save it inbounds.  It was that kind of night.  The C's would make small mistakes which were magnified by the situation.

At this point, the Celtics continued to depend on a lot of driving to the hoop punctuated by the occasional pass outside, leaving the recipient of the pass to try to make something out of nothing.  Meanwhile, the Raptors were still shooting over 50%.  They pushed their lead to 74-62 with 3 minutes to go.

It was not like the Good Guys stopped trying though--Walker made a great pass to Waltah! for a strong dunk with a foul--which he made!  Then Joe impersonated Violet when he called Shammond for fouling Jackson's outreaching arm with his tummy. Riiiiight.  Suuure.

The C's kept pushing on, and kept closing the gap.  Waltah! hit an open three to erase the former double digit lead, reducing it to three points, then Pierce pulled down a rebound, moved upcourt and passed the pumpkin to an open Shammond for three to tie the game at 74 with 1:16 to go in the third.  Then Walker got it in to Battie for the lead.  Somehow, Pierce was called for fouling Peterson when the replay clearly showed there was no contact.  Aaugh.

Walker scored his first points of the third quarter with 23 seconds to go, but Peterson hit a last second jumper to close the third quarter with the score tied at 78.
 

Fourth Quarter:

The fourth quarter opened as Peterson hit a shot clock three.  At this point, the Celtics started going cold--that is, they were hacked every time they went to the hoop and nothing got called. Then Alvin Williams got in the air against a stationary Battie and guess who got called for the foul?  Next, Walker apparently was breathing too hard while near Alvin and surprise!!  A foul is called.

Well, you keep handing Toronto the ball and sooner or later they WILL score.  Then on the other end, Battie is supposedly over the back while jumping straight up.  Thanks, Violet.

The capper came when Walker then went upcourt and scored--but despite Peterson moving backward, the basket was waved off on Violet's offensive foul call.  I repeat, she is incompetent.

Pierce decided to make the effort worthwhile by leaning into the lane and zipping in for a dunk that beat the defense, and left Violet with no chance to call offensive fouls.  Next time, up, Battie had to be fouled twice--including a noticeable arm wrapped around his middle --before a foul was actually called.  He made the free throws to bring Boston within three with 6 minutes to go.  A timeout was called with 5:55 to go and calm everyone down.

But at this point, the C's outside shooting--made necessary by Violet's rendering inside moves unscorable--went cold.  Three plays running, Pierce drew the defense and passed the ball outside, but all three times, the shot didn't go in.  Meanwhile the clock was running down and the C's just couldn't make up the points.  The C's were within two, when Carter committed and offensive foul, but Battie was called for a defensive foul.

Over the next couple of minutes the Celtics just couldn't score from outside, and the C's defense started sputtering a bit.  But it kept going, and Walker made a steal, and sank both free throws.  With 3 minutes to go, Toronto led, 94-92.

After the timeout, several Toronto fouls were reduced to an offensive goaltending call.  On the other end, the Raptors were apparently not going to be called for several pushes underneath.  The C's tried again, as Walker was knocked to the floor, and Violet assumed that was somehow unassisted, as the game continued.  The C's kept having trouble scoring from outside, as Pierce shot it himself this time and HE missed too.

The C's did play tougher defense, but Delk missed another shot, and with 31 seconds left, the Raptors still held the lead with the score unchanged for the last 2:30 at 94-92.

After the timeout, Antonio Davis went to the line as Waltah! was called for a phantom foul.  With 22 seconds left, Toronto's free throws made it 96-92.

Following another timeout, the C's sent it into Pierce, who was fouled by Carter three times en route to the hoop, with no call, and Carter was credited with blocking the shot.  Another timeout, with 14 seconds left as Toronto planned what to do with the gift they were given.  As time went in, Walker went to the corner and Walker nailed a three to make it 96-95 Toronto, encouraging yet another timeout with 10.9 seconds to go.

Then, another shameful officiating moment, as the ball went inbounds at 10.9, and less than 0.4 seconds elapsed when Tony Delk fouled Alvin Williams.  But the whistle didn't sound until there were only 8.9 seconds left on the clock.  It's not like the C's plan was secret, or complicated--if you can't steal the inbounds pass, foul the guy who catches it right away.  Yet it took far too long for a whistle to blow, allowing Toronto to take 2 seconds off the clock and then going to the free throw line.  This time, it was Joe Crawford who was inept--unusual since he's usually much better than that.

Alvin made both shots to make it a three point game at 98-95 with 8.9 seconds to go, and Boston called it's final timeout.  Following the timeout, the C's took it in at halfcourt, and got it in to Pierce who took a three that bounced out.  Tony Delk got the rebound and passed it back out to Walker who was closely guarded, and therefore handed off to Pierce, who was next to him, but had a better angle.  Toronto knocked the ball loose and Walker recovered it and desperately heaved it up from halfcourt, but it was far short.  The game ended with Toronto winning it, 98-95.
 

This was hard to watch.  Three things contributed to the loss.  First, Toronto played VERY well.  Second, the C's had some problems with their offense--and to a lesser extent, their defense--at key moments.  Third, The Three Stooges who were intent on giving the game to Toronto.  I can't blame the C's for taking it outside when it was clear that they would A) be hacked every time they went inside, and B) it wouldn't be called unless someone got hit with a crowbar.  Yes, I expect them to hit from outside when they shoot outside, but this time, they TRIED to go inside, and got zip, thanks in part to Violet and Co.

I have to also credit the Raptors--they played better than I--or a lot of people--expected them to, based on their recent record.  I have to give them that, it was well earned.

Next up is our first visit to the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday.
 

HEROES AND ZEROS

Heroes:

Antoine Walker:  He went 11-28 shooting en route to 31 points, had 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals.  Very nice work, even if the result wasn't the best for the team.

Paul Pierce the rebounder:  he had 10 boards, 6 defensive; and 5 assists.  Had the rest of the team (except Walker) shot better from outside, he would have had about twice as many assists.

Tony Battie:  7 rebounds and 15 points.  He cleaned up nicely under the hoop.

Waltah! McCarty the rebounder:  8 rebounds, shows he was in there plugging away.

Zeros:

Paul Pierce the scorer:  6-20 overall, and 0-5 at the arc.  He needs to do better than that.  I'll give him credit for trying to create shots for other people.

Tony Delk:  He shot poorly tonight, missing several open looks at the end of the game.

Waltah! McCarty the scorer:  Same thing, though he did shoot better than Shammond.

And that's the view from the doghouse.
1st Q 2nd Q 3rd Q 4th Q Final
Raptors 32 17 29 20 98
Celtics 34 26 28 17 95