Celtics vs. New York Knickerbockers, Dec 14, 2002  7:30pm
Celtics vs. Knicks Dec 14, 2002  7:30pm

The Celtics had won six straight regular season games against the Knicks, and there was no obvious sign that the record would be blemished tonight.   Tonight's game came 24 hours after the Celtics beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Fleet Center in Boston.  New York had just won a controversial game against the Miami Heat--which had prompted a protest against the officials by Pat Riley, the Heat coach. Guess he only notices the problems when they affect HIS team.  Hmph.

First quarter:

The Celtics won the opening tip off, and Tony Delk brought the ball to the top of the key, and then sent it to Paul Pierce whose three bounced off the Rim.  From the very start, the Celtics forced the Knicks to take outside shots thanks to the defense. Tony Delk nailed the three from the top of the arc it was quickly apparent the Celtics intended shoot from outside as long as the Knicks would let them open to do so.  Walker proceeded to hit another three with 10:35 to go, as Boston had a 6-0 lead in the first. A 20 second timeout was called by New York.

New York came out moving the ball trying to get inside, to no avail. Walker and Battie tried another alley-oop pass but it missed--they really need to practice it.  New York got its first point of the game with nine minutes in 57 seconds left in the first quarter, via a free throw.

The Celtics defense was causing New York to go one and done on every offensive trip.  It was clear from the beginning, the Celtics offense was going to begin from the outside tonight.  The first time Tony Delk went inside, he was fouled.  The Celtics scored again to make it a 10 to 1 score with 8:40 seconds left in the quarter.  New York had yet to score a field goal.  Spreewell committed an offensive foul in his attempt to score against Paul Pierce.

The Celtics offense was flowing very smoothly, and their defense clamped down in a way that it had not done in the last several games.  There was 7:49 left in the quarter before New York scored its first basket- a three.  But New York still could not stop the Boston offense.  Tony Battie, the Bat-Man, is still making a living under the hoop.

Tony had a nice rejection of a New York basket attempt by Allan Houston.  A timeout was called with 6:10 to go, with the Celtics leading 14 to 6.

After the time out the Celtics stole the ball and Eric Williams went in for a layup.  Pierce whirled to the hoop, but was fouled.  At least this time, they seem to be calling the fouls.  Pierce hit both. (Yay!)
Not bad for a guy who went through nine hours of dental surgery yesterday.

Allan Houston was finding his outside shot despite good defense by Boston.  Pierce then went to the hoop with no opposition and scored the easy basket.  A couple of possessions went by when neither team could score.  They dry spell was broken by Spree as he went to the basket and was fouled.  Tony Battie sat with two fouls.  Spree missed the free throw.  Good!!

Then Baker quickly scored thanks to extra good passing by the Celtics.  The Celtics were working hard on the boards but the rebounds were going New York's way too often to suit me.  With 2:53 left in the first quarter the Celtics held a nine-point lead with the score 22-13.  The division standings put Boston 1/2 game behind New Jersey in the Eastern Conference Atlantic Division.  A win would tie it all up.

Paul Pierce somehow got a basket as he was fouled--it was a very nice, if complicated, move.  Pierce missed the free throw.  Whack!  The Celtics were working harder on rebounds, and it showed.  Walter McCarty played Spree tough on defense.  New York was getting more attempts off rebounds, which was bad for Boston.  The Celtics stole a pass, but then Pierce seemed to injure himself, something with his knee or leg.  He fell to the floor as a timeout was called.  He stayed down as the trainer tended to his right leg and play continued.  New York took the chance to finish a rally of their own, and bring the score closer as the end of the quarter approached.  The quarter ended with the Celtics lead cut to six points, 26-20 as Paul Pierce was still on the floor underneath the basket just out of bounds--he still had not been moved.
 
 

Second Quarter:

The second quarter opened with Paul Pierce now sitting at the Celtics bench, a good sign compared to where he was before.  Unfortunately, New York opened the quarter by scoring a basket.  Vin Baker saved a broken play with a nice shot.  A report came in that Paul Pierce “felt something going in his knee”, in his own words, and he was sitting with the trainer to make sure that everything was ok before going back into the game.

New York, and particularly Mike Doleac, kept out rebounding the Celtics to this point.  Both teams were not playing smoothly at this time of the game.  Tony Delk took to his favorite corner spot to shoot a three, with the expected results.

After the timeout, Boston had a 10-point lead, 34-24.  Paul Pierce came back and seemed to be moving OK drawing the defense, and passing the ball out.  Walker had a shot clock three.

Charlie Ward of New York answered.  Tony Delk hit a deep two.  It began to look like this was going to be an offensive, not defensive, game.  New York was getting more out of the three-point shot than the Celtics were.  This was very unusual.  Play became ragged for both teams.  New York was doing better on rebounds, and this was costing the Celtics points.  Walker made a nice move to the basket and got the good roll.

Bruno took up the middle again.  He looks better and better in limited minutes.  There was a beautiful passed by Walker to Eric Williams, for an easy basket.  Even the New York fans had to appreciate that.

After the timeout, New York moved the ball well, but wasted it on a bad three-point shot over the backboard.  Walker continued to have his way.  Boston was shooting 60% at this point.  Then Baker worked hard to the hoop and got a rebounded basket.  On the next possession, Baker tried again and was fouled hard going to the basket.  Boston held the ball for the last shot, but missed.  Halftime arrived with Boston leading, 52-44.

HALFTIME

Cookie break!!

So far, both teams played like they had played last night, very ragged and tired.  While the Celtics held the lead, in order to keep it, they were going to have to play much better defense.  New York was disorganized, but all they needed was a run, and they would be right back in the middle of this game.  The Celtics have developed a habit of a third-quarter drought.  New York was too easily capable of putting together scoring run that would give them the game if the Celtics lost any ground on the offensive end.

Walker had 15 points on 7- 15 shooting.  Pierce had 10 points on 3-6 shooting.  The Celtics had 32 paint points in the first half.
 

Third-quarter:

Boston had shot 56 percent in the first half.  Pierce opened up the offense in the third-quarter with a nice three-point shot, wide-open easily made.  Spree could not answer.  The Celtics took the rebound and came up quickly.  Pierce took another three from downtown, and made it looked like a layup, again.

Paul Pierce took the next took down the court and made sure his feet were well behind the three-point arc this time, after there was dispute over a previous shot.  The Celtics defense got batter, working hard for rebounds.  The next trip up, Pierce took it to the hoop, drawing a foul on the made basket.  Pierce, went to the line, and made the free throw.  Yay!

New York tried to answer with outside three-point shops, and could not.  Pierce was a one-man demolition crew, getting another deep two, prompting a New York timeout.  The Celtics led 64-46 with this timeout.

After the timeout, one of Pierce's shots was indicated as a three after all.  I wonder if this had something to do with the MSG replaying Tommy Heinsohn’s tantrum during the Celtics/Suns game a few days ago.  :>)))  As this was decided, Pierce had his first miss in seven shots.  New York beat the Celtics defense on a fast-moving play, to score a basket.  New York then played swarming defense, to try to beat the Celtics game, but Eric Williams took a foul going to the basket.

Two free throws later, the Celtics had a 16 point lead, with just over 7 1/2 minutes to go.  The defense had tightened up as hoped, and the offense had been his potent as it could be hoped for.  This was emphasized when Tony Battie threw a slam.  The game was quickly getting out of hand.  New York began to double-team Paul Pierce, only to succeed in fouling him.  The Celtics continued to play tough defense, and they reaped the benefits by getting the rebounds.  Boston was contesting every shot, and often ending up with the ball.

After Tony Battie picked up his fourth foul, he sat in favor of Vin Baker.  New York moved the ball on offense, trying to find a decent shot, to no avail.  They often ended up with a bad outside shot.  The Celtics begin to play a little too aggressively, leading to some fouls.  New York had managed to cut the Celtics lead to 12 points, despite ragged play.  Shammond hit a  beautiful open three.  The Celtics won a jump ball the following possession, leading to Eric Williams hitting a free throw line shot.  Walter McCarty stole the ball, and passed to Eric Williams, but Charlie Ward made a very good defensive effort to draw the offense of foul on Eric.  New York was still taking bad shots, but getting too many rebounds, perhaps with some help from the officials.  If you give them the ball often enough, sooner or later they'll score.  Some idiot football award interrupted the game, but not for long thank goodness.

The play was ragged again on both sides, this favoring New York, as up until now the Celtics had played very smoothly.  Pierce came back off the bench after her about a minutes rest, having scored some 13 points in eight minutes.  He tried to set up Walker with a nice feed, but the shot didn't go. The Celtics did steal the ball in the other end, and Pierce went to the hope, drawing the foul.

Then Baker got an uncontested basket, on a very nice pass from Eric Williams.  This gave Baker a season high 12 points, very nice to see.  For some reason Witherspoon and Walker got into an argument, and a double “T” was called.  The two players were very angry each other.  On a replay it looks like the two of them were simply going at each other and played hard, perhaps harder than they ought to.  At least the officials took care of things before they got too bad.

Clarence Witherspoon still appeared upset couple of minutes later, whereas Walker seemed to be more pleasantly disposed.

Play resumed as Pierce spun in toward the hoop, but had the ball locked out of bounds.  Walker took the inbound pass, and with Witherspoon in his face, neatly sank a three.

But the Celtics offensive onslaught had done its job.  The Celtics took the last shot of the quarter- one of the few misses-to end the quarter with the Celtics leading 83-60.
 
 

Fourth-quarter:

Previous games this year, not only for the Celtics, but also for many teams, had shown that even a 20-point lead was not safe at the beginning of the fourth-quarter.  The Celtics would have to work hard to make sure there was no last-minute comeback.  The Celtics defense was hard and tight as the quarter opened.  Boston had outscored New York 31-16 in the third quarter.

New York tried to play tough defense of their own, hoping to spark a comeback that way.  But they turned the ball over again, and the Celtics ended up on offense once again.  Walter hit a shot clock three, and the Walker Wiggle was back.  I wonder if there’s been a physical action so despised by the League since Red was lighting up on the sideline.  Spree came back into the game, and promptly sank a basket.  Pierce returns the favor a few seconds later.  It looked like the most of the scoring New York was going to get would be at the free throw line.  Then Baker for once was on the right side of a follow call, going to the line.  To this time including the two free throws he just hit, he had 16 points and six rebounds.

But at this point, all New York could seem to do was trade baskets--mostly.  A timeout called with 8:30 remaining had the score Boston Celtics 90, New York 66.  This was a chance for the Celtics to have one of their few games with extended garbage time, providing only that they did not fall apart completely.  Given what I'd seen in previous games, I was rooting for coach Jim O'Brien to leave the starters out there for it least another five minutes. :>)))

The crowd in New York was very quiet, befitting a home team that was down by so many points with so much time to go.  The Celtics defense led to a 24 second violation by New York, which in turn lead to a chorus of boos from the fans.  Eric Williams got an alley-oop pass, for an easy two.  To this time of the game Boston lead in paint points 46-16.  Pierce emphasized the situation by hitting a difficult shot.  Spree hit for a three, but obviously it was little help at this point of the game.  New York did try to make a small run with just under seven minutes to go, in an attempt to bring the lead under 20 points.  Kurt Thomas of New York fouled out of the game, probably to his great relief.

Coach Chaney officially surrendered, sending in his bench.  There was just under six minutes to go when this occurred.  Bruno had come into the game for Boston, but Walker and Pierce were still on the floor.  Bruno made some good rebounds.

A timeout was called, after which the Celtic bench came out.  The final minutes of the game would be played by the reserves on each team.  Tony Delk took the three, showing his range once again.  Kedrick Brown came onto the court, and garbage time was official.

Tony Delk took open threes, since New York left him open.  Walter McCarty hit an open three of his own, just because it was there.  Even Ruben got into this game--making it, I think, the first time that every single member of the Celtics roster has played this season.

The bench built the lead back up to 25 points, with almost three minutes to go.  When time was called, the score was 105-80.  The Celtics had won this game on their defense.  Even Bruno got to the Rim against New York.

The only question remaining at this point of the game was whether New York would score more than 90 points in the loss.  Bruno hit a three, to rub salt in the wound.  With 20 seconds to go, New York reached 90 points, on free throws.  The Celtics won the game 113-90.

Despite somewhat ragged play by both teams, the Celtics maintained control of this game throughout most of it.  New York made several tries to come back, but the Celtics were simply too much for them.  The Celtics got their game together mostly in the third-quarter I felt, and that was the decisive point of the game.  Coach O'Brien wisely protected his lead into the fourth-quarter, to prevent any last-minute comeback's by New York.

The Good Guys outshot the Knicks from the field, going 42-73 for 57%, while holding the Knicks to 38% on 29-75 shooting.  Same at the arc, where Boston went 10-19 for 52%, while New York was 9-21 for 42%.  New York did outrebound Boston, 38-37, including an 11-4 lead in offensive rebounds.  They also did better at the free throw line, going 23-27 for 85%, while Boston went 19-24 at 79%.  The Celtics gave the Knicks too many second chances.  Fortunately, the Knicks were shooting badly.

HEROES AND ZEROS:

Heroes:

Paul Pierce: 29 points, 10 rebounds, 3 steals and an assist after having to spend yesterday at the dentist.  If I spent all day at the dentist, I’d still be in bed NEXT weekend.

Antoine Walker: 23 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals.

Vin Baker:  Now THIS is more like it.  16 points, 6 rebounds, an assist and a steal.

Tony Delk: 15 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and a steal.

Eric Williams: 12 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 assists.

J.R Bremer:  4 points, 2 assists—in 4 minutes.
 

Zeros:

Shammond Williams:  Just didn’t get a whole lot done out there.

Tony Battie:  had a couple of nice plays, but nowhere near as effective as he usually is.

NBA officials:  for the third night in a row, they screwed up.  This time, the fans in Utah expressed their displeasure with an airborne assault after the game against Sacramento.  I’m not really in favor of them getting physically hurt, but I can see where the situation is getting really bad.  When was the last time that Pat Riley and Tom Heinsohn agreed on ANYTHING???

Next up for the Good Guys is the Chicago Bulls.

And that's the view from the doghouse.
1st Q 2nd Q 3rd Q 4th Q Final
Celtics 26 26 31 30 113
Knicks 20 24 16 30 90