Celtics vs. Houston Rockets Mon Feb 24, 2003
Once more, a raspberry to NBAtv.com and NBA Entertainment, for making tonightís game unavailable to 99% of the people who paid for the League Pass.  Once more, Iím forced to rely on the NBA ticker and hope for the best.  Iím also relying on lots of painkiller, to stay upright for this.  OnwardÖ

This was the first home game since the rough west coast trip that turned out surprisingly well for the Good Guys, despite the disappointment of the two losses.  Now, they would have to deal once more with Houston, which meant Yao Ming.  The only good news is that Houston still doesnít utilize him very well for the most part, and that helps our cause in tonightís game.

It may also be the first chance to see one of the two new Celtics players, and find out firstpaw what he can do.  But I wasnít holding my breath.

Frankly, Iím hoping this will be a close game all the way to a Celtics win!  Ok, you got me.  I really hope the Cís take Houston down by 40 points.
 

First Quarter:

Tony Battie went paw to paw with Eddie Griffin to tip off the game.  He ended up controlling the tap and scoring the Cís first basket to make it 2-0 Boston.  Houston crashed the boards to no avail as Boston took it again, but failed to score.  Then JR Bremer stole the ball and made a three point shot to give Boston a 5-0 lead.

Steve Francis missed his jumper attempt at the other end and JR Bremer took the rebound.  Eric Williams got stuffed by Yao, but went back up and drew the foul on Yao, making both at the line, and now the Good Guys had a 7-0 lead.

Griffinís next shot missed, but Battie converted at the other end off and Assist from Pierce for a 9-0 lead before Cuttino Mobley made the Rocketís first basket of the game with 8:57 left in the first, to make it 9-2 Boston.

Battie missed his next jumper and Posey dunked at the other end.  Then Antoine Walker reminded everyone he was there by hitting a three odd a pass from Tony Delk.  Eddie Griffin and Tony Battie then traded baskets before Walker was fouled by Posey and went to the line, hitting 1-2, and making the score 17-10 Boston with 6:41 to go.  Griffin finally missed and Bremer got the ball to Pierce for a layup.  Houston called timeout with 6:14 left in the quarter and Boston leading it, 19-10.

After time, Eric Williams stole the ball from Griffin and got it to Pierce, whose shot missed.  Griffin tried to redeem himself, but missed his next shot.  The teams traded misses until Posey got the pass in from Yao for a layup.  Now it was 19-12 Boston with 5:10 to go.

Williams and Walker crashed the boards on the next Cís possession and Williams ended up with 2.  Bremer fouled Steve Francis on his way to the hoop, and Stevie made both as Bremer and Battie sat in favor of Delk and Blount.  So, Mark Blount would make his first re-appearance in a Celtics uniform.  Blount immediately contributed by rebounding Walkerís next miss and that eventually led to Pierce making a fade away shot to hike the Celtics lead to 24-14 with 3:33 left.

The teams traded a missed basket each before Walker hit a hook shot off a pass from Delk.  Pierce was then called for a foul as a timeout was called with 2:49 left and the score now 26-14, Boston leading.  During the timeout, Eric Williams sat in favor of Waltah!, and time was back in with Francis making a running jump shot.  Then a couple of misses at both ends led to Mobley hitting a layup and drawing a foul on Waltah! as he did so.  One made free throw later, the score was now 26-20 with 2:07 left.

Mobley continued to make a pain of himself by stuffing Pierceís next shot, and only a foul by Griffin prevented any further embarrassment as Pierce went to the bench with 1:47 and Bremer came back in to finish the quarter.  Walker was fouled going up for a rebound and went to the line making (ok, everybody together--) 1-2.  Steve Francis then turned over the ball.  Blount, unfortunately, turned it back.  Then with 17 seconds left, Delk was called for a foul and on the side out, Francis made the shot.  Stevie then stole the ball from Blount, but missed his last shot to end the quarter.  The score was now 27-22, Boston leading as the first quarter came to a close.

Stats were pretty good for Boston in the quarter, as the Rockets shot 8-18 for 44.4%, while Boston was 10-21 for 47.6%.  The threes were also good for Our Team,, which went 3-7 for 42.9%, while Houston was right behind with 3-8 for 37.5%  Free throws were a problem.  Not for Houston, which went 100% on 3-3.  For Boston, which went 4-6 to the tune of 66.7%.  The Rockets didnít take care of the ball, leading in turnovers, 4-2.  The Cís had the edge in paint points, 8-6; and in rebounds, 11-8.  Wow.  But would it hold up?
 

Second Quarter:

The teams spent the first minute trading misses before Mobley and Pierce traded baskets.  Now it was 29-25 Boston with 10:49 left.  Houston hit the offensive boards with abandon before Delk was called for a foul.  Maurice Taylor went to the line and made both as Bremer came in for Delk, who sat with 2 fouls.  Battie missed a shot, and Taylor took the rebound, but Riceís shot missed.  Pierce then compounded a miss with and offensive foul and sat with 2 fouls.  To make things worse, Glen Rice made a basket to tie the game at 29 with 9:25 left.

But Walker got the ball out to Waltah! and another three points went up for the Good Guys.  Walker kept busy, rebounding Catoís miss at the other end, though Kedrickís shot didnít go.  Brown made up for it by stealing the ball, which led to another Walker three.  Brown and Walker continued to help each other as Kedrick stole the ball, passed to Walker, who gave it back to Brown for a dunk.  Houston called time out, much to the relief of the scorekeeper, who probably had whiplash by this time.  There was 7:26 left and Boston led 37-29.

Mobley sat and Steve Francis came back in as time resumed.  Battie also came in for Blount.  It didnít change things much as Waltah! got the ball to Walker for another basket under the hoop.  Francis got it back on the next possession and then the teams cooled off for a minute, as some misses took place before Blount fouled while going for the rebound.  Timeout was called with 5:58 left and the score now 39-32 Boston.

After the timeout Cato made both his free throws, and the game resumed.  Bremer hit a three point shot and then Yao turned the ball over just after entering the game.  The Cís attacked the offensive boards and came away with the basket from Brown.  Unfortunately, Blount then fouled Francis at the other end.  Stevie went to the line and made bothówhy canít WE do that??

Kedrick took a jump shot, which was gathered up by Yao on the miss.  Blount looked better for a few moments as he stole the ball, which led to a basket.  Then he committed his third foul.  Bye, bye, Blount.  Hello, Tony Battie.  Yao was fouled, going 1-2 at the line, and Tony Delk was back for Bremer.  It was now 47-37 Boston with 3:40 left.

The teams traded possessions before Francis once more went to the line for two, missing the second, as Williams took the rebound.  Brownís shot at the other end missed and Houston took possession and a timeout with 2:39 left and Boston still up 47-38.

After the timeout, Mobley hit a three, and Battie replied with a dunk.  Houston then worked the offensive boards and came away with another three to make it 49-44 with 1:52 left.  Morris then fouled Walker who wentóaw, you know already.  Yao took the rebound and Williams committed a foul, sending Mobley to the line.  He went 2-2.  Now it was 50-46 with 1:22 left.

Walker and Mobley traded baskets before Houston committed a foul to turnover the ball.  Williams went to the line and made both.  Steve Francis made a layup at the other end and closed the gap to 54-50.  The Cís took the last shot of the quarter, from Walker, which missed.  Halftime arrived with the Good Guys holding on to a 54-50 lead.
 

HALFTIME

Cookie Break!!

Halftime stats showed the Cís were doing better than expected against one of the more talked-about teams in the Western Conference.  The Rockets were now 15-31 for 46.9% from the field, while Boston was 20-41 taking 48.8%.  The Rockets were launching threes at a 58.3% clip, going 7-12; while the Cís were close behind with 46.7% on 7-15 shooting.  Free throws favored the Rockets, who were now 13-15 for 86.7%.  Boston was 7-10 for 70.0%.  Turnovers showed that Houston was still careless, as the led 8-3.  Boston still held the lead in paint points, 18-10; and in rebounds, 20-19.

So far, so good.  The game was playing closer than Iíd like, but the Good Guys were ahead and I hoped it would stay that way.  Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley each had 15 points and the Cís really needed to slow those two down fast.  For Boston, Walker, Battie and Williams were all in double figures at halftime.  That was good news considering that Paul Pierce had played 13 minutes and scored 4 points.  That needed to improve, unless the Cís passing was crisp and accurate in the second half.

Now, the Cís had to keep pushing on the boards.  Thereís no reason a team with Yao Ming shouldnít be getting nearly every rebound over Boston, yet the Celtics were holding their own so far.  Let it continue and improve for the Good Guys.
 
 

Third Quarter:

Mobley started things off by missing a shot, and Boston took full advantage, as Battie made his next attempt.  Mobley missed again at the other and Francis committed a foul during the rebounding action.  The Celtics and Rockets traded misses at both ends before Griffin was called for traveling.  Then Yao Ming fouled Pierce, who went to the line for two and made both, to up the score to 58-50, Boston leading.

Then Bremer committed his third foul and Steve Francis made the most of the errorówhich was compounded when Bremer then lost the ball.  Sigh.  Posey made a jump shot for three and Walker turned the ball over.  The teams traded possessions until Battie sent Yao to the line.  As Yao made his first free throw, Delk, McCarty, and Blount came in for Bremer, Williams, and Battie.  Then Yao made the second, and the score was 58-57 Boston with 8:02 left.

Pierce then stole Mobleyís rebound, but missed the shot.  Then Griffin stole the ball back from Pierce.  Mobley made it good and gave Houston itís first lead of the game at 59-58 with 7:17 left.  Then Yao made a layup, whereupon Boston called timeout with 5:57 left and Houston now leading 61-58.

During the timeout, Blount came back in for Battie.  That was a good idea, as Battie made the next basket after the timeout.  Then Posey missed a shot, which Walker rebounded.  Then Posey stole the ball back when Walker made an errant pass.  The teams traded empty possessions before Battie and Francis traded shots.  Now it was 63-62 Houston with 4:09 left in the third quarter.

Pierce made a deep two and gave Boston the lead, whereupon Francis committed an offensive turnover and coughed up the ball to Boston.  Battie sat for a rest as Eric Williams came back in.  Eric immediately got the ball to Delk who hit for two, making it 67-63 Boston leading with 3:13 left.  Houston then took timeout with 3:04 to go.

Yao sat during the timeout, replaced by Terence Morris.  When time went back in, Walker stole the ball and got it to Pierce, but Pierce blew the layup.  Fortunately, Poseyís own layup missed, and he fouled Walker at the other end.

Wow.  Antoine made both free throws!!  YAY!!!!

Steve Francis missed on the other end and Walker cleaned up the rebound.  Glen Rice then fouled Pierce, who went (everyone together) 1-2 at the line.  Grant Long came in to give Walker a rest with 1:30 left.  The next few possessions were uneventful, scoring wise, as time ran down in the third and Boston still held a 69-63 lead.

With less than a minute to go, Taylor fouled Pierce who wentóyeah.  Sigh.  It was now 71-63 with 44 seconds left.  Steve Francis then drew the foul as he made the basketóand the free throw, to make the score 71-66 with 28 seconds left.  Then Taylor committed the foul at the other end with seven seconds left, and Pierce made both!!  YAY!!!  Houston was unable to score on the last possession of the quarter, which ended with Boston leading it, 73-66

After the third quarter, the Rockets were finally cooling off, going 20-51 for 39.2% after three quarters.  Boston was shooting 25-58 for 43.1%.  But Houston was still hitting the three, going 8-18 for 44.4%; while the Good Guys were 8-21 and 38.1%.  Free throws, will the Celtics EVER LEARN?? Houston was 18-20 for 90.0%, while Boston was 15-20 for 75.0%.  That, incredibly, represented an improvement.  The Rockets still lost the ball routinely, with 13 turnovers to Bostonís 7.  Paint points still favored Boston, 22-16.  Somehow, the Cís were also out rebounding the Rís, 32-30.
 

Fourth Quarter:

Rice fouled Eric Williams to open the quarter and Eric wentóyep.  At least Eric took the defensive rebound off the next Houston miss.  Taylor had a bad possession as first Antoine blocked his shot, then Waltah! stole the ball from him.  Waltah! turned that into a layup.  Then the Cís forced a 24-second violation at the other end.  The Cís went inside, and then out as Walker hit a three, leading to a Houston timeout with 9:51 left and the Good Guys ahead, 79-66.

After the timeout, Francis drew the foul on the basket, but missed the free throw.  The Cís next shot missed and Houston took the rebound.  Pierce then stole the ball, but the teams traded several possessions with no change in the score.  Waltah! finally stole the ball and dunked it to give Boston an 81-68 lead with 7:46 remaining.  Pierce rebounded Glen Riceís miss for two more, and Houston called time with 7:11 left and the Celtics now up 83-68.

Twenty seconds later, Steve Francis hit a three to close the gap, and Boston went back the other way, first with Delk, who missed.  Then, with Delk again, who missed once more.  Posey took the next rebound and Walter McCarty committed the foul to send Houston to the line for two.  Posey evidently paid too much attention to the Cís free throw shooting as he went 1-2.  Tony Battie was then called for three seconds and the officials called timeout with 5:50 left and Boston up, 83-72.

After the timeout, Bremer came in for Delk and Posey hit a fade away basket.  Steve Francis then stuffed Battieís shot, and Pierce got the ball stolen from him by Posey.  Griffin capped it by hitting a three to make it 83-77 with 5:09 left.  Griffin stuffed Battie again, but Battie took exception and forced a jump ball.  Houston won the jump, and Yao Mingís hook shot made it 83-79 with 3:47 to go as the Celtics called timeout.

After the timeout, Eric Williams came in for Walter McCarty and Griffin committed a foul.  The Cís took it out the side and Pierce drew the foul on the made basketóand promptly sank the free throw to make it 86-79 with 3:28 to go.  But Houston made two consecutive baskets courtesy of Mobley to make it 86-84 with 2:50 left.  Then Walker was called for the foul on the second basket.  Mobley made the free throw and the lead was now one.

Pierce came through with a fade away to make it 88-85 with 2:29 left.  The teams traded misses until Pierce lost the ball to Francis, who got it to Mobley.  Mobley sank the hoop and the score was now tied at 88 with 1:29 left.  The Cís crashed the boards on the offensive end, to no avail, as Francis finally tore down the rebound, and Houston called timeout with 39 seconds left, and the score still tied at 88.

After the timeout, the Cís cranked up the defense and forced a 24-second violation, taking possession with 22 seconds to go.  The Cís now had a chance to win it in regulation.  They worked it into Pierce, but his shot missed, and the game wasnít over.

OVERTIME

Bremer and Griffin jumped to start the five-minute overtime.   Pierce made the first shot of the OTóa threeóoff an assist from Bremer.  Then Battie stole the ball from Mobley. The Cís tried to score to no avail as Posey ended up stealing the ball from Bremer and got it to Francis for two.  Now it was 91-90 with 3:32 left in OT.

Both teams traded quick shots and quicker misses before Mobley made a basket to give Houston the lead at 92-91 with 2:18 left.  Boston called timeout with 2:07 left in the overtime.  Following the timeout, the Celtics got the Ball to Walker for two, but Mobley replied with a three, to make it 95-93 with 1:40 left.  Walkerís next attempt missed and Mobley got the rebound.  Battie picked up his 5th foul, sending Yao to the line.  He made both, and Boston called timeout with 1:08 left and the Good Guys down 97-93.

After the timeout, Bremerís shot missed and Francis took the rebound.  Poseyís shot missed, and Battie got the layup, making it 97-95 Houston with 22 seconds left.  Then Bremer fouled Francis, who went to the line for two, making both.  Boston then called timeout with 20 seconds left and the score now 99-95 Houston.

Following the timeout, Pierceís jump shot missed, and Steve Francis slammed it in at the other end.  The Cís tried in vain to make another basket, but it wasnít enough, as the Rockets won it, 101-95 in overtime.

At the end, the Rockets had gone 32-72, shooting 44.4%, while Boston went 34-91 for 37.4%.  The Threes mounted at the end, as Houston shot an impressive 13-28 for 46.4%, while Boston lost the touch at the end, ultimately going 10-35 for 28.6%.  Free throws made a difference, as the Rockets were 24-28, shooting a decent 85.7%.  Boston went 17-23, for an INdecent 73.9%.  The Rockets turned the ball over 19 times, to Bostonís 11, and the Cís did go inside, leading in paint points 32-26.  Boston even out rebounded Houston 48-44.

In the end, the shot selection probably killed the Cís.  Boston had a lead for 99% of the game, including the majority of the overtime.  Thatís a game they shouldnít lose.  But lose they did, and thatís too bad, as it could have been a great morale boost after a positive road trip.  Now, theyíre condemned to more gloomy predictions of doom from the staff of TNT.

Now, the Cís must gird themselves for the next game, on Wednesday against the Pacers.  The Cís in general have something to prove.  Walker and Pierce in particular would like to explain their dissatisfaction with that poor excuse for a coach, Isiah Thomas.  Preferably with a decisive win.  But theyíre going to have to work even harder to be taken half as seriously.

And thatís the view from the doghouse.