The Celtics wanted to extend their win streak and prove THAT wasn't a fluke--though I wondered what kind of excuses people would come up with if the Good Guys won.
It was a pleasant surprise to see Kedrick Brown on the bench, his ankle apparently taped by Tommy Heinsohn--his sneaker broke because the tape was so thick. :>) While he obviously wasn't ready to play, it was a major step forward from last week when some dark mutterings were heard about Kedrick being out maybe another month. Now, they're talking about his coming back in the next WEEK. :>)
It was really nice to see Bob Cousy--who was surprisingly
optimistic about the Celtics, and said they would "absolutely" make the
playoffs, though qualified that going as far IN the playoffs as last year
depended on the teams health through the season. He also joined the
chorus of people wanting the C's to rebound more. Cooz is Cool.
:>) He had nothing negative to say about the coaching, and thought
the team was looking good at this point.
The Celtics took the opening tip and began the game with Eric Williams driving to the hoop and getting fouled. YAY!! Yes, I wish he'd made the shot, but it was nice to see aggressiveness to the hoop. Eric went 1-2 (aaugh!), and the game was on.
There was great early rebounding from Eric Williams and Tony Battie, though it came at the expense of Pierce's shot being off. The Sixers had really quick ball movement and were beating Boston's defense early on. But Battie and Williams turned bad shots into baskets by rebounding. I can't stress enough how good they looked here. Battie even was good at keeping Iverson away from the hoop.
The first quarter was played at a very fast pace, and Walker showed crisp moves into the hoop, only taking the outside shot when it was open. While the C's appeared to have things under control, it wasn't the hypnotically sleepy quarter like in the last game against Utah. The C's appeared to be alert, and keeping Iverson contained to perimeter shots--prompting Cooz to quip that AI would never play for the C's since he was some 0-19 from the arc.
Following a timeout with 5:45 to go in the first, the score was 11-8 favoring Boston, yet I felt that the Good Guys were in the momentum--apart from Pierce, who just couldn't seem to get his shot really going.
Note to Celtics: WORK ON YOUR FREE THROWS--ONE-FOR-TWO ON EVERT SET OF ATTEMPTS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE!!!!
Delk showed he can make nice inside passes, in addition to the way his offense has been heating up. He got a couple of nice assists that way early on. In general, the passing game looked much better, to the obvious approval of Cousy. :>)
One nice thing I saw is that while Iverson usually throws his body inside and draws fouls, at this point, he wasn't getting anything--no baskets, no calls, and no trips to the line. As a Celtics fan, this is Very Good. I saw the C's as a team rebounding MUCH better to this point. Which was good, as Pierce and Iverson were BOTH 0-5 as the quarter wound down. With 2 minutes left, Pierce finally got on the score with a nice spin move to the hoop.
Vin Baker got his offense going early by pushing into the hoop, and scoring exactly the way everyone in Boston hoped he would. Yes, the progress has been slow--but he IS getting better. Iverson finally beat the law of averages, hitting a three with 20 seconds left. That made him 1-21--for the season. That's an average I can live with--let him shoot from the perimeter all night. :>)
Speaking of stats, in the first, the FG percentage
was dead even at 40%, and the C's had a 15-9 rebounding edge. The
free throws showed two obvious facts--first, the C's played smart defense,
as Philly had NO free throws attempted. The second fact is our guys
were 50% at the line. Yes, I'm going to bitch about this until the
team consistently hits 80% from the line OR BETTER. The best stat--and
in the end, the only truly relevant one--the quarter ended with the Celtics
I saw Vin Baker work for good defensive rebounding position backing up Battie and Eric Williams. I liked that a lot, it shows he's finding his place on the court and making his presence known in a positive way.
But at last, the foul situation balanced out, as the Good Guys got called for three fouls in the first 40 seconds of the second quarter. *sigh*.
Shammond came in and promptly hit an open three on the break following a steal. This points up the problem with Iverson--his style, often chaotic, lends itself to turnovers. On the other paw, I'm seeing more and more discretion from Walker going inside. I discount the three point attempts because his coach told him to hoist them up early and often.
I saw more passing from Philly and that's making them a better team when they have less scoring from Iverson. Baker got a nice hoop breaking loose on the inside and benefiting from a fast inside pass. The notion that teams are paying so much attention to Pierce and Walker that they're laying off Baker seems to be working. Baker was actively looking for his shot on one play and scored a basket after a nifty fake. Hope Walker was paying attention to how easy that basket was.
After Walker picked up a technical foul, Cousy didn't think much of the refs' refusal to let players do a little trash talking--saying, "They'll be serving tea and crumpets at timeouts--give me a break." While Cousy isn't fond of trash talk, he thinks the refs are trigger happy on the calls. Needless to say, Tommy Heinsohn was in total agreement.
In reply to my wishes thet the C's would run the fast break like they didn't have all afternoon to get accross halfcourt, they had 7-0 fast break points over Philly with just over half the second quarter to go.
Eric Williams had a beautiful save from out of bounds that I thought was a lost ball. Who said he couldn't play defense? Right now, he and Battie are their two best defensive players!!
Pierce looked uncharacteristically awkward handling the ball--like he was having trouble controlling his dribble. I have to wonder if there isn't an unpublicized injury affecting him. I know sometimes he takes the ball into the teeth of the defense when he shouldn't, but he's been passing more--and quite effectively of late. Just an observation on my part here. Pierce just shouldn't be shooting THIS badly, even if the other teams are defending him better--last season, they threw everything they HAD at him and he still scored.
Waltah! hit an open three off the pass from Walker. I platonically appreciate Waltah! :>) He then showed good sense on the next trip by drawing the defense, and dropping the pumpkin to Shammond, who likewise hit an open three from the same spot. I love it when a good offense comes together.
Conversely, Iverson tried the same ploy, but the shot missed, and they ended up sending Pierce to the line off the rebound. Pierce, thankfully, hit both free throws.
As the second quarter was winding down, the C's were outrebounding the Sixers 24-17. That's really nice to hear, hm?
Despite all the good work from Boston, especially on defense, the Sixers still kept it close, and wouldn't just lay down and die. That's good to know, I didn't want anyone making excuses later. Shammond looks like he can hit the three pretty well. I think that's more than they were expecting from him.
The second quarter ended with the Good Guys leading it by 7 points, 45-38.
Up til now, without question the Celtics were being carried on the stenotorian efforts of Eric Williams and Tony Battie. Walker's offense was ok, and Pierce's just wasn't really there yet. Everyone on the court was contributing, and it showed in coordinated teamnwork at both ends. When the bench came in, there was no letdown. That's pretty good against a Sixer team that prides itself of going to the wall on every posession.
In addition, Allen Iverson was having a tough time scoring, and we all know he's not reknowned for his passing prowess. Credit tough defense by Boston, making Iverson's teammates shoot more. I think without Iverson, the Sixers are going to have a tough time winning. The trick now, was to keep up the defense, and not let the Sixers jump out to a big third quarter. Granted, sooner of later, Iverson gets his shots, but preferably, they'll be tough shots.
Stats-wise, the first half was very good for Boston--the
FG percentage was great, 42% for Boston, while keeping Philly down to 36%.
There was an abberation on the three, since Philly took--and hit--more
than normal, going 4-8, while the C's went 5-13 by the half. Boston
went to the line more often, but the Sixers were hitting better--6-7 vs.
8-13. The rebounds were great--26-20 favoring the Good Guys.
I liked the assists, 11 for Boston and 13 for Philly, though I think we
still needed a little more work there. Boston still had that 7-0
edge on the break, but I think Boston needs to run more still. God
knows, Dallas will come next Friday.
Battie opened the third quarter with a monster rejection--unfortunately nullified by a loose ball foul elsewhere as he was doing his thing. But While the C's didn't let up, Philly started hitting more of their shots in the face of the Celtics defense. Simultaneously, the C's shots weren't falling quite as well. That had the effect of evening up the scoring as the quarter progressed. But the C's took another run, and when a timeout was called with 6:56 to go, the Green Team was ahead 55-47. To this point, Boston was shooting 44%, and Philly still locked down at 35%. Iverson wasn't getting anything going inside. That's good news when you want to beat Philly.
Neither team could clearly shift the momentum as the quarter went on, and Iverson finally hit a couple inside, while the C's relied on Tony Delk to pick up the offensive slack from Pierce. In fact, over the last few games, Delk has been making his offensive presence felt more and more.
On another unlikely three from Iverson, the Sixers took the lead with 3:23 to go at 60-59. It was that kind of night. The C's were making more turnovers than they should have, but this kind of game lends itself to loose paws on both sides. The C's mounted a run of their own, mixing a Pierce three with Waltah! getting fouled en route to the hoop. (1-2 again. Aaugh!) Eric Williams then got sent to the line and hit 2-2 (YAY!!!!) to tie the score at 65. Pierce got a nice hoop, but the defender was JUST outside the circle, and it was waved off with an offensive foul, leaving the tie intact as the third quarter ended.
After the first three quarters, Philly had upped
it's FGP to 39 as Boston fell to 42%. But the rebounds--Whoooo!!
36-29 Boston!! Unfortunately, the Good Guys were a tad careless with
the ball, with 16-11 in turnovers to this point. Well, they say perfection
Iverson thankfully started the quarter on the bench, giving the C's the chance to make hay, which Baker did following a turnover, taking advantage again of the attention paid to Pierce with another inside hoop. Waltah! made his presence known as he took a charge, then went up court and took a three, to give the C's the lead at 70-65 with only a minute and a half gone in the fourth quarter.
Vin Baker then showed he can rebound and then got the shot AND the foul. Very nice work there. Unfortunately, he missed the free throw, but he was hardly alone there... (grumblegripearrgh). He atoned by making both the next time he was fouled inside to give Boston a 10 point lead. After Shammond hit a three off a neat pass from Baker, the crowd was into it.
Philly wasn't done yet, as they mounted another run to keep in the game, yet they couldn't quite close things in, and The C's still held a 84-77 lead with 3 minutes to go. Battie went strong to the hoop again, and drew a foul--the sixth on McKie, who left the game having contributed little to it apart from his 5 rebounds. Tony went to the line and hit both nerve racking efforts. Pierce then hit a nice fadeaway jumper that made Philly call timeout with 2:01 to go and the C's leading 88-79.
To this point the Celtics bench outscored Philly's bench 32-24. For that matter, the Celtics bench would end up outscoring Walker AND Pierce by 2 points.
After the timeout, Philly faced pressure upcourt, and were forced into an outside shot by Enow that dropped. Boston replied by moving the ball well and eating up clock, as Battie got another rebound, though the shot didn't fall. Philly put Waltah! on the line with 1:15 to go, and the much-loved McCarthy responded by missing the first (AAUGH!) but hitting the second.
Van Horn missed his three, and The C's rebounded again, using up clock on their posession, and the game was just getting out of reach for the Sixers--helped by their shooting outside jumpers that missed.
With less than 30 seconds to go, the only mystery
was the final score and assorted last moment stats. Walker dribbled
out the clock on the last possession, and the Celtics extended their win
streak to 6 by beathing the Sixer with a score of 91-81.
This was a really good game to see. The Celtics took on a team that clawed and scratched it's way to wins, and any offensive or defensive letdown by Boston would likely have meant a loss for the Good Guys. I really liked a lot of what I saw, quick defense, lots of rebounding, and the team helping each other out. Philly WAS tough, but credit the C's defense for never letting Iverson--or, for that matter, McKie--get on track on the offense.
This was exactly the right kind of game to play against Philly. It was hard and moved fast, and nobody had a lot of easy shots. Give them credit they came through, especially when it came to helping out on both ends. The bench was incredible, playing more to it's potential at last.
HEROES AND ZEROS
ERIC WILLIAMS AND TONY BATTIE: These guys did it all off the boards. Battie nearly had a double doube of points and rebounds. They both crashed the boards so often they could get jobes as test dummies. They really sparked the defense, and helped the offense considerably.
VIN BAKER: People are seeing exactly what Coach O'Brien said they would--Baker slowly getting his game together, and this game showed that he was clearly making progress. No, he's not quite where he needs to be, but a LOT better than he WAS. He had some really nice moves inside. He's also backing up Battie and Eric Williams on the boards.
TONY DELK: He's shooting is getting more accurate every day. He's starting to make the most of the open looks he gets off double teams to Walker and Pierce. He's also backing up the rebounding.
ANTOINE WALKER: Factor out a relatively low night from the arc, and hsi shooting percentage is incredible. He also flirted with a double double with 9 rebounds.
WALTER McCARTY: When he comes into a game off the bench, hits 3-3, then 3-3 from the arc in addition to his 4 rebounds, we ALL should love him.
SHAMMOND WILLIAMS: He scored in double digits, which is more than anyone expected. He also had 2 rebounds, so he earned his pay this game.
PAUL PIERCE THE REBOUNDER: Seven rebounds and 4 assists. Nice work, though not all was well.
COACH JIM O'BRIEN: The guy let the press
quote him saying "I don't give a flying..." ummm, "fork".
(hey, I'm not sure if kids read this. Like most of them didn't hear it on "The Sopranos" 5,000 times.) How much more open with the press can you be? :>)
PAUL PIERCE THE SCORER: Hate to say it, but they
DO pay him to primatily shoot and score the ball. Tonight, he went
4-20. I know he's going to have games like this sometimes--but he's
had a whole WEEK like this. Yeek!
All in all, a good win--the C's played well enough to have renewed confidence on both ends, though are apparently aware they need to keep working on it. Next up is Dallas, working a streak of their own.
And that's the view from the doghouse.
Scoring by quarters:
|1st quarter||2nd quarter||3rd quarter||4th quarter||Final|
|KEITH VAN HORN||F||24||6-12||1-4||0-0||1||4||5||2||5||1||1||0||13|