This is the third Celtics game where I've had to report that the game opened with bad shots, a lead ballooned in the second quarter, and got blown wide open in the third. The good part is that the Celtics were on the correct side of the score this time, playing the kind of game that was totally absent against New Jersey.
The game was played in Cedar Rapids, Iowa--presumably because it was there. I don't know any other reason to hold a basketball game there. It was odd, because there seemed to be more Celtics fans than Timberwolves fans, though the crowd as a whole was so quiet you could hear Jim O'Brien calling out some of the plays--and a word or two normally reserved more for HBO than Fox from players on the court.
The concern before the game for Boston was, of course defense, rebounds, free throws, and could somebody please give Vin Baker the ball?
The concern for Minnesota was making sure their medical insurance was paid up. Terrell Brandon, Troy Hudson, Wally Szczerbiak, and Joe Smith were already out with injuries. It was going to get worse tonight.
The starting lineup for the Celtics was:
Antoine Walker & Eric Williams at Forward,
Tony Battie at Center,
Tony Delk and Paul Pierce at Guard.
The starting lineup for the Timberwolves was:
Gary Trent (20) & Kevin Garnett (21) at Forward
Rasho Nesterovic (8) at Center
Kendall Gill (9) & Felipe Lopez (13) at Guard
(This was not what the Fox graphics showed, but
who was unquestionably on the floor as the game began.)
The game opened as Tony Delk missed a short jumper off a nice pass from Pierce. Kevin Garnett of the Wolves then took the rebound and sent the team downcourt, where Nesterovic missed his shot, but was fouled by Walker just 31 seconds into the game. The free throws went in, and Minnesota went up 2-0.
Delk brought up the ball, and Pierce was fouled going up. Pierce's free throws also went in, and Lopez brought the ball up and missed a jumper. Walker rimmed out a jumper, and Garnett picked up a foul. Eric Williams was blocked off inside and made a nice pass out to Walker, who missed a three. Garnett picked up the rebound and the pace. He also missed the jumper and Boston ran back upcourt. Pierce missed a tough outside shot and Lopez collected the rebound. He got off a nice pass to Garnett who fed it to Nesterovic underneath for a quick two plus the foul. Rasho missed his free throw, and Boston showed signs of rebounding at long last. (whaddya know...begging works!!!)
Pierce took the ball upcourt and worked his way to the corner before getting double teamed and smartly kicking it back out to Delk, who fired a pass to Eric Williams. Eric took a nice shot over Garnett, but the ball rimmed out. Walker caught the long rebound and fired up an open look three from the top of the key that missed. It wasn't a bad shot, it just didn't go in.
Minnesota brought the ball back upcourt and Kendall Gill fired up an outside shot of his own, just to miss like everyone else was at that point. Trent got the rebound and tried shooting over Pierce unsuccessfully. Tony Battie grabbed the rebound and Boston ran back upcourt. Delk lost his man to take a short jumper that also didn't go in. Minnesota took the rebound and sprinted back upcourt.
Kendall Gill missed a catch and shoot three, and Walker took the rebound and brought the ball upcourt. He got another nice look just inside the free throw line and missed again. I swear, these were NOT bad, out-of-flow shots--they just weren't falling for Walker tonight. Garnett took the rebound and the Wolves brought the ball up slow, trying to work something on a set play. By this point, there was 8:33 to go in the first quarter and there had been exactly ONE field goal--by EITHER team (it was Minnesota's). There was good ball movement and good defense, and nobody could buy a basket. Garnett put and end to the shooting misery by hitting a deep two.
The Celtics responded by having Pierce lose his defender, drawing help, and passing off to Battie, who hit a nice jumper, making the score 6-4 favoring Minnesota. Let's hope the Wolves enjoyed it while it lasted. The Wolves' next trip got them zip and Boston took the ball. To this point I'd noticed--and Tommy "Hyperbolie" Heinsohn remarked upon it--that there was no attempt by the Celtics--or Minnesota, for that matter--to make an outlet pass. They either ran the ball, or walked it up for a set play. On this play, Pierce drew the defense and fired the ball to an open Tony Delk under the hoop for an easy two. Really nice to see the inside move.
A few seconds later, Battie stole the ball and Boston ran upcourt with it. Pierce's shot was blocked by Nesterovic, and the Wolves ran back at the Good Guys. Minnesota had good ball movement, but Garnett's shot missed, and the rebound went to Eric Williams. ("Keep rebounding!" I hollered at the screen like an idiot.) Walker was fouled taking a deep two and went to the line. He hit the first free throw, then a timeout was called with 6:46 to go in the first quarter, and Boston leading Minnesota, 7-6.
After the timeout, Walker hit his second free throw. A turnover gave the ball back to Boston, and Pierce once more drew some attention as the Wolves thought he might be interested in scoring a basket. How they did not call a foul when he was smothered with three opposing players under the hoop, is beyond me. Anyway, Minnesota went back up the court, and promptly missed, as Eric Williams got another rebound! A brisk run up the court, and Eric made a nice move to the basket. This was undermined by the fact that Gill stripped him as he was going up. A scramble for the loose ball resulted in a recovery and outlet pass by Garnett. Minnesota's fast break was stopped by Lopez being called for an offfensive foul as he slammed into Pierce.
Unfortunately, Lopez did not get up on his own, having sprained his knee in the collision. It occoured to me that people who play too close to Paul get hurt. I guess he's just a sprain in the ass... (sorry--if I knew any GOOD jokes, I'd tell those instead). They carried Lopez off the court, and obviously he did not return to the game. Hopefully he's not seriously hurt, but he looked in an awful lot of pain.
Afterward, play resumed as the Celtics regained posession off the aforementioned offensive foul. Battie had the right idea trying to pass into the hoop, but the pass was intercepted, and the Wolves came back up. Gill sank a deep two and tied the score at 8. That's right. 5:24 to go in the first, and the teams had managed to score 16 points between them. Pierce must have realized this, as he promptly sank a three.
Minnesota missed and the Celtics got the rebound, but the Wolves got back fast to prevent a fast break. A Minnesota foul stopped play, as Eric Williams made one of two from the line. Igor Rakocevic, in for the injured Lopez, drew a foul on Walker. Following the side out, Garnett sank a clean jumper. Play stopped again for yet another in a long line of three second calls in this game. Pierce hit the "T" and play resumed as Bruno Sundov came in to Give Walker a rest (or a chance to find where he misplaced his shot...).
Delk front-rimmed a three, and the ball went out of bounds to Minnesota. Pierce stole the ball and tried an outlet to Eric Williams, but it went just a bit too far, and Minnesota regained control. Nesterovic missed everything except the head of the guy in the third row, and Boston regained posession. At this point it was mentioned that Boston held a 12-9 rebounding edge. Very reassuring to see.
Pierce faked a shot and fired it to Battie who slammed it home with authority. Minnesota missed again--Boston defense making it's presence known, and Delk came away with the rebound. Pierce missed a nice under the basket move, and Minnesota went back up the other end. Evans hit it from deep two. A timeout was called with 2:14 to go in the first and Boston ahead, 15-12.
After the timeout, Boston sent the ball into Eric Williams, who was promptly fouled at the hoop. After the made free throws, Minnesota took the ball and showed good ball movement, halted only by a three second call against Boston. Garnett hit the "T". The Wolves handed the ball to Garnett who fired up another two. Vin Baker announced his presence by committing an offensive foul. Garnett found Nesterovic loitering under the hoop and gave him something to do, resulting in another two for Minnesota.
Bruno Sundov missed an open shot short, and the
Wolves ran back up. Garnett made the shot to give the lead back to
Minnesota. Shammond got bailed out of trouble in the backcourt by
a foul and went to the line. He made both free throws to tie the
score at 19. Garnett drew a foul on Sundov and went to shoot some
free throws, missing both. Shammond passed the ball to J.R. Bremer
who took a three as the clock ran out, hitting it cleanly. The first
quarter ended with Boston leading, 22-19.
Things picked up where they left off, as on the break, Walker still couldn't hit the barn wall from inside. Kendall missed after a nice baseline move, and on the other end, Baker's shot was deflected. Walker made up for his shooting woes by grabbing the rebound--unfortunately, he ultimately missed the shot. Rakocevic then drained a three to tie the game at 22. Bremer tried to zoom inside but couldn't slow down enough to release the ball as he went beneath the hoop. The Wolves' Marcus Taylor went in for a quick two, after which Boston walked it up to try a set play. Walker got inside and faked Garnett out of his sneakers, but didn't get the bounce. Taylor did, at the other end, and the Wolves held a 4 point lead, 26-22.
They did try getting the ball to Baker, but his hook shot was short (I remember at one point Baker looked like he was walking kind of funny--he doesn't have a lot of oomph when he moves). Slater made them pay at the other end. A timeout was called with 8;27 to go in the second quarter and Minnesota leading, 28-22.
After the timeout, Pierce was fouled and proceeded to make the free throw after the made shot. This time, an offensive three second call against Minnesota turned the ball over to Boston. Pierce faked the three, sank the two, got fouled by Gill, and made the free throw for an old-fashioned three point play. A "T" called on Gill let Pierce make another free throw to give Boston the lead 29-28. Gill missed at the other end, and Waltuh! nearly grabbed the rebound, but it went out off Boston. For reasons unknown (to me, anyway), the Wolves bench was hit with a "T" and Pierce practiced another successful free throw. It's nice to see him hitting them again.
Minnesota missed, but Shammond fouled Jackson who missed one of two. Jackson then managed to foul Baker near the hoop. Pierce was then fouled by Gill on a deep two. This was Gill's fourth foul and there was over half the second quarter to go. He took a seat for his latest transgression as Pierce made one of two--a rare miss for Pierce tonight. Slater came back and got two under the hoop.
Another attempt to get the ball to Baker ended as he was called for a three second violation. Heinsohn pointed out that people weren't used to getting the ball down low. I had to agree--who expects the C's to go inside? Though I'd like to expect it more.
A scramble under the hoop ended with Shammond taking the ball up, and Pierce once again was made one with the backboard with no foul called. The Wolves ran back away from the scene of the crime, and Evans sealed their getaway with a deep two. This gave the Wolves a 33-31 lead. Walker remedied that by firing a pass to Waltuh! who put it home underneath. A three second violation let to a timeout with 5:05 to go in the second and the score tied at 33.
After the timeout, Minnesota's "T" gave them a one point lead. With three seconds left on the shot clock, Taylor iced a two. On the other end, Shammond sank a three. On the Minnesota end, Baker stole a pass and sent the ball upcourt, but Walker wasn't able to keep it inbound. The C's played tight defense, but Eric Williams was called for a foul. Shammond took the ball away from Minnesota, and hauled upcourt, and made a nice pass to Walker who--yeah, missed it. Minnesota hustled upcourt, but the shot was no good and Pierce was fouled as he grabbed a defensive recound.
After the trip to the free throw line, Pierce had added another two points to give Boston a 38-36 lead. After a Minnesota miss, Eric Williams was fouled as he hoomed to the hoop. A timeout was then called with 2:59 to go, and the score favoring Boston, 38-36.
After the timeout, Eric Williams made one of two, and Minnesota 's next trip was stymnied briefly as Battie and Williamd nearly stripped them (of the BALL, you perverts!!). Loren Woods scored just as the shot clock was to expire, and the C's had to remind themselves that twenty-THREE seconds of defensive work is NOT enough. Shammond and Battie promptly got it back for Boston.
Yet another three second call sent Minnesota to the line. Evans made the "T" foul, and the Wolves shot as the clock ran out was no good. Boston made some good ball movement, but Minnesota played tough "D" and took the rebound. Battie showed he can rebound too, and Boston went back to playing offense as Sundov took a Pierce pass for two.
A loose ball foul sent Evans to the line for two,
which he missed one of. Pierce sat at this point, having accumulated
17 points in the first half. Shammond then banked a nice shot off
the glass. Minnesota committed a backcourt violation, and Sundov
sank a three as the first half sank into the sunset. The second quarter
ended as Boston extended the lead to 48-40.
munch, munch, munch...
Ok. By this time, the Celtics had firmly established that they did, indeed, know how to rebound, something no one could have guessed after the last two games. Pierce was handling the free throws virtually by himself. The defense was definitely there, and contributed to the good rebounding. The only problems to this point were that Vin Baker couldn't catch a break, and Walker couldn't hit a shot tonight. Fortunately, Walker's problem wasn't a major factor for the C's to this point, though Baker remains a concern.
munch, munch, munch...
(Can I help it if chocolate chip cookies follow me wherever I go?)
Garnett began by missing a jumper, and Pierce and Eric Williams grabbed the rebound together, and some really nice ball movement allowed Boston to read Minnesota's defense like a cheap novel as Walker landed a three at last. (This was the high point of Walker's night, shooting-wise. Savor it.) This made it 51-40 Boston.
Pierce missed an off-balance jumper, and Gill took it up for Minnesota. Nesterovic missed, Delk rebounded, and Pierce passed to Delk, who was fouled underneath. He hit his free throws, then at the other end, Garnett muscled his way in for two. Delk missed a deep jumper, and the Wolves came back as Garnett was fouled under the hoop. His free throws were both made, and Boston got zip on the other end as Minnesota ran it back up and Gill fired up a two.
Pierce decided it was time to shoot a three, so he did. (well, it LOOKED that easy...) Minnesota turned the ball over and the Celtics got nothing as Walker missed another shot. Trent bounced his way to a Minnesota hoop, and the Good Guys went back on offense. They lost the ball on a too-slick pass, and the Wolves promptly missed a wide open two, as Battie grabbed the rebound. Pierce made a beautiful pass to Walker right under the basket and Walker--yep, blew the layup. *sigh* He "should'a stood in bed".
Taylor missed a layup at the other end, but was bailed out with a foul call. He went to the line and made one of them. That made it 56-49 favoring Boston with 7:06 to go in the third. Eric Williams then drained a nice jump shot off another assist from Pierce.
Minnesota got nothing on the other end except a chance to see Battie get another rebound. Then they watched Delk get a three. (Hey, if they're not going to guard him, why should I complain?). A timeout was called with 6:27 to go and the Good Guys in front, 63-49.
After the timeout, Garnett hit a jumper after sneaking outside the defense. The teams traded steals, and Boston sent it to Walker who was fouled on his way to the hoop. After the side out, Pierce hit a three. Garnett's three missed, and Pierce was fouled as he grabbed another rebound.
A moment later, Gill got his fifth foul and sat once again, as Boston took the ball in and Pierce was fouled by Trent, who had taken over from Gill. Pierce hit two more freebies, and stretched the lead to 17 points. Battie took a pierce pass to the hoop for another two. Delk then stole the ball and only a foul kept him from a dunk. After the free throws, it was 72-51 with 3:47 to go.
Slater went to the line after Delk fouled him, but missed one of two. Pierce got knocked down and relieved of the ball, but for some reason, the refs missed the aggravated assault and battery at that end. Evans completed the crime by hitting a deep two.
Walker wisely passed up the shot and fired off to Pierce under the hoop. Somehow, Pierce popped it in, sneaking up past a 7'1" defender. Unfortunately, on the next play, Walker shot--and missed--again. A timeout with 2:21 to go in the third found the Celtics running away with it, 74-54.
After the timeout, Bremer rimmed out a shot, and Minnesota "hippity-hopped" (Tommy's description) into the traveling turnover trail (I have a theory...it must be bunnies). On the other end, Bremer was stripped, but Slater lost it out of bounds. Bremer atoned by hitting the shot. Garnett put the ball in with authority, and Waltuh!'s catch and shoot missed. Vin Baker reminded everyone he was there by committing another foul.
Sundov knocked a nice baseline shot in, then Minnesota
responded by not getting a shot off before the time ran out. The
third quarter ended with Boston ahead 76-58.
The Quarter started as Vin Baker spun inside for two. Minnesota's trip upcourt ran into Sundov, who was called for the foul. Shammond pulled down the subsequent rebound, and on the offensive endm Baker fought for the rebound, but it went out off Minnesota. Bremer's attempt to inbound was halted by a Timberwolves foul, sending Bremer to the line for two which he made. This made it 80-58 Boston.
Slater then got one by Sundov and went to the line for one, which he missed, Garnett sat down and watched the rest of the game from the bench. Sundov missed, and Minnesota got the rebound. Their miss sent the ball back upcourt, and Bremer's pass to Baker was picked off--not Baker's fault, it was a really bad pass.
Minnesota's "shot clock running out" shot missed, and the Celtics took the ball. The place was so quiet I could hear Coach O'Brien calling plays. Vin Baker rebounded a Shammond miss and scored two. Woods then hit an outside shot in reply, but then Minnesota had to play defense again, which wasn't going so well by this time. A timeout was called, and with 8:59 to go in the game, the Celtics held sway with the score 82-62.
After the timeout, the teams traded posessions, as Baker grabbed another rebound. Bremer hit another shot. Baker got caught trying to steal the ball, getting his third foul. Jackson hit an inside shot, then went back on defense. They blocked a shot this time, and Slater got the hoop and the foul at the other end. The free throw was good, and the score was 84-67 with 6:59 to go.
Bremer was called for a blocking foul, and this sent Jackson to the line for two, one of which went in. Vin Baker was fouled going for a rebound and after the side out, Baker rebounded for a fresh clock after a near backcourt violation. His hustle was rewarded as Waltuh! passed the pumpkin into him under the hoop for two. Bremer then stole the ball, but his dunk was partially blocked, and Waltuh! lost the rebound out of bounds. A timeout was called with 5:32 to go in the game and the Good Guys ahead 86-68.
Following the timeout, a double foul on Slater and Baker. Then, moments later, another Minnesota foul, and no result for Boston. At the other end, Baker got hit with his fifth foul.Jackson's free throws were good, and the lead close to 86-70 with 5:00 to go.
Baker atoned for his error by zipping a pass into Waltuh! for two. Shammond and Carter ended up with a jump ball, which Carter won. Evans made it pay off with a jumper for two. Baker ended up in a jump ball with Evans after a rebound. Baker won it, and Sundov's slam dunk was barely rejected. A Celtics steal got them zip and Minnesota took posession. Sundov helpfully ran over a Minnesota player to get to the ball but it was called back to Minnesota. A moment later, the Wolves lost it out of bounds.
Waltuh!'s miss led to a Minnesota fast break, which missed, as Waltuh! got the rebound at the other end. Sundov must have noticed he was wide open because he buried a three. This made it 91-72 with 2:26 to go in the game.
Baker nearly stole the ball again, and Shammond took advantage of the rebound to score another dunk. Minnesota responded, like it made a difference at this point. A timeout with 1:37 to go had the score at 93-75 Boston leading.
After the timeout, Slater went to the line on
a made shot with the foul. As he made his free throw, Coach O'Brien
put the Guys Who Have No Chance To Make The Team into the game. As
this happened, there was one minute to go in the game. The players
essentially played enthusiastically, knowing that by this time next week,
they'd be watching the Celtics on TV. The final seconds were wound
down at last, and the game ended as the Celtics won it easily, 95-83.
This was the kind of game the Good Guys really, really needed to have. They played not just hard, but smart. The defense was there, the rebounding was there. The free throws were there. Vin Baker...well, he was there, too. Granted, the injuries made it hard for the Timberwolves to compete, but the Celtics took care of business. This is the kind of game they should win. Last year, they often lost to lesser teams. This year they seem ready to make sure the "easy" games don't slip away.
The next game is tomorrow, against the Toronto Raptors in Toronto, 7:00pm.
And that's the view from the doghouse.