Celtics vs. Dallas Mavericks, October 23, 7:00pm (preseason)
Tonight was the first game back at the "Centah", and beforehand, the players were out to meet and greet the fans as they arrived, with Paul Pierce exhorting fans to "rock the house".  The Celtics had much to atone for in their recent games, and Dallas seemed like the right team at the right time--they're known as a high-scoring team that's just this season begun their commitment to offense.  That meant that if the Celtics A) played solid defense and B) ran like the dickens to get fast baskets, that we had a good chance of beating the Mavericks.

First Quarter:

Zoom!  That pretty well summed it up, as both teams came out hard, fast, and sharp.  From the score, you might think no one was playing defense, but the fact is, both teams made difficult shots and moved the ball well.  The pace was great, and the play from both teams quite good.  It made me feel much better about the Celtics, especially after all the "doom an' gloom" around here lately.  Antoine Walker found his missing shot, which was REALLY nice to see.

The starting Five really worked well.  Unfortunately, the Dallas starters were equal to the task.  Both teams shot over 60% and both scored over 30 points in the first quarter.  I was wondering if either team could possibly keep up that pace, at least in preseason.  The quarter went really fast, as it usually does when Don Nelson's team comes to town.  From the starters, there was good ball movement, decent rebounding (though not much of that, as both teams shot so well on the first attempt), and even steals.

With just over 2 minutes to go, O'Brien sent in the second team, and it was immediately, obvious that Vin Baker, while playing better than he has, was still not quite familiar with the flow of the C's style of play.  Due to his lack of inclusion in previous games, he's about 4-5 games behind the rest of the team in development and comfort.  By comparasion, Shammond Williams looked real comfy out there.

The second team had a real tough time with Dirk Nowitzki, who either shot over them or went to the line.  Sad to say, while the starters looked really sharp, the second team still needs work.  They were largely responsible for Dallas holdin the lead as the quarter ended, 34-31.

Second Quarter:

"All good things...", as they say (well, they said it on "Star Trek: the Next Generation", anyway...).  Even the hot shooting of both teams.  Dallas was serious about their newfound commitment to defense, and it showed on several plays, as Don Nelson was clearly running old-time Celtics plays.  Yet, the Celtics were staying neck-and-neck as they traded the lead over the first part of the quarter.

One glaring problem was that while by comparasion, the Celtics rebounded much better than in previous games this month, they were still getting beaten off the boards by the Mavericks.  While I grant you, they have better rebounders to begin with, it's not like they had any surprises.  You know what to expect from them, and beginning in the second quarter, the C's started losing the rebound battle.

The Celtics offense, while not QUITE as good as the Mavericks, was doing just fine.  There were a few miscues, but some of that was a need to work on the bench players as a group.  They're very uneven--especially compared to the starters.

As the quarter wound down, the other major problem became evident--FREE THROWS--as in, we didn't make many of them.  Antoine Walker was 0-4 before the end of the half.  The number of shots missed from the line alone would have changed the final score to our favor.  I'll try not to complain too much more about the truly ROTTEN free throw situation, and concentrate on the game.

Despite the problems developing, the quarter ended with Dallas leading by only 3 points, 56-53.


Cookie Break!!

The first half stats looked good:  Boston's 55% shooting beating Dallas' 51%, and the three's were slightly better as well.  Free throws?  Boston: 3-7, Dallas 9-10.  There's your three point lead right there.  Rebounds-Dallas had 5 more than Boston.  Boston's assists were good, though, 16 to 12 over the Mavericks.  Finally, and most hearteningly, the Celtics had 28 paint points to 16 for Dallas.  Means we went to the hoop more, always a good sign.

Let me refrain from mentioning the horrendous, anti-Celtics officiating in any signifigant capacity, even though the incompetent ruffians helped cripple several good Celtics plays.  Grrr.

At this point, I was upset that we weren't ahead, but did not feel things were out of control like they were in Toronto.  I felt that if the rebounding tightened up and we made the free throws, the C's could still take this game.  Certainly, the offense was doing well to this point of the game.  I felt good.  Of course, it might have been the medication kicking in... :>)

Cookie Break!!

Third Quarter:

The Mavericks began by stretching their lead, with some "official" help, dare I say?  The fast pace of the game continued, though the momentum was clearly swinging slowly to Dallas.  The shooting percentages dropped to 41% for both teams by the middle of the third.  It wasn't that the Celtics were playing badly, rather that Dallas was playing just a little better in a few key areas.  By the end of the third, the Celtics' were still shooting better than Dallas, percentagewise, 51%-49%, and had the edge in steals, 11-9, so the defensive effort was there.  Unfortunately, the rebouding edge went the other way, 31-26, though closer than it had been previously.  The quarter ended as once again, Dallas held the lead, 81-78.

Fourth Quarter:

Boston made a run in the fourth and tied the score at 88 with 5:30 to go, but that was immediately followed by a Dallas run. Boston, to this point was leading in paint points, 40-24.  The Mavericks then proceeded to stay make baskets when they really needed tham, and Boston didn't.  Nick VanExel made back-to-back threes, and that was what put the Mavericks in complete control of the game.  The Celtics lost their offense at the end of the game, combined with some (ahem) curious officiating.  With about a minute to go, O'Brien officially conceded the game and sent in the bench.  The game ended as Dallas won, 105-97.

For all that we lost, I saw good things here.  The starters look much better.  The rebounding--though not where it needs to be--is obviously better.  At least the attempts are there, if not yet the positive results.  The game was competetive until the last five minutes, and even then, if the C's had done better in a few other areas, this was one we could have one.  Let us hope the lesson was well learned here where the W/L doesn't count yet.

The bad things--and there were several--were also clearly pointed out.  The bench crew as a whole--and Baker in particular--need some hands-on training to bring them up to the standard expected of them.  They play well enough as individuals, its as a team that they're having a problem.  Rebounding still needs to improve, but at least there was a demonstrable effort TO rebound.  Free throws.  I'm going to keep on that until the Celtics start hitting them consistently.  Granted, you can't always count on a rebound leading to a basket, but for the Love of Mrs. Fields, can't they understand that had they made these uncontested shots, they would likely have won the game??

But, as I mentioned elsewhere, the preseason has ever been capricious to the Good Guys, so I'll hope it was a lesson well learned, and we'll all move forward.  The next game is Friday, Oct 25, against Washington at 8:00pm on ESPN.

And that's the view from the doghouse.