The word came forth that Jordan wouldn't start
because "he needed rest". Got news for ESPN, not many teams put 40+
year old guys in the starting lineup (unless they're the Knicks, who right
now will take anyone who can limp onto the court unassisted--why else is
Spreewell still on the roster?).
The game began as the Celtics took the opening tip, courtesy of Tony "BAA-tee", as the ESPN guys kept mispronouncing it. The early Celtics posessions had good ball movement. Unfortunately, it was coupled with truly horrendous outside shooting. On the other paw, Stackhouse was on his way to a really good shooting night, having been presonally responsible for the first 5 Wizard points. The C's began by hitting one of two free throws (mustn't...preach...again....AARGH).
The rebounds were not good as the game began, though they got better The Wizards, apart from Stackhouse, were shooting as badly as Boston. Boston never really seemed to be willing to guard Stackhouse closely out on the perimeter, even after he showed he was hitting consistently. We got a glimmer of what was to come as Eric Williams scored the first field points by going to the hoop. The Wizards didn't take advantage of Boston miscues, making several of their own, and the game remained close.
The announcers quoted Jim O'Brien as saying he wanted the Celtics to lead the NBA in threes attempted and made and that he also told them, "I don't want my point guards to make assists, I want them shooting the ball. I especially wan them shooting threes."--which seems at least partially at odds with other quotes attributed to him within the last 24 hours, as he had then said he was emphasizing "the pass to make the assist" as well as the pass to the score; and wanting to work on rebounding,which would seem to negate having EVERYONE shoot the three. Which quotes are accurate--or accurately reported? I have no idea, he doesn't tell ME anything. (Though I'd be happy to remedy that someday.)
Things stayed quiescent until there were 4 minutes left in the quarter. Walker stole the ball and zipped upcourt with it, then passed the pumpkin to Pierce at the three point line. Pierce then made a statue of liberty leap from just inside the free throw line over Jerry Stackhouse for a really cool looking basket. This tied the score at 14. People got excited when Jordan came into the game at this point (in fact, from the sound, someone in the cheap seats had an orgasmic experience). But at this point, it was Jerry Stackhouse who needed to have attention paid to him. He had 15 of Washington's 25 first quarter points!
Shammond came in and promptly sank a three.
Vin Baker made a great defensive play, getting the rebound, and as he went
flying out of bounds, lobbed the ball off the Wizard's Etan Thomas to retain
posession. Baker was the inside presence we've been looking for,
and tonight he finally showed me he was serious about playing here.
In fact, they immediately showed him respect by doubling him the next time
up, leaving the perimeter open. As the quarter ended, the Celtics
tightened up the defense and did some serioue rebounding at last, and it
paid off dividends as the C's finally got points off offensve and defensive
rebounds. The quarter ended as the Good Guys held on to a 26-25 lead.
Things started off with the right idea, as Vin Baker caught a nice inside pass. Unfortunately, His dunk was interrupted by Michael Jordan's block. Still, it was the right idea. As the quarter, and game, progressed, I saw more and more times when at least one Celtic player went after rebounds at both ends.
This was emphasized as with just over 5 minutes
to go in the quarter, and the shot clock under 4 seconds, Walker fired
up a "shot clock three" that missed. Pierce was there, and grabbed
the rebound against FOUR Washington players, and put it in the hoop for
two. The score remained close throughout the quarter. It became
evident that the C's still need to work on the inside pass, but it was
nice to see the inside pass even being made. It also was clear that
the three was not falling for the Celtics at this point, so it was a great
relief to see them working the inside. The C's had FOUR TIMES as
many paint points as the Wizards by halftime. The teams played each
other even to the half, as the second quarter ended with the score tied
Extra Cookie Break!! (Hey, it's Beagle Day.)
This was uneven in places, but to me, much improved play from the Celtics. The rebounds were there, even though Washington held the edge, at this point. The C's were getting a lot more rebounds than they had been lately. The defense was getting there, and Baker seemed to be finally getting into the flow of things a bit. I felt that if the Celtics could just make a decent run offensively and keep the defense tight, they would win this one. (They'd better, I thought--I had predicted a win in the Beagle Day "To Do" list).
The free throws were a problem--we were hitting only 33% from the line. This was compounded by the fact that to this point, the Celtics had only attempted six free throws to begin with, compared to Washing going 17 of 17 from the line. Considering that the C's were getting so many points in the paint, I think the refs might have been a little...say....off-kilter?
ESPN reported that at halftime, Coach O'Brien expressed displeasure to the team that the Celtics were not playing the kind of defense that made them win games last year. He was thrilled that the Good Guys were shooting over 50% in the first half--the problem was, he said, so were the Wizards--actually, they were at 46%--in any case, he found this unacceptable. He instructed them to work the defense and create fast breaks.
Extra Cookie Break!!
The teams were neck and neck once again in the
third, and neither could seem to gain any real ground. The C's did
tighten up their defense, and it showed. When the defense had some
problems, they rebounded. It was nice to see, really nice.
The main problem was the Celtics had no answer for Stackhouse. He
just kept firing away and hitting, especially from outside. I kept
thinking, they really need to get someone on him, but he was hitting even
when they DID defend him. If the Wizards were to win, it would be
due to Stackhouse. If the Celtics won, it would be because they found
a way to nullify his input. The Wizards made a mini-run as the last two
minutes went down, to break a tie and take the lead as the third quarter
At this point, the Celtics had to make their stand
if they wanted to win. And it bacame obvious they did, indeed, want
to win. The Wizards pushed their lead to four points before the Good
Guys worked the defense and rebounding to make their stand. With
9 minutes to go in the fourth, the score was tied at 77. From there,
the Celtics took command of the game, building a lead and slowly tightening
the screws on the defensive end. By the time there was 3:23 left
in the game, the lead was 13. By then, it was a matter of keeping
up the work on the defensive end, and making sure that the Good Guys kept
scoring often enough to stay ahead of the Wizards. They did exactly
that, and the game ended as the Celtics won, 104-95, to make the Celtics
4-4 for the preseason.
This was a very reassuring game, as the Celtics played better defense, rebounded batter, and generally looked more solid than they had previously. They more than doubled Washington in paint points, they were narrowly outrebounded, 34-33 (including 25 defensive rebounds for Boston), they played well inside. They did shoot badly from the free throw line, an collective 77.1%, but with the other factors coming together, there will be time to work on that basic fundamental. Vin Baker played 27 minutes, had 6 points, 3 assists, and 4 rebounds. He also looked more comfy out there, and I think it's starting to click for him mentally. People seem to universally say he's a slow starter in preseason, so I'm willing to see what happens as the regular season gets underway.
I'd like to see the C's do more to contain hot shooters like Stackhouse on the perimeter, but it'll help that the rebounding is much improved. All in all, an enjoyable game, and hopefully, a harbinger of things to come. We'll have a chance to see a rematch soon, as the second game of the regular season will be against the Wizards, also nationally broadcast (on TNT).
This marked the end of the preseason games, and starting next week, it all counts. The run for #17 officially begins as the Good Guys face the Chicago Bulls at the Centah on Wednesday, Oct 30 at 7pm.
And that's the view from the doghouse.
Scoring by quarters:
|1st quarter||2nd quarter||3rd quarter||4th quarter||Final||fast break points||paint points||biggest lead|