2003 Preseason game 3,
Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers, October 11, 2003
After the first two
preseason games ran more like really intense practices, the C's started
to get down to business. After all, this was the Pacers--the team
Boston dismantled in the playoffs last year. Now, they were
coached by former Celtics player Rick Carlisle, and Larry Bird was back
in the basketball business as President of Basketball Operations.
This was a matter of pride for both teams.
As the preseason starts to look more like a real game, so I'll start
whipping the ol' Celtics Beagle into season form, by doing a more
detailed review. It helps that this turned into an actual
The starting lineup was a little closer to what I think Coach O'Brien
will be using by opening night. Mike James and Paul Pierce at
Guard, Antoine Walker and Kedrick Brown at Forward, and Tony Battie at
Jumaine Jones is still dealing with the strained hamstring and while
Danny Ainge apparently is hoping he makes at least one of the last
preseason games, the prevailing opinion is that he'll sit until the
real season begins.
Indiana countered with Jamaal Tinsely and Reggie Miller at Guard,
Jermaine O'Neal and Ron Artest at Forward, and Scot Pollard at Center.
Kenny Anderson, Jonathan Bender, Austin Croshere, and Anthony Johnson
were unavailable for the Pacers tonight. Any more injuries, and
Larry might have to unretire. (Paging Bob Cousy...) :>)
The Pacers came out looking fast and sharp, while the C's seemed to
forget how to make an outlet pass. this posed less problem than
you might think, since they also
seemed to forget how to run on the break. from the beginning, it
was clear that Rick Carlisle and company knew what it meant to beat
Boston, ans set out to do just that. Tony Battie showed a nice
hook shot, and was moving more smoothly than he had in ages.
But the C's defense seemed to lack the smothering intensity it had
become famous for in past seasons. Antoine Walker was playing
closer to the hoop at both ends, which was a good sign, though
throughout the game, he had a tendency to take on too much of the
In fairness, he does have to unlearn several years of having to
shoulder 99% of the offense with Pierce. Paul seems to be getting
the hang of passing out of trouble, while Walker seems to forget to
check for the open man. Part of the problem was that there was
often no open man to pass to, as the C's were running very
inconsistently throughout the game.
Kedrick Brown was hustling at both ends, notably tangling with Pollard
at the defensive end. Pierce had the "other" kind of game at
first, landing in early foul trouble. Some nights, you just can't
catch a break.
There was one problem in trying to gauge the running/passing game: Fox
Sports New England. For several years, owing to the pervasive
slowness of the Celtics' offense, they would often cut to a close up of
a player after a made basket, foul, etc. they knew that they
could cut back and still have plenty of time to get to the play at the
other end. Now, they do the same thing, but you can't see if the
C's are really running or not. They need to cut down on all the
closeups and go to more fullcourt shots. I know, I know, it's not
like anyone at FSNE is reading this. But if anyone out there
knows the director, maybe a whisper or two would be a nice thing,
There was one play early in the quarter, where Antoine passed off the
ball just over halfcourt, then motored down the side toward the
hoop. Another pass got the ball to Battie at the top of the
key. Now, there was NOBODY underneath as Walker sprinted from the
strong side. Battie had the ball in both hands, and fired the
ball high and hard before Walker had even reached the lane. The
ball was thrown too far ahead of Walker, who had to lean over to catch
it one-handed, flipping it up toward the hoop as he went by. Had
Battie waited one more second, he would have met Antoine in midair for
a layup. Instead, Pollard made the easy rebound, and eight
seconds later, Jermaine O'Neal had two poionts.
This was the kind of thing that plauged the C's throughout the
half. Bad shooting, sometimes a result of bad passing,
othertimes, just the result of bad shooting. The decisionmaking
was suspect for just about everyone.
There were also more turnovers, one of which occured when Pierce,
facing a double team from the hoop, tried to pass out toward
Walker--but Antoine was moving toward
the hoop! Yeah, I was surprised, too. That may be
part of the reason Walker backslides a bit--he's impatient, and wants
stuff to work right away.
Meanwhile, Tinsley was increasing the Pacer lead, which was now in
double digits. The next trip down, Pierce tried to pass back to
an open James in the corner--Indiana was really packing the hoop--but
it was deflected. I could see that Pierce, among others was
TRYING to do the right thing, but the timing is still off.
Kedrick Brown decided to start taking charges, and while the first
attempt was called against him, things worked better later on.
Tony Delk came in as Kedrick picked up another foul. At last, a
chance to see what Delk might do.
The C's were starting to play scrambling defense, and it was
working--well, a little. I realized a reason that the long pass
might not be used here--Indiana was really moving on defense, and
picking off passes at the offensive end. If they started doing
that at OUR end, it was going to be a massacre. So I contented
myself if the C's actually dribbled fast.
One thing I liked was that Walker DID keep going to the hoop, and on
one occasion, Battie was right behind him for the cleanup
rebound. I've been noticing more an more that the C's are trying
to do some work on cleanup, and if they get the timing right, there'll
be a lot of quick, easy scores.
Pierce made a nice move, drawing the defense to the arc, then firing
the ball into Tony Battie. Tony ended up at the line.
Another example of how I see Pierce learning when to pass. I'm
hoping as a matter of pride, Walker will follow suit.
The Pacers kept capilalizing on the C's help defense, finding the open
man, and frequently going to the line. One thing I noticed was
that while the C's weren't really running upcourt, once they GOT there,
they did move and pass well. The problem was, by that time, the
defense was there. The C's have to keep the pedal to the floor,
end to end, for this running game to work.
But it was starting to look like a loooong night for the Good
Guys. With 4:57 left, Pierce got hit with his third foul, and was
summoned to the bench. Banks came in for James at the same time.
Eric Williams managed to disrupt Ron Artest a bit, which was nice to
see. For the most part, Artest--as usual--got away with felonious
assault on Pierce, who will probably need a body-sized icepack tomorrow.
Then Vin Baker showed up. He didn't take over the game or
anything, but I began to realize that he was consistently involved in
plays at both ends of the court, moving well, and generally making
things a little better. He immediately got a reboung, and O'Neal
goaltended his shot. He went to the line in the process, making
the shot. It was an amazing improvement. He moved SO much,
that he got caught on a defensive three seconds as he was covering two
players from the lane. To his credit, he was periodically
sticking his arm out to check his distance, but zigged when he sould
One thing that made me proud was to see that on offense, Baker was calling for the ball!
Blount ended up with the rebound, but Baker was right there with him to
clean it up if needed.
Eric Williams was unable to contain Ron Artest one on one, and Artest
took full advantage. With 2:32 left as timeout was called, Indiana led
When time went back in, Tony Delk showed he was willing and able to run
upcourt, and wasn't afraid to shoot the ball. Mark Blount then
began a series of trips to the free throw line, doing pretty well.
Banks still needs work recognizing the open man, but the C's did run
faster in the last part of the quarter.
The first quarter ended with the Pacers ahead, 31-20.
The C's started by committing another turnover. I know that in an
uptempo game, there's going to be more of those, but it still hurts to
Then, Vin Baker showed his head as well as his feet were in the game,
by scooping up a loose ball and immediately passing it upcourt to
Banks, who took off. Baker was moving so fast, that when Banks'
jumper missed (due to a foul), Vin grabbed the rebound.
Delk sat in favor of Kedrick Brown, having accomplished little in his
time on the floor. Kedrick quickly put a body on Ron
Artest. I'm glad someone
Then, when Kedrick--on one of the few fast breaks--missed, Vinny was
there to clean up for two. After a timeout, he took the ball into
a double team for a finger roll and a trip to the line, where he missed
the free throw. That's one of the few problems I see with
Baker--as well as the rest of the team--is consistently making free
throws. Speaking of Vinnie, he finished with eight points, five
rebounds, an assist and a steal. His scoring average--in
preseason--is steadily rising over his meager 5.2ppg last season.
For some reason, Kedrick is not a considered target for the C's
offense, even though he proved adept at scoring on several occasions
during the game. In general, the C's need to work on finding the
Foster made a nice spin move for a basket--even though in the process,
he spun Blount to the floor. Well, it's preseason for the refs,
too. A timeout was called with 8:46 left in the half, with
Indiana still leading, 35-26.
Following the timeout, Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn announced that
Celtics Team Physician Dr. Arnold Scheller, with the team since 1987,
was called back to active duty in the armed forces. Best wishes
to him and to all who serve, that they might come home safe and well.
Tony Delk came back in, and at least was noticable. I'm not sure
what he's going to do this season, after only one preseason appearance
to date. At least he looked like he was in shape.
Waltah came back in, and Tommy announced that Walter had told him that
he had "a bum knee", some kind of water problem, heretofore
unmentioned. What this means for McCarty, I have no idea.
Walker came back in for Vin, while Pierce remained on the bench.
The C's did show what their offense could do, as Battie smartly bopped
the ball out to Banks, who fired it to Delk, who lobbed it back for an
alley oop to Battie, who had zoomed hoopward while everyone expected
Delk to launch a three.
This bears mentioning specifically--the Celtics were NOT forcing the
three in this game. While there were one or two attempts I would
quibble with, overall, the team was much more restrained than in past
seasons. Be still my heart, we might be going to the hoop this
With 6:02 left after a timeout, the Celtics had closed to Pacer lead to
38-33, and began clamping down on the defense a bit. Jermaine
O'Neal elbowed Battie three times enroute to the hoop, but guess who
went to the line?
The C's shooting woes continued, as Walker missed a decent hook and
Blounts rebound also failed to go in. The Good Guys need to make
At this point, Antoine started forcing his offense a bit, but given the
poor shooting performance overall, I can see why he might feel the
burden. But as mentioned previously, he NEEDS to look for the
open man, not try to do it all himself.
Delk exited in favor of Eric Williams. Neither player did a whole
lot, though Ewill was a little more effective by comparasion.
With 3:40 left, the score was now 42-38, and the C's were coming alive.
In a reversal of last season, Blounnt picked up his third, and Baker
came in to replace him. I don't think Vin will be starting, but
at least he's a solid player off the bench so far.
One complaint as an aside--shouldn't there be a rule against the sound
system playing aggravating music during the game? Yeek.
Waltah blew a pass to Baker by firing it somewhere between Vinnie's
ankles and knees. I like Waltah, but he's just not showing me the
stuff he had last season.
As the quarter wound down, the Pacer lead opened up, heading back into
double digits. But the C's defense got a little better, forcing a
If Mike James is such hot stuff as point guard, why isn't he moving the
ball upcourt faster???
Halftime arrived with the Pacers maintaining their longtime lead at
54-45 as Miller hit another of his zillion free throws.
The halftime featured part one of an interview of Bill Walton by Tom
Heinsohn during this year's Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
Bill is making up for all the years when he didn't speak by
overelocution at every opportunity. But it was interesting to
hear him recount the fact that the very last time he played basketball
was against new inductee Robert Parish. It was a summer game at
Hellenic College, and Walton Broke his finger trying to defend
Parish. While rehabbing on the exercycle, he suffered a stress
fracture of his foot, and never played again. He eloquently
stated that the C's gave him not only his career back, but his very
life. He proclaimed himself a lifelong Celtics fan.
Walton, something of a "homer" predictably stated his belief that the
C's were on the verge of a "Renaissance", and felt that "everything is
in place". If Tommy retires, Big Bill will be ready and waiting,
and poor Mike Gorman will never get a word in edgewise on the air
Statswise, The C's shooting had improved dramatically, to 39%.
Yes, people that was, in fact, an improvement. Too bad Indiana
was shooting at 48%. The Pacers took more free throws, though
Boston made more of theirs percentagewise, 21-27 and 13-17
respectively. Indiana held a slim 22-19 rebounding edge, but blew
Boston away with an 11-4 edge on assists. Boston had more bench
points, but that was because Carlisle had gone with his starters most
of the way. The C's had only 5 transition points to Indy's 13.
Things would have to improve for Boston, or this game was a
goner. I was amazed that the score was this close, given how well
the Pacers were playing. They still have a tendency to throw the
game away sometimes.
The Pacers tried a fast break, but Blount put a quick block to that
idea. The Pacers ended up taking a long three that rebounded to
Kedrick Brown. Pierce, who had just re-entered the game, took it
to the hoop for two. He then went to the free throw line, which
Blount then got a steal, and fired to Banks, who really ran toward the
hoop. He missed, but Pierce and Kedrick Brown jumped in
tandem for the rebound. Pierce got a nice rebound but his attempt
to pass inside was poorly timed. Again, the C's need to work on
the timing of their passes.
Pierce then made a mental mistake as Jermaine O'Neal rode him out
of bounds with no call. Pierce got tired of grinning and bearing
it, drawing a "T" for his reasonable request that O'Neal might be
prohibited from angling Pierce headfirst into the basket support.
Heinsohn commented about Artest's physical proclivities, but it
was--this time--O'Neal who did the dirty deed, not Ronnie.
This energized Pierce, but then he tried to do too much, trying to take
on Ron Artest one-on-one. That's not a good idea, unless you hit
him with a two-by-four first. Pierce normally plays smarter, but
his temper was obviously getting the better of his common sense for a
bit here. The Pacers used this to advantage, opening up their
lead once more.
One thing helping the Pacers is they kept hitting threes at opportune
moments, though I think they relied too much on outside shooting.
Had the C's been playing a little better, they would have destroyed the
As it was, Antoine Walker also looked a bit foolish, trying to dribble
into a triple team instead of out of it. Things were looking
worse and worse, as with 6:23, Walker hit a forced three to make it
68-50, Pacer lead. The C's followed up with a 24 second
violation. It was looking really bad for Boston.
A short discussion later, the starters--who had been pulled en masse
for ineffectiveness--came back and good things started to happen.
The C's defense picked up, and Pierce drew the defense and passed
out. Battie was fouled on his way to a dunk. He made his
free throw (YAY!), and the C's began clawing their way back.
There was still a problem as Pierce kept trying Artest straight up,
which won't work.
But Kedrick Brown was wide open on consecutive plays for easy
baskets. Here's an idea--pass the ball to Kedrick.
Jermaine O'Neal still takes several days to shoot a free throw.
The refs called a "T" on Antoine, probably for saying something
But for some unknown reason, Ron Artest was no longer guarding
Pierce--Fred Jones was. That is, Fred was trying to guard Pierce. For
all the good he did, I might
as well have been guarding Pierce.
Walker was still forcing his offense, but at least he was getting
slightly better results. The last minute was a series of free
throws, before consecutive plays ensued without fouls called.
When the third quarter ended, the C's had cut the lead from 21 points
to 8 points, as Indiana led 76-68.
The C's defense kicked up more, and Artest finally got called for a
foul. Pierce finally calmed down, and passed out of the defense
to Banks, who showed he could hit a three in a timely manner.
Amazingly--and largely due to the surge at the end of the third
quarter--the C's shooting had jumped to 44% over the course of the game.
Blount took yet another charge, and Pierce started playing smarter--and
with better results. The rest of the team moved better and set
picks. The Pacers were content to shoot from outside--the problem
is, they were hitting pretty well.
Blount also showed me something offensively, going into the
boards. I was surprised to see Artest on the bench as Pierce
played better. I would have expected Artest to be glued to Pierce
through the final quarter.
Pierce would have had a loud dunk, but for an uncalled foul. By
the way, Tommy Heinsohn was working himself into midseason form--or a
coronary--over the refs. Pierce was obviously dealing with a sore
mouth by now, not the first time he's been clocked on the play, as we
James distributed the ball smartly, and the C's closed the score to
85-80 as timeout was called with 6:39 left in the game.
Walker had a funny moment, as he pelted toward the hoop, drawing the
foul that sent him out of bounds, but Walker spun and ended up sitting
in an empty seat under the hoop! He went to the line, and made
The C's defense produced a fast break, when Walker kicked the ball out
to Banks, who was open in the corner, and Marcus tied the game at 85.
Following a Pacer turnover, the C's nearly got a shot for Pierce, which
didn't go in. Harrington then threw the ball away, and Boston
came back determined to do better, and Eric Williams gave the C's their
first lead of the game (and, for all I know, of the preseason) with
4:52 left in the game at 88-85.
In a scene eerily reminiscent of last year's playoffs, Rick Carlisle
did NOT bring the starters back in. Win or lose, the guys on the
court were in the game until the end, it seemed.
The C's did make one mistake as a team--they encouraged Pierce to
shoulder all the offense. They really should have given him some
passing options, and their failure to do so allowed Indiana to focus
all their attention on Paul. This made it a lot tougher for him
to get a decent shot.
Also, the C's did NOT run as a team in the closing minutes. Too
often, there were only one or two Celtic players on the break, and that
wasn't enough against a coordinated Pacer defense. Even though
the Pacers committed more turnovers, the C's failed to properly
capitalize on a consistent basis. Eric Williams scored what would
be the final points for the C's with 3:17 left in the game. The
annoying thing is that Indiana would only score two points in the final
three minutes--on free throws.
The C's defense was working, but the offense was not up to snuff at the
close of the game. It's not like the Good Guys didn't get their
chances, including a play where Blount was literally thrown to the
floor while shooting with no call. This set off Heinsohn at full
volume, and while I agree with him, this wasn't the only opportunity
Blount then took another charge, and at the offensive end, kept the
ball alive by slapping it out to Walker. Antoine was about to be
triple teamed, and backed out a bit until he only faced Foster, ten
went back in a bit and a good looking three. He had a couple of
passing options, but this shot looked decent when it started, and just
missed off the back rim.
Eric Williams made a nice defensive play at the other end, Blount
passed it up from the floor, and a fast pass up the sideline to Walker
almost capped a brilliant play--but for one problem. When Walker
got the ball, there were no teammates to help him, and when he caught
the ball, the defense had cut him off from the hoop, with a double team
forming. Only Pierce was anywhere near, but on the other side of
the court with no chance to receive a pass. Walker drove to the
hoop, hoping to draw the charge, but it went the other way. There
was 1:16 left and with the score 91-90, there was still time for the
C's to pull it out.
The C's defense forced Harrington into a bad shot, and with 55.3
seconds left, the C's had the ball. They passed up to Pierce--the
only one really moving up the floor--and he tried to sweep in from the
side, but the entire Pacer team converged on him, and got the
The C's rebounded a Pacer miss with 24.3 seconds left, and Pierce
zoomed upcourt once more. Banks DID keep up this time, and was
open, but Pierce's passing angles were cut off. He was able to
reach Williams at the top of the key, who gave it back to Paul almost
as fast. It was clear that Pierce was being encouraged to shoot,
though Banks was still wide open on the other side, and I was SURE that
Pierce would fire it off to Marcus, who had made that shot several
Pierce was hit several times as he tried to go to the hoop, and ended
up taking an off-balance three that missed everything. It might
have been the chop to the shoulder he took in mid-shot. Indiana
took possession on the shot clock violation as the refs added a second
to the clock, leaving 2.3 seconds left in the game.
The C's tried to prevent the inbound pass, but the Pacers made it in,
barely--I thought it was six seconds but my opinion, coming from
Florida to the television set, was ignored. The Pacers held on to
Like I said, this was a winnable game for Boston. There were some
good things, like the play of Baker and Brown, and some bad things like
the lack of running and the offensive breakdown. The C's get time
to correct some of their bad habits and rest up before going to Detroit
to play the Pistons on Wednesday at 7:30pm.
And that's the view from the doghouse.