Preseason game 5: Celtics vs.
New Jersey Nets, October 17, 2003
Tonight was an
interesting game, to say the least. New Jersey Nets coach Byron
"I'm still an idiot" Scott was quoted as saying he didn't really need to play Jason Kidd against the
Celtics, but was doing so because Jason specifically asked to play.
Sure, Byron. You must be the only person in the NBA who doesn't
know that without Jason Kidd, you'd be hard pressed to beat Cleveland
with LeBron staying on the bench. Even Kidd knows without him the
Nets are nothing.
And, I'm sure the Celtics just loved hearing that a no-talent, third
rate team coached by a self-centered egomaniac who acts like he's still
a member of a championship team--which is what the Nets are without
Kidd on the floor--was sufficient to wipe the floor with Boston.
Still, it's hard to blame the Nets for having SOME confidence--after
all, the C's did suffer several trips to the preseason woodshed, most
recently a loss so irritating that Coach O'Brien ran--and I do mean
RAN--the C's through a three hour practice that began with the
explanation that letting the other team shoot over 60% means you're
not playing defense. And we all know how Obie gets annoyed at
Evidently, he kicked sufficient butts that the message sank in, at
least tonight. The Celtics played defense, ran hard, played good
offense, and generally convinced sports fans that all hope was not lost
with the end of baseball season. (See? I do pay attention.
Sometimes. Still have no idea why the next guy who deliberately
whizzes a baseball past someone's face at 90+ MPH isn't thrown in jail
until his aim improves.)
For Byron's bluster, you don't have Alonzo Mourning and Jason Kidd play
their first preseason game when you aren't serious about winning
it. Or maybe they're being punished for refusing to go house
hunting on Long Island. :>)
First off, Tommy Heinsohn was right. New Jersey did steal the
opening tap, which led to two and a foul, and gave the Nets a quick 3-0
lead. I ran the tape frame by frame to be sure. There was
an interesting jump 16 seconds later, as Kedrick Brown and Kenyon
Martin tied it up at the other end. Martin jumped sooner than
Brown--but Brown JUST missed taking it away, as he leaped fast and
high. If Kedrick had been up maybe a half-second sooner, he would
have taken the jump.
Sad to say, he did not--and that was one of the few drawbacks of his
time on the court tonight. But at the other end, the Nets were
off and zooming as they went to offensive play #1. Get the ball
to Kidd. That's pretty much what they do. Kidd ran a
perfect alley-oop pass to Martin for a dunk, making the score 5-0, and
making me a nervous beagle. This was exactly the kind of
offensive play that Detroit had used to destroy the Celtics the other
night, and if the C's couldn't stop the Nets, they'd lose by a record
I got even more nervous as the next offensive possession for Boston
ended with a missed three from Mike James. The Nets ran back and
I was having deja vu and considering cutting and pasting the last
review for this game, since it looked like it might end up the same way.
Then, something good happened. the C's defense forced New Jersey
into a halfcourt set, and Jefferson missed an outside shot.
Walker and Battie were both there for the rebound. The C's passed
the ball well on offense and Pierce ran into traffic. He
proceeded to pass back OUT of traffic and the C's ended up with a
decent shot. It didn't go in, but still, it was the kind of
offense I like to see.
Next trip up, Pierce made a nice jump shot from just inside the free
throw line. Battie was RIGHT THERE in case it missed, and that
was great to see also. He also "tried" to pick up the ball after
the made basket, but it ended up going out the side off his foot.
Oops, there goes New Jersey's chance of a fast break from a made
basket. Nice moves, Tony!
So, once more the Nets came up on the halfcourt, and a light went off
in the Boston defense. A neon sign was displayed, saying that the
Nets were not playing good halfcourt ball. If you stop the Nets
from running and put a stranglehold on Kidd, you're halfway to the
win. They did so, and ran some transition offense, concluding
with a nice pass from Pierce to Kedrick after drawing in the
defense. Two points later, Boston was quickly back on defense.
Battie had a nice rejection, and it brought up one thing that the C's
need to work on--well, one OF them--and that's getting some of those
loose rebounds. They DID rebound well, but could have done
better. Pierce made one of his not so smart plays, trying to
force a pass through the defense when Banks was open in the
corner. However, off that turnover, Walker and Battie were back
quickly on defense to stop the break. The Nets made a pass that
Pierce read before the intended recipient, and when his man tried to
pass back in, James tipped the pumpkin to Walker, who uncorked his
zoom, and had a layup three seconds later. This gave the C's
something they hadn't had in two games--a transition basket and the
The next few possessions were fast and a bit ragged. The C's were
running, but sometimes failed to complete the easy play. Passes
were sometimes dropped, or the open man missed. But it just
pointed up the overall positive fact that the C's ARE RUNNING.
Pierce began his trips to the free throw line, where he would be giving
a clinic this evening.
Still, whenever the Nets ran the fast back door pass, they generally
scored. That was worrisome, though less so, as long as the C's
were playing hard, fast, and smart.
The phrase is "Pierce at the line--he makes it." Copy this 18
times for 18 trips. That was gratifying to see.
Kedrick Brown proved he was willing to run, and caught up to a bad
outlet pass. If only someone else had run on that trip.
Alas, one of the few minuses.
Kidd tried to stuff it at the other end, only to get stuffed by the
Bat-Man, Tony Battie.
Halfway through the first quarter, the score was tied at 11, and this
looked more like playoff intensity that preseason idleness.
After a timeout, Marcus Banks came in to get a taste of real NBA action
by guarding Jason Kidd. Walker was once more going to the hoop,
which was really nice to see. So when you see Antoine's poor
shooting night, keep in mind some of those were inside.
Alonzo Mourning came in the game at this time, to applause from the
fans. He responded by quickly fouling Tony Battie
needlessly. Kedrick Brown showed quick thinking and quicker
passing as he turned a blocked shot by Walker into an assist for a
Walker passed the largesse along by setting up Pierce with a nice pass
inside. Piece went to the line and--well you know the rest.
Kedrick Brown showed Kerry Kittles who was faster up and down the
court. Very heartening to see. The Nets were falling victim to
the C's defense, which forced them into bad outside shots. The
C's were looking more and more dominant as the quarter rolled along.
Vin Baker and Waltah came into the game at this time, and Vin showed
continued hard work with positive results. When you see Baker's
1-5 from the field (apart from his 6-8 from the line) keep in mind that
he was absolutely wide open for several possible layups that nobody
passed to him for. The shots he missed were generally blocks that
sent him to the line. Vin did hit a nice up and under move,
though. He ran fast and worked hard at both ends of the court,
even trying to take a charge on defense. I do think Obie left him
in a little TOO long,as he looked tired when he finally did sit down.
Waltah, sad to say, was the other end of the spectrum. Most of
his effectiveness was in rebounds,and he did make one nice shot, but he
also passed up several shots he should have taken. More on that
later. He also got beat by Martin, and made a silly foul.
But the Celtics closed out the first quarter leading it, 21-15, holding
the Nets to 26% shooting, and looking GOOD!!!
Things did not, unfortunately, pick up where they left off. The
C's did not mount any serious offense throughout the quarter, with Vin
Baker being one of the few offensive bright spots. But the Nets
were making up lost ground as their shooting percentage improved over
the miserable (for them, not me) first quarter.
The C's kept working hard on defense, and generally did well, but
missed several offensive opportunities. New Jersey was taking
better shots than in the first quarter, and the C's kept having
problems running down the shot clock.
Alonzo Mourning then made a real stupid move. With 7:32 left in
the half, he took down a rebound and drew the foul. With that, he
started strutting for the crowd like he'd just won the Finals
singlehandedly, inciting them. Had he even SLIGHTLY faced anyone
on the Celtics when he did this, he would absolutely have been called
for taunting. Too bad he couldn't convert the free throws.
The C's were probably so shocked at his display of immaturity (God
knows, Zo better never say word one about the Walker Wiggle) that's why
the Nets easily rebounded the miss for a quick hoop.
Then, Pierce was hit with a hard foul. The surprising thing is,
they CALLED the hard foul. I was glad to see it happen. May
they be so consistent in the regular season.
James and Baker fought hard together on a series of defensive rebounds
that got them an A for effort, even if the ball simply wouldn't
drop. Again, keep that in mind when looking at Baker's offensive
stats tonight--and remember that his 8 points tonight is still over
last season's average of 5.2 ppg.
A timeout was called with 5:32 left in the half, and Boston up one,
29-28. Following the timeout, Eric Williams went in for an
offensive foul. Eric tried hard--maybe too hard--and really
didn't accomplish much. Neither did the Celtics offense, by and
large--they were 2-15 for the quarter, while the Nets were 6-10.
That 60% shooting was ominous, with 4:35 left in the first half.
But as the quarter wound down, the C's finally warmed up a little and
the game closed tighter again. Baker closed out the quarter by
picking off the Nets, and halftime arrived with the C's holding a
narrow 42-41 lead.
So far, so good. The C's held the Nets to 36% shooting in the
first half, though their OWN shooting dropped in the second quarter,
averaging out to 33%. Absent Kidd, the Nets were struggling
against the Celtics, something no other team could really say this
Boston was shooting more threes than I really liked, but less than last
season at any rate. The C's had a 10-6 edge in assists, though it
should have been more. The Celtics need to work on offensive
coordination more. They did outrebound the Nets 23-22 in the
half, though the Nets did better in paint points, 20-18, and in layups,
Again, some of this would have been resolved more in Boston's favor
with a more controlled offense, and tightening up some of those
occasional defensive lapses that let the Nets break for a basket.
Kedrick came back in and immediately got a nice offensive
Then, the C's caught a break on a called kicked ball against the
Nets. I couldn't see clearly, but I think the ball just bounced
off his leg. I didn't see the leg move. But the Celtics are
the Good Guys and we SHOULD get the calls. :>) Even
better, Martin was called for goaltending on the next play.
That time, it was close--but it WAS a goaltend.
The third quarter was a close battle throughout, as the Celtics tried
to keep up the pressure even as the Nets regained the lead, which they
would hold throughout the quarter. The C's kept getting close,
then falling back, generally hovering between 2-4 points back.
Pierce was often the instigator of the running by Boston, but the other
guys seemed to be gradually getting the idea.There was a significant
defensive lapse as the Nets hit back to back threes off Kittles
trailing the play. Obie called a timeout to remind the C's that
they could run back on defense, or run back to New Hampshire for
Seeing how fast they moved after the timeout, I'd say they chose wisely.
But they still had trouble running the clock down on possessions.
I think once they straighten out the defense and the running game, they
need to address the halfcourt offense.
Mike James seems to be hitting passes better and better, and people
like Kedrick Brown are taking full advantage. Every so often,
Walker felt the urge to launch a three. Well, to be fair, I
suppose he needs a little time to work it out of his system completely.
Pierce was passing better, but still waits too long at times, and
everyone knows where he's going with it.
Note to Marcus Banks: don't let Kidd pass you on his way to the
hoop. He's pretty good with the ball. Then again, one could
say the reverse, as Banks zipped past Kidd on the open court on the
Waltah came back in, and made another needless foul. I don't know
how bad his knee is, but if it's affecting him THIS much, he should get
surgery and go on the injured list.
The third quarter ended on a really bad play, as with the shot clock
winding down, Waltah ended up with the ball and was open for a
shot--which he refused to take, instead passing the ball as the clock
ran out. Things moved to the final quarter with the Nets leading,
Baker opened things up going aggressively to the hoop, only to be
fouled by Zo. The C's were taking better shots, but still needed
to start converting. The seriousness of this game was evident by
the fact that people like Rusty LaRue and Kendrick Perkins were so far
absent from the court. For all intents and purposes, this was--at
the least--being treated like a regular season game.
But though the Nets held on to the lead at first, remember this was a
considerable improvement over last year's playoffs, when the C's were
confounded at every turn. This time, the game was up for grabs,
with neither team demonstrating wire-to-wire dominance.
As the quarter progressed, the Celtics closed the gap, and worked
toward getting a lead.They still sometimes missed the open man, but the
good part is that the man was open because he was running!
Kedrick got a dunk off a pass from Walker, who this night, was a far
better passer than scorer.
New Jersey tried Harris and Slay on Pierce, which Pierce found amusing,
not to mention offensively restful. So much so, he took a few
more trips to the free throw line.
Kedrick tried to take a charge, but he slid a little too far for the
refs to take it seriously that time. He worked harder on the
offensive boards, instead, along with Vin Baker. Vin went to the
line once more. It was nice to see Vin on the floor near the end
of the game, even in preseason. It reflects his hard work with
After a timeout with 5:59 to go, Boston had the lead back, 77-75.
Pierce was at the line adding to the lead. While he was doing so, Mike
Gorman related that a "New York based writer" had commented that the
Nets could "sleepwalk to 55 wins" this season. Guess he must have
seen Byron Scott's offensive playbook.
Pierce was making hay at the line, going yet again, to open the C's
lead a bit. Brown made some nice fakes to get the ball moved
around, where Banks looped it behind the back to Walker for an open
three. The C's defense kept the Nets on the outside again, and
Boston was poised to really put this game away. Pierce did try to
force his offense, but at least he hit the free throws on the play.
James blew a good outlet pass from Walker, which would have been a
chance to set up Baker for an easy two. Again, take the positive
that the fast break was there to begin with. Pierce got a hoop in
the flow, and the C's opened up an 11 point lead with 3:29 left.
Waltah came in for Pierce, and the bench disgorged Perkins and Hunter
with 3:03 left as a timeout was called, and the C's holding the 88-77
lead. In one of my few second-guesses, I think that Obie lit the
cigar too soon, so to speak, but maybe he wanted to see if the bench
could handle things. Over the next minute, things didn't look
Both benches were on the court and one of them was going to win the
game. For a terrifying minute, it looked like the Nets bench
would duplicate the Pacer's victory, albeit against the C's bench this
But Obie steadfastly refused to put the starters back in. The
bench created the mess, and they were expected to fix it. The
Nets managed to close the gap, and with 26.8 seconds left, it was a
three point game, 90-87. The Nets decided to challenge the C's to
win it at the free throw line, gambling that only Pierce was that
consistent--and Pierce was on the bench.
Mike James, Brandon Hunter, and Marcus Banks went to the line and did
what they needed to do, as the C's held on for the 95-90 win, their
first of the preseason. Life for the C's is good once more!
All in all, a tremendous improvement for the Celtics, and much more
indicative of what the Good Guys can do when they pay attention.
Cookies and Crumbs:
Cookies go to:
Vin Baker, for just digging in every single game this preseason.
Especially tonight, during that poor offensive stretch in the second
quarter, Vinnie was the only real daylight at the hoop. He's
worked hard and effectively. May he continue to do so.
Mike James, as he improved his passing and gained confidence running
Marcus Banks, just for the look on Kidd's face when Banks blew by him.
Paul Pierce, for going 18-18 from the line.
Kedrick Brown, who is showing us what we've been waiting two years to
Crumbs left for:
Antoine Walker, because while he did run the court well, and made good
moves inside, he has to lay off the unnecessary threes.
Eric Williams, who tried hard, but accomplished little.
Waltah! McCarty, who has no love tonight after passing up an open shot
at the end of the third quarter. He's actively hurting the team
right now, and I LIKE the guy.
Alonzo Mourning, for his showboating without even really DOING anything
to back it up.
Byron Scott, 'cause he's still copping a Laker attitude, has no clue
how his team works, and is just ripe to be fired the day Kidd gets fed
up with his arrogance.
Next up, the Pacers, Saturday night, 7:30pm. Remember, as Elton
and Bernie said, "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)".
And that's the view from the doghouse.