Preseason game 6: Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers Saturday, October 18, 2003
The Celtics Beagle typing up his reviewHistory was made tonight.

Dating back to his tenure as coach, the Pacers had never lost a game against Boston when Larry Bird was associated with the team.

Until tonight.  Larry's now 1-1 in his new position with the Pacers against the Celtics.  The event occurred in Manchester, NH, and both Bird and Danny Ainge were in attendance.

This was a solid game in many ways, and exciting in some of the wrong ways.  Unusual combinations of players, amazing plays and a scary collision were all part of the game.

As things started, the C's came off their first preseason win, against the New Jersey Nets.  Now, they wanted some payback against the Pacers, in what prior to last night, was their only really competitive game of the preseason.

Prior to the game, the Pacers' lineup took a beating, with Austin Croshere, Jermaine O'Neal, Reggie Miller, Anthony Johnson, Jonathan Bender, Ron Artest, and Kenny Anderson all on the injured list.  Jermaine O'Neal said he was "worn down" with "too much basketball" over the summer.  Personally I think he got tired after throwing a temper tantrum over losing Isaiah.


First Quarter:

The game did not start out well for Boston, as the starters simply were not running like they showed they could last night.  The Pacers started out shooting clankers and airballs, but quickly tightened up their shot selection.  The C's were playing decent defense, but their offense was too slow, and therefore not nearly as effective.

The Pacers were making most of their shots from outside as usual, even without Reggie Miller on the court.  The Celtics did start Mike James on the point because he ran well, but the other C's were only occasionally running as individuals, not as a team.

When Larry Bird came in after the game started--trying futilely to keep a low profile--there was a huge cheer raised to the rafters.

I'll be the first to admit Tommy Heinsohn was beating everyone over the head with it, but the C's lack of running was distressing.  I kept hoping he'd be overheard by the players as they ambled by.

Kedrick Brown, Paul Pierce, Tony Battie, Antoine Walker, and Mike James seem to be the starting five, presuming Jumaine Jones doesn't make his way into the lineup, or Vin Baker cracks the starting group.

The C's picked up a lot of fouls, seemingly a given when the Pacers play.  Mike James finally started running with a steal, so that started waking up the Celtics' feet with half the quarter gone by.  Walker was getting inside a lot more, and eschewing the three more and more--as did the rest of the Good Guys.

But the C's were still stuck in halfcourt mode, having taken only 8 shots in 6 minutes, outrebounded 9-3 in the same time, and generally not getting a lot accomplished, hence a timeout.

There wasn't a lot of individual accomplishment to report, since not a lot was individually accomplished.  Walker did start playing closer to the basket, now he just have to keep doing it.  Gorman and Heinsohn were gushing over Walker's game last night, though I personally felt he took way too many threes last night, despite the positives that he displayed.

With 2:12 left, Kedrick Brown found the gas pedal, and Mike James launched the ball his way as Kedrick made a layup ahead of everyone--after a defensive rebound at the other end!  That's running!

The C's defense was much tighter, with players rotating more effectively, and fewer of those ridiculously easy layups other teams were getting.  The passing on offense was generally better, though there were a few miscues that were annoying to see.

Tom Heinsohn said that "they (the Celtics PTBs) talked to" Antoine about moving the bulk of his offense in toward the hoop.  It remains to be seen how well he listened, but the early signs are encouraging.

With 36.9 seconds left in the quarter, Kedrick hit a solid jumper with the defense coming right at him.  A pressure shot that went in smoothly through the net.This helped close the gap that Indiana had opened up, and showed he's really working hard on his game.  Pierce had to sit with his third foul, with Waltah! coming in to replace him.  Yes, "uh, oh" is pretty much what *I* said, too.  Not exactly, but close.

The quarter ended with the Pacers leading it, 25-21.


Second Quarter:

Things opened with a new unit on the floor for Boston, Mark Blount, Vin Baker, Waltah!, Marcus Banks, and Rusty LaRue!

First I've really seen of Rusty, and he's not afraid to mix it up.  This unit started out moving much faster than the starters on offense.  Blount even beat Vin upcourt early on.  Rusty hit Vin with a nice pass.  Vin wasn't quite fast enough to beat the double team, but it was a good effort.  I think he was surprised he drew the double.  God knows, I was.

Tommy loves Waltah, again, as McCarty hit a deep three in the flow!  Nice move, that showed he was ignoring whatever his knee is doing to him right now.  Then he made a good defensive play, too.

Blount was in there fighting for rebounds at both ends.  Vin, as in previous games, was working the boards, keeping his man off the ball, and getting good position.  Banks pushed the ball, and LaRue bounced it in, with Vin playing cleanup just in case.

Next time up, Blount went in hard for two more.  This prompted a Pacer timeout, and the C's running game was, well--running.  Their defense was smoother, too, often making Indiana play down the shot clock.  There were much fewer times when an opposing player snaked loose for a quick layup.

Even the halfcourt moved faster, as Banks fired from outside, Blount drew the defense and Vin went in to clean up the rebound, going to the line.  Evidently, Mark Blount is now "The Hammer".

Marcus Banks ran the court zippety fast, and ran an old-fashioned give and go play!!  If Marcus keeps this up, he'll be really something when he gets everything down.

Heinsohn exhorted the C's to "Please look for Vinnie Baker" on offense.  He would get his wish.

Waltah! was playing MUCH better tonight, working both ends smoothly.  This is more like the player Tommy loves so well.

With 2:58 left in the quarter, Baker went down in a collision, that looked real bad as the timeout was called.  He had trouble getting up.  After the timeout, he came back and went to the free throw line, making both.  Vin is showing he's a lot tougher.

Banks hit a shot clock basket off a broken play, capping a 13-4 run by Boston.  Then he continued running, with Blount ending up with the pumpkin under the hoop for two and a foul.  He missed, but two out of three, as Meatloaf says, ain't bad.  Then, a defensive steal led to a Waltah! dunk.

Banks nearly got another steal on the next play.  LaRue is a Good Celtic Player, proven by Jamaal Tinsely whacking him on the head as they passed each other.  Anyone who can annoy Tinsley like that HAS to be good.

Good news, as Marcus Banks can hit his free throws.

Baker took a rebound, passed to Banks, who got it to LaRue zooming toward the hoop.  Only strong defense by the Pacers prevented the layup, is was STILL a great play.

On the last play, Banks got stuffed, and Vin showed great presence of mind by launching the ball hoopward as the clock ran out--it was a valiant try, though it just missed, and halftime arrived with Boston leading, 43-38.

HALFTIME:

The FGP looked better than it had in ages, as the Good Guys were hitting 47% whilst Indiana was at 32%. 

Get this: Indiana on the three point line, 3-10; Boston, 2-7.  Way to go inside!!

Rebounds favored the Pacers, 20-16, as did turnovers, 11-8, paint points, 16-10, and 2nd chance points, 14-4.  But the C's were getting better as the game progressed, and I liked what I was seeing overall.  The fact is, the C's bench had played better than the starters, gaining the lead with Pierce and Walker on the bench for most of the half.


Third Quarter:

The starters came back in to begin the quarter, and were running a little better than they had at first.  Walker was playing closer to the hoop.  He also made an incredible bounce pass to Pierce under the hoop for an easy two.  These are the kind of baskets they only dreamed of getting last season, and showed the kind of passing Walker is capable of.  He did backslide a bit on the next play, getting stripped as he drove into the defense, but I'll give him credit for trying to change his game radically.

I do think that the bench is playing overall more smoothly than the starters right now. 

Mike James showed his three, and his realization of when to shoot it.  I like it, coming at just the right time.

Kedrick jumped over EVERYONE to go for a rebound of a Pierce miss, and went to the line.  He's doing all the things I heard about but never saw for two years. 

Pierce is still sometimes pushing his offense needlessly, instead of faking and dropping the ball to the trailer.  in fairness, I think he's not got it down to instinct that there IS someone running upcourt behind him.  Often, last few years, there was not.  Again, it'll take some time before this becomes ingrained.  On the next play, he did exactly that, and Battie had a dunk.

Battie was also active on defense, working hard consistantly.  With 5:40 left in the third, Boston led 54-51, in a game that was proving to be close throughout.

Pierce was the recipient of a Walker pass under the hoop for two more east points.  Then Kedrick passed to James on the break, who dropped to Walker.  The only problem is they knew James was passing all the way, and Walker went to the line.  I think they needed to spread the offense a little more, and Walker needs to keep working those free throws.  As often as he's starting to get there, he's doing better than in previous years, but I'm picky about free throws.

The next play up, James made a nice defensive move, cornering the Pacers and forcing a timeout.  Unfortunately, they hit a three after the timeout.

Walker made a nice pass to Kedrick, even though it was a bit later, and Kedrick stayed with the play, rebounding his own miss for two.  That was nice offensive hustle on Kedrick's part.

Then Walker made another nice pass inside to Pierce, who faked, then went up for another easy two.  Walker is looking more and more solid on his passes.  But Antoine isn't Antoine if he's not scoring, and he took down a rebound and went back up for two.

Then Battie made the pass to Walker, who was running back door.  At this rate, Walker won't NEED the three to score a lot of points.

Pierce hit a nice turnaround jumper, as the C's were now up to 51% shooting near the end of the quarter.  The starters were running better, and showing they were better than they were at the beginning of the game.  The quarter ended with the C's leading by 6, 69-63.


Fourth Quarter:

The bench came back in to start the final 12 minutes, which started with the refs apparently wanting to work overtime, as nobody could sneeze without a whistle being blown.  Blount picked up a loose ball foul going strong to the hoop.  Waltah! picked up a phantom foul.  With 9:57 left in the game, the C's were at the team limit.   Indiana had one team foul.  *sigh*  Even Rick Carlisle had a Stan Laurel twist to his mouth over the odd whistles.

Once they were allowed to play consecutive seconds without a whistle, Waltah! hit Blount for a dunk.  The C's defense moved even faster, and forced the Pacers into outside shots.  they looked more coherent that they had yet this season.  For their part, the Pacers tried to slow the Celtic break, only to have Vin Baker elevate and throw down a monster dunk.

Yes, I said "Vin Baker".  It was immense.  I was officially no longer worried about him suffering from his collision earlier.

Another collision was barely averted when Marcus Banks, while going into the hoop, tumbled headlong out of bounds.  His momentum carried him up and over the table, directly over the head of Willie Maye, and nearly hitting the wife of Celtics radio broadcaster Sean Grande.  Everyone was ok, though.

Then, Baker showed his range by hitting a distant (though not TOO deep) jumper for two.  Maybe I shouldn't be surprised when Baker draws the double team.

Banks then made a move I can only describe as a "hop" for two points.  Work that hopper, Marcus!! Shortly afterward, Marcus got away with one, by elbowing his defender out of bounds, then bounding the ball off the guy before HE fell out of bounds--with the ref standing just behind him!  More amazing, when the other guy bounced the ball to the rafters in frustration, no technical was called.  Guess it evened out.

The C's were in danger of slowing it down, then sped it right back up again.  Rusty LaRue took a charge and the crowd roared it's approval.  Then Baker took a pass from Waltah! for two more easy ones.

The main reason the Pacers kept it at all close was their timely threes and some of the free throws.  With 2:32 left as timeout was called, Boston led 80-77.

When time came back in, the bench remained on the floor.  apparently, Obie decided the game was earned by them, it would be won by them.  Their only miscues were a couple of ill-advised threes.  Banks righted the ship by passing the length of the court to James for two.

Baker and McCarty were both monsters on the boards in the closing minutes of the game.  Baker went back to the line once more, and while he needs to work on his free throws, I'll take them as a sign of his toughness under the hoop.

Marcus Banks fouled out with 28.2 seconds left, and was properly appreciated as he sat down.

The game nearly got out of control as Waltah! was slammed to the floor by three Pacers with no call.  But nobody threw any punches and Indiana hit both free throws to make it 83-80 with 17.7 seconds left.  Kedrick then went to the line and missed the first, but made the second, to make it 84-80.  Indiana missed, and Kedrick took the rebound.  The C's held the ball as time ran out, and the Good Guys won, 84-80, at last putting Larry Legend one down against Boston.

I liked this game a lot, for all that Indiana's starters were largely absent.  Pierce and Walker got a nice rest, not playing at all as the fourth quarter wound down.  The intent this season is to cut down on the onerous minutes they played last season, and they're off to a great start here.  In fact, the only player to go over 24 minutes was Mike James, who played 28.  Mark Blount played 20, and everyone else played 24 minutes.

Cookies and Crumbs:

Cookies go to:

Paul Pierce, who played a solid game across the board.

Mike James, who made some real nice passes.

Kedrick Brown, who is really impressing me with his speed, altitude and toughness.

Tony Battie, the Bat-Man, who quietly got 6 points on perfect shooting from the field, and 5 rebounds.

Marcus Banks, who incited the running game off the bench.

Waltah! who was  3-6 overall, 2-3 from the arc,  5 rebounds, 4 assists, and a steal.

And Vinnie Baker, with 11 points and 8 rebounds!!!


Crumbs go to:
 
Jamaal Tinsely, for swatting Rusty LaRue for no particular reason. 

The refs, who apparently were getting paid by the whistle in the fourth quarter.


The next game is on Wednesday, October 22, against the Minnesota Timberwolves, as the Good Guys come home at last to the Fleet Center.


And that's the view from the doghouse.