In other words, a great recipie for a Celtics letdown.
The C's, in order to avoid another loss like they had against Chicago opening night, needed to come out hard, fast and treat the Bulls like they were Paul Gaston's personal accountant.
Waltah! had been sick with the flu,
but was in the lineup. Walker had also been reportedly hit with the
Walker the Sickie started things out by feeding Battie the basketball under the hoop with the appropriate results. Eric Williams also started well. The C's in general seemed to be willing to move a little faster in general, and their moves were into the hoop on a regular basis, befitting a Chicago defense that was pretty well nonexistent. In fact, the Good Guys started out hitting 7-7 over the first 3:30 of the game. The first miss was from Battie, on the first shot that was seriously contested by the Bulls.
The first part of the quarter, the C's were doing everything you'd hope they would--tight defense, solid offense, fast ball movement, finding the open man--they were going shooting 90% (10-11) over the first half of the quarter, and the Bulls defended so poorly Coach O'Brien should have given them a few pointers. Meanwhile the Bulls were merely mortal offensively, going 5-9. exactly halfway through the quarter.
The problem developed with about 4 minutes left, as the C's started settling a bit for the outside shots and weren't rebounding quite as well. Vin Baker came in and started working hard on the boards. The next few minutes, the C's went a little dry offensively, due largely to several people not going inside as they had at the start of the game.
This gave the Bulls a little daylight, which they put to good use to slowly slice away at what had been a 14 point lead, reducing it to 9 points. The quarter ended with the Celtics leading, 28-19.
Even after falling off their blistering
pace of the start of the game, the C's shot 50% in the quarter and had
6 steals. By contrast, the C's allowed the Bulls to up their shots
to 37% by the end of the quarter, making them look better than they deserved
on their offense.
As the second quarter started, I hoped the C's could quickly re-establish their tough defense, and the fast-moving offense that had heralded the beginning of the game. This did not happen, as the Bulls began fighting for rebounds and getting second shot chances. By contrast, the C's were trotting the ball upcourt and settling for one and done outside jump shots, going 0-13. Their first points to end the draught came when Shammond stole the ball and drove all the way to the hoop for two.
Unfortunately, by that time, the Bulls cut the C's lead to three with 9 minutes to go in the 2nd period. They did this by switching places with Boston, moving the ball well, and going inside. They also drew fouls successfully and got second shot attempts. The C's weren't doing any of that, and the weak outside shots they did take did not go in.
What kept it from being a disaster for Boston was that they started gearing their defense up a bit. It was enough to keep things from going totally wacko, but Chicago was looking a lot better than they really should have against the C's. But Eric Williams got his 3rd foul with 7 minutes to go in the quarter, forcing the C's to change their personnel plan, and taking an important factor out of their defense. Fortunately, Tony Battie, the Bat-Man, kept plugging away.
With 5:26 to go, Waltah! came in, Coach O'Brien obviously feeling the guys he had were playing pretty sick offense--Chicago had cut the lead to 2 points--how bad could Waltah! be? Better, hopefully, then Walker, who had yet to score in the game. Fortunately, Pierce seemed to have found Walker's offense and borrowed it for a game.
As the quarter wound down, the C's
began to reassert themselves offensively, and I started taking deeper breaths
again. The half ended with the C's up by a more respectable 50-43.
This game was becoming very scary. The game had begin exactly the way it should have, with the C's totally dominating what, no insult intended, was an inferior team. Boston had it all over the Bulls and the first 6 minutes showed that. The rest of the half consisted of the Celtics allowing the Bulls to make a game out what should have been an overwhelming defeat for Chicago.
The Celtics needed to have an outstanding third quarter to reassert themselves and show the Bulls who was boss. But I questioned whether that would happen, as the C's had continued an annoying trend--they'd put together a stretch of time where they "got it", meaning they did all the things they had to do consistently. Then, with no apparent reason, they stopped doing it. That would allow the other team to get back up after being thoroughly knocked down.
This game typified that. At halftime, the C's were shooting 44%, and the Bulls were at 50%. That was complimented by the Bulls outrebounding Boston, 22-18. The Celtics were 5-15 from the arc, and had 9 steals to Chicago's 1, to go with a 31-2 edge in points off turnovers.
But the Bulls bench outscored the Boston bench, 33-10. This did not bode well for Celtics fans, though some Chicago fans probably wondered of the C's were "playing with their food" before Thanksgiving.
All in all, it made for a nervous
game, when it should have been a relatively easy win.
Unfortunately for my frayed nerves, Chicago started the quarter cutting the C's lead to 4 points, as Waltah! drew 4 fouls over 11 minutes of play. The good news was that Chicago was being generous with turnovers again.
Antoine Walker finally scored a point at the foul line--on the 2nd of two free throws, getting cheers from the crowd. This was 1 1/2 minutes into the third quarter. Walker concentrated on passing the ball and creating opportunities for others. Tony Delk kept showing us good offense, something the Good Guys really needed by this time.
The Celtics rediscovered rebounding and offense, and when a timeout was called with 9:12 to go in the quarter, the C's had rebuilt the lead to 59-46, and were clearly establishing momentum. As the quarter progressed, the C's realized they were looking bad and started to pour it on. Pierce was getting warmed up on his offense after cooling off for a bit, and made some good passes that lead to more points--including a nifty upcourt pass to Walker that helped 'Toine heat up his offense. Less than two minutes later, the Celtics had pushed the lead to 19 points.
Chicago kept going to the line and
hitting one of two, but some of the calls were kind of silly. Still,
it showed the Bulls weren't going to wither away--they'd have to be stomped
on. The Celtics spent the rest of the quarter obligingly stomping
at every opportunity. This made the quarter end with the Good Guys
The final quarter started as Pierce hit a fadeaway shot, taken away off a bad call from the refs. Bleah. Then as Vin Baker was tripped AND pushed under the hoop--but called for travelling. Double Bleah. THEN, Baker was KICKED--but guess who gets called for the foul? One of those periodic "Refs calling things to give the team playing Boston a chance to win" things. Pfeff.
The Celtics did not let this deter them, even as the Bulls tried to come back, cutting the lead to 10 with 5 minutes to go. By this time, Paul Pierce had outscored the Bulls entire starting lineup 30-23, but the Bulls Bench was outscoring the Boston bench 49-11. But the Bulls made it an 11 point game and Pierce was called for an offensive foul as he was moving away from the opposing player. They then cut the lead to nine points with three minutes to go.
Finally, Tony Battie grabbed a rebound
and restored order, getting the ball to Tony Delk to start rebuilding the
lead at long last. The C's moved back inside and kept fighting for
rebounds, at last putting the game out of reach--though not by much--with
a minute to go. The game ended with a final score of 92-82.
This game, though a win, was disappointing. The C's did not play well. They went from totally dominating an opponent that pretty well everyone expected them to beat to having to fight them off for most of the game. This was not the fault of any one player. The Celtics got lazy as a team, loosening their defense and rendering their own offense weak and pretty well useless for several stretches. They never clamped down defensively the way they had against Philadelphia and Atlanta. There was never a stretch where the Bulls had to beg for points.
This is the same kind of passive play that cost them the opening game of the season against this same team. The Bulls, instead of saying they were thoroughly beat by a better team, can now console themselves thinking that the Celtics "just got lucky".
On the positive side, they got 34
paint points, but as Tommy Heinsohn commented, it should have been more.
A LOT more.
HEROES AND ZEROS
Paul Pierce, Tony Battie, and Vin Baker: The three of them combined for 26 rebounds, 4 blocks and 3 steals. They are rebounding heroes.
Paul Pierce the Scorer: Made his return tonight, shooting over 50%, including 3-4 from the arc.
Tony Battie the free throw shooter: 4-4, the only one to hit all his shots at the line for Boston. Thank God, someone seems to practice his free throws.
The Celtics offense after the first 6 minutes of the game. They should easily have scored over 100 points. They didn't.
Antoine Walker: 4-19 shooting. If it weren't for his rebounds and assists, plus his work as "point forward" he would have been a serious liability out there.
Paul Pierce the free throw shooter: 5-12, less than 50%, gets you a Zero. Pierce should be shooting MUCH better at the line, he has done so in the past. I don't cut much slack for poor shooting on uncontested shots.
Shammond Williams: My expectations
have gone up for Shammond, so when he has a 3-10 night, it's not going
to cut it.
Waltah! McCarty: He's been fighting the flu, and never really got it going, though I liked his effort, if not the results. give him some chicken soup with chocolate, and we'll see what happens Friday. Toronto is next.
And that's the view from the Doghouse.