That meant they had to get things off to a good start right here against the Hornets, who were playing without Baron Davis, who was suffering back spasms. Right away, things looked better for Boston.
The primary question on people's
minds was whether the C's defense would step up--and if we might see more
consistent offensive output from someone other than Walker or Pierce.
Actually, the primary question in MY mind was to have one cookie or two
before the game started.
Walker opened up the game with some nice shooting, and the Hornets were busy establishing that they would be turning over the ball a lot tonight. The C's were up 5-0 over the first minute and a half before New Orleans scored a hoop.
I made it a point to watch Pierce on defense--and offense while I was at it, and see what he did. I noticed that he seems to be deliberately cheating off his man a bit toward the lane to intercept passes. I think either Pierce or his coach are betting on his quickness to get back to his man. But he definitely wasn't guarding his man as closely as some of the other players were guarding theirs.
Tony Battie was the Bat-Man once again. He's just amazing off the boards. He rebounded a so-so shot by Pierce for a slam.
I didn't like that the C's seemed to be almost totally unwilling to run on offense. With 6:30 to go in the first, Pierce got the ball and went upcourt. Had Walker run hard, it would have been an easy two. Instead, Pierce ended up having to pass the ball out to Tony Delk who missed his shot. This sort of thing happened several times with different Celtics players, and it really annoyed me that they were passing up layups in favor of more difficult shots.
Had the Hornets been hitting their shots like Toronto was the other night, the Good Guys would have been in serious trouble. As it was, they were shooting around 50%.
The C's were keeping ahead of the Hornets, but not by much. They never really established dominance. Mashburn kept the Hornets in the game with his offensive work. The Hornets, although careless with the pumpkin, were at least trying to run the fast break. Thank you, Paul Silas.
Pierce was stating to get some points, but again, he was often faced with tough shots. He did seem to do a better job recognizing the passing options on defense, and made some really nifty moves. He also started hitting a little better from the arc, though he still isn't quite his old self yet. I'm also going to say right here, that Pierce should have gone to the line a lot more, but there was this small problem with fouls not being called. Ok, not so small. But I'll leave off that for now.
David Wesley was also having his offensive way in for 12 points, though Shammond came in and contributed some immediate offense. Again, the C's offense was a little forced all night. I also saw too many rebounds going the other way on the defensive end.
Vin Baker came in and made his presence known by committing quick fouls. Right now, I have to say he's becoming too much of a liability until he stops making the silly fouls. His good work on defense and small contributions on offense weren't enough tonight to make up for his disadvantages with the fouls. I really like his potential, but he's not yet playing up to it. Heinsohn said that Baker wasn't moving his feet, but it looks to me like he still has to think about what to do, instead of just going with the flow. Though, in his favor, he did get the ball and passed it off to Pierce for the closest thing to a fast break the Celtics had in the game thus far.
The quarter ended as Waltah! hounded
Mashburn and kept him from getting a shot off as the buzzer sounded.
Time ended with the Good Guys leading, 26-24.
The C's started out playing tighter defense than in the first quarter, then on the offensive end, Walker went in to the hoop, scored the basket and SURPRISE!! they called the foul properly.
Baker once again proved a liability as he was stripped of what should have been an easy rebound that turned into a Hornets hoop. The Hornets were trying to pass the ball around on offense, but their shots weren't falling.
I didn't see as much offensive rebounding as I would have liked. On one play, Walker had absolutely no help as he was tripled. Had someone been nearby, they C's would have had a better shot.
At last, Baker sat with his third foul, and Tony Battie came back in. I think Battie is going to have to play more minutes until they get Baker straightened out, preferably in practice, not in games.
As in the first period, the C's kept ahead, but not by enough to really take control of the game. There was never a time when I felt that they'd put the Hornets away.
As a timeout was called with 8:33 to go, the C's held a 35-31 lead. The Celtics were shooting 52% at this point--but the Hornets weren't far behind, at 50%. The offense was shaky for Boston, but I was more worried about how the defense was doing. I didn't think we could win a shootout with the Hornets right now, and would have preferred some defensive clamping down.
For example, Battie got a rebound, but his outlet pass to Delk was stolen by Elden Campbell. Battie ended up having to foul to prevent the layup, and Campbell ended up one for two at the line.
Walker proved the first quarter wasn't a fluke as he hit a three, and he then stripped the ball at the other end to start a break with Shammond. Nice work from Walker. Unfortunately, the free throws were still a problem for the C's. *sigh*
But shortly afterward, Pierce stole the ball and NOBODY ran ahead, and he ended up having to take it in himself--and was fouled three times with no calls--missed the shot, and Battie's followup slam bounced out. Pierce tried to save the ball, but New Orleans picked it up and went the other way for two. Once again, a missed opportunity for a fast break.
Then, Battie was wrongly called for a blocking foul when he was obviously well outside the circle. This would only be one of a series of bad calls tonight. Not quite Violet Palmer level of incompetence, but not good, either.
Pierce did make a good defensive move, keeping his arm up and causing his man to miss the shot. But as before, he seemed to be normally cheating off his man a bit to steal errant passes. Against New Orleans it's not a bad idea, sometimes--but it failed miserably against Toronto.
At last, the C's had built a 10 point lead with 4:03 to go in the quarter--the first sign that the C's might be playing to their potential against this team. Unfortunately a foul on the next play cut the lead to eight. A possession later, it was six. A bad foul call later, it was a four point lead. All this in less than 45 seconds.
Shammond stopped the bleeding with a deep two, and the C's played tough defense on the next possession, even though they picked up a foul on Walker. Their defense in general was improving a bit, though not enough to suit me.
Bruno Sundov came in with 2:25 to go, and drew an offensive foul on Magloire.
Waltah! fought hard for a nice offensive rebound and went to the line for two. Unfortunately, he went 1-2. *uuggh*
Sundov grabbed a rebound and got
it out upcourt, but Shammond's shot didn't fall. The half ended with
the Good Guys ahead, 51-46
So far, the C's had played just well enough to stay ahead of New Orleans, but that was all. Nothing to brag about or to show any real momentum. That was becoming worrisome--all the Hornets had to do was stop turning the ball over and they would be in a dogfight.
The Hornets were actually shooting a better percentage than Boston--47% to 46%. Same for the three, as the Hornets were 3-5 while the C's were 4-10 from the arc. The Hornets also outrebounded the Celtics 22-16 and lead in assists 11-9. The good news for Boston was the Hornets also had the lead in turnovers, 12-8; and the Celtics had more paint points, 20-14.
Statistically, the Hornets were playing better than Boston. Now you see why I was worried. The C's needed to pick up the tempo at both ends and make sure to capitalize on any Hornets turnovers. I could live with the somewhat lackadaisical offense if the C's played their tough defense. Despite the Celtics holding a five point lead at the half, I considered the game essentially even at this point, and hoped the C's would get down to business to start the second half.
Tony Delk turned a Hornets turnover into three points to open up the third. That was nice to see. Then Antoine spent the better part of a possession trying to move away from the hand parked on his butt and ended up called for an offensive foul. Apparently, they're using Violet's "NBA Refs for Dummies" handbook.
Pierce then drew a foul on Magloire who sat with 4. The refs kind of had to call that to prevent a riot. :>)
Campbell hit a nice shot with Battie in his face. Credit to both of them. Pierce shifted Alexander's shot next trip up, it was nice to see Pierce closer to his man this time. But his outside shot wasn't going.
Shortly, Pierce was called for a defensive foul when he was the defender on the same play he was called for an offensive foul a few minutes earlier. So much for the "well trained ref" theory.
Battie was picking up rebounds off long misses, but the C's were staying outside until Pierce finally tried to go inside again, and they actually called the foul correctly. Too bad Paul missed his free throws.
Walker made a really nice pass to Delk, who was hacked to prevent a layup. Delk made it a good foul by promptly missing one of two. Aargh. He then committed a foul, which got him on the bench as Shammond came in.
Eric Williams got a three off a pass from Pierce, who had drawn the entire Hornet's team defense inside. Then Pierce got a nice two, and then harassed courtney to get the ball, and went to the hoop again. One foul later, Pierce had actually made a free throw, and the C's held a 64-54 lead with 5:16 to go in the third.
Then another phantom foul on the C's sent the Hornets to the line. That cut the lead to eight.
The C's offense wasn't as crisp as it should have been, as Waltah! got called for travelling (correctly, for once) and then the C's got zip on a three on one break. Not good. Fortunately, the C's defense was looking better. Tony Battie was showing the way to the hoop. Hopefully, the Celtics will follow his lead. He had 4 points on two consecutive possessions.
After all that, the Celtics lead
had increased by exactly one point, as the C's held the lead at 71-65
The C's defense started out tighter, but the Hornets made some tough shots. On the other paw, the Good Guys made a shot clock three off the glass from Walker. The C's were also toughening up their offense, which made a nice change of pace.
Shammond showed he could make nice passes too, evidenced by a nifty one to Walker. I'd like to see more of that. Eric Williams made some quiet contributions on offense that helped the cause.
Then, Coach O'Brien took a big gamble by having both Walker and Pierce on the bench with just over 9 minutes to go. I think he was trying to give them something resembling a rest so they could play down the stretch, betting that the rest of the team could maintain what was a 9 point lead. But when Baker picked up his fourth, the rest was over, and Walker and Pierce went back in with 8:30 to go. Pierce then had a monster slam during which he was fouled--but the only call was a "T" on Pierce for rim hanging. It was discovered that the ref who consistently made calls against Boston was from New Orleans. Hmmmmmm.....
Tony Battie was hurt on the next play and came out briefly on the next stoppage of play. He took a knee in a most painful place. But he would return, though he walked a little funny. Vin Baker took a fifth foul, and really needed to be taken out at this point, I felt. But he remained.
Mashburn was still putting the pumpkin in and was holding up the Hornets on the offensive end. But the C's had a really good offensive set, as with 6:00 to go, Vin Baker rebounded a missed shot by Tony Delk. Then Walker moved underneath to rebound Baker's miss, and there was a tough scramble for the ball that moved from the hoop to the arc in a pile of players. Walker got the ball on the floor and pushed it out to one of his teammates. Eric Williams rewarded Walker by passing it back and Walker promptly sank a three.
New Orleans then started playing a zone defense, which historically gives Boston fits if the passing game isn't in top gear. The C's would have to fight to keep their slim lead of 85-78 with 4:30 to go.
And fight they did, tightening up their defense, even as they fought to beat the zone on the other end. They also played smarter--Eric Williams was about to pass the ball to Pierce under the hoop, when Pierce was shoved to the floor (no foul called), and he held the ball a moment to draw the defense, then passed it over to Shammond, who sank a three.
Then at the other end, Eric Williams partially blocked a shot, and Pierce stole the ball, stopped only by a deliberate foul. He hit both (yay). Battie then collected another defensive rebound. This combined to make the score 90-78 with 2:39 to go, and things looked a lot better for Boston.
The Good Guys had finally clamped down on defense enough to build a decent lead of 14 points. The C's then started eating up clock--though I would have liked at least one more aggressive offensive set.
With less than 1:30 to go, the game
was essentially over, providing only the C's play adequately. A batch of
free throws did nothing more than change the relative stats. They game
ended with the Good Guys winning by a score of 95-86.
This was a game that the C's frankly looked like they were still recovering from Thanksgiving dinner--except for Walker and Battie. there were a lot of little mistakes that could have cost the C's dearly, were it not for the fact that New Orleans had their own problems. The Hornets had a better shooting percentage, a better three point percentage, and very nearly a better percentage from the free throw line. They also outrebounded Boston 43-37.
What helped the C's win was that despite the Hornets having a better percentage, the Celtics took more shots. The C's were 32-79 from the field, the Hornets were 31-68. From the three, it was Boston with 9-28, and New Orleans going 4-11. On the lie, it was Boston going 22-31 vs. New Orleans going 20-30.
If the Hornets shot a little better, or the Celtics took a few less shots, this game is a loss for Boston. The C's have to do better, it pains me to admit that the Celtics got lucky this time. Orlando might not be so forgiving on the turnovers.
HEROES AND ZEROS:
Antoine Walker: 28 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal and a block. He did well at both ends.
Tony Battie: 10 points, 8 rebounds, a steal and a block. He looks better and better under the hoop.
Paul Pierce the rebounder: Had 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 steals.
Shammond Williams: 13 points,
3 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal.
Paul Pierce the Scorer (and free throw shooter): Yes, he had 30 points--on 33% shooting. He also went 13-17 from the line.
Vin Baker: He had 4 rebounds, but no points and picked up 5 fouls. He's too well paid to put up those kind of numbers 15 games into the season.
And that's the view from the doghouse.
|1st Q||2nd Q||3rd Q||4th Q||Final|