But the last two games between them had been wins for Boston, by an average of 9.5 points. In the last meeting, Pierce had torched New York for 46 points and Latrell Spreewell was sulking on his boat.
Tonight, Spree was playing and it was an open
question whether Pierce would have his shooting touch. The C's needed
a confidence booster and some home cooking on a Friday night at the Fleet
might be just what they needed.
You know it's going to be a tough game when Thomas ends up taking a shot from his teammate. The C's and Knicks went right at each other from the very start. Boston's shots didn't fall early on, but they came back and got on the board. New York evidently decided they'd try some threes, as the C's went inside for some layups.
The Knick defense had problems against the good passing inside from the C's, but they seemed to have the perimeter shot falling, at least at first. For a team that is infamous for the three, Boston seemed to be going inside with enthusiasm. In fact, by the time Boston shot it's first attempt at a three near the end of the quarter, the Knicks had tried 6. But that changed as the quarter wound down. Yet at the end of the first, Boston led 14-0 in paint points
Vin Baker came in and showed that he'd learned the Tony Battie method of finishing a shot. Nice to see.
Both teams had solid defense, making each other take tough shots, and there were several possessions on both sides that nearly ended in a shot clock violation.
Spreewell was playing, was hot from outside, and was personally responsible for a good part of the perimeter attack from the Knicks.
The quarter ended as the Celtics held the lead
The quarter opened with the C's making hard rebounding efforts that culminated with Walker getting a nice shot--though he missed the free throw. But the Knicks continued their assault from the arc, hitting better than I expected them to. On the plus side, both Spreewell and Thomas seemed unable to get the ball in scoring position.
Then Walker reminded them which team is known for hitting the three. Waltah! was also in there on the boards, getting rebounds and took a charge to boot.
It was 3 1/2 minutes into the second before the Knicks had their first paint points. But Weatherspoon started getting in on the offensive boards for the Knicks and that was a major concern, prompting a timeout. Then the C's rebounded harder and Delk buried a three.
At this point, Allan Houston was 0-7 and Pierce was not doing so well himself, though he compensated for his scoring problems with rebounding and passes.
Walker threw a nifty behind the back bounce pass to Delk, who was fouled on the shot.
Walker eschewed the three on several possessions and went inside, often drawing a foul. The C's in general were starting to really move the ball well inside. It looked as if the C's were using their rep for threes as a decoy to zip inside unmolested.
Vin Baker had a massive block on one of Spree's shots!!! I retract my previous comments about possible physical weakness. Then he had a thunderdunk over TWO defenders to ignite the crowd!! I guess he figures that if he's going to be called for physical play, he might as well make it worth the trouble.
Spree, who had 13 in the first quarter, got a goose egg in second. Between him and Thomas having trouble offensively, the Knicks were definitely weakened.
Then Delk nailed a three to give the C's a double digit lead with less than a minute to go. He really benefited from the attention paid to Walker and Pierce.
The first half half ended with the Good Guys enjoying
their biggest lead at 48-38.
This was a great, fun game so far. The Celtics started a little slow, but came roaring back and played smart and exciting basketball. The C's played solid defense, limiting Spree to only 13 1st quarter points--most of those perimeter shots.
I was, for some reason, reminded of the song "American Storm" by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet band. "It's like a full force gale--an American Storm..." That's the way the Celtics were going.
For the first time in ages, Vin Baker didn't seem like an instant liability upon entering the game. This was what everyone had been getting impatient to see, as he went hard to the basket and came up with big plays in the second quarter.
While I expected the Celtics to start taking their share of threes, they had an overwhelming lead in paint points to the half. It was the devastating combination of C's defense combined with a hot night on the offensive end. The Knicks, terrified of Pierce dropping another half a hundred points on them, went out of their way to guard him. This limited Pierce's scoring. Fortunately, Paul has been working on his passing, to the benefit of several of his teammates, and the C's in general.
That's not to say the Knicks were scoreless--as their 38 points attest. But they got most of that on shots well away from the basket, something they can't necessarily count on continuing. But the fact is, if the C's give up a shot, let them give up the relatively low percentage shot. After all, this isn't the Mavericks. I just wanted them to turn up the heat on the boards.
The C's were shooting 42% to New York's 39%, though the Knicks out rebounded Boston 27-20 through the first half. The C's went to the line more than the Knicks, going 9-13, while New York made both of their 2 free throws. But the C's had the edge in paint points 20-8, and had only 4 turnovers to the Knicks 9.
All in all, I just felt really positively about this game by now. Of course, it might have been the two mugs of Pepsi, two candy bars and the chocolate chip cookie... (no, that's not an exaggeration.)
My only worry was a third quarter scoring drought. (EEP!)
Walker picked up where he left off, scoring inside. Then Houston got his first basket of the game. The C's didn't forget their rebounding at either end, working to improve their efforts over the first half, when he Knicks out rebounded them despite Boston's tough defense.
Pierce used an old style three point play to make it a 13 point lead, then nearly had another in the face of tough defense, but went to the line to shoot two. He hit both. (YAY!)
Houston scored 5 points on two consecutive trips, which was worrisome, but Battie flushed a dunk to stop my concerns for the moment.
Then Walker extended the lead to 14 points of a rattling jumper, followed by Pierce making it 61-45 Boston. Speaking of rattled, the Knicks were looking a little like they were caught in the headlights, leading to a time out to get their act together. Afterward, Spree hit a shot clock two for his first points in a quarter and a half.
Tony Delk showed he's emerging as the third scoring option for Boston from outside with another basket.
I've said it before, but remember--Tony Battie IS the Bat-Man. Apologies to Mr. Wayne of Gotham City.
New York called a time out to see what they could do to stop the onslaught with 4:17 to go in the third and the Celtics holding a sixteen point lead at 63-47.
About the only negative was that the C's still need to work on their free throws, as Shammond went 1-2 after the time out. Then Pierce went to the line and got both. (yay).
New York just couldn't make the stops as the C's worked the lead up even further, to 66-47. But the Knicks didn't quit and worked the boards to get to the line, hitting both. Still, the C's had out rebounded the Knicks 12-5 in the quarter to this point, with 2:39 to go.
Othella Harrington went to the bench with 5 fouls--all in the third quarter, though he played hard.
Lee Nailon hit a three, trying to bring the Knicks back into it. But the C's had scored over 20 points in the third, erasing my worries about a scoring drought. Then Walker drew another foul going inside and brought the Good Guys back up to a 21 point lead with 1:08 to go.
Vin Baker also continued his hard, positive work, and produced good results, including making his free throws. The announcers commented that Coach O'Brien expected the team to shoot 80% from the free throw line. Thank God he noticed. Now, if only the guys listen.
Baker was then called for his fourth foul on a phantom loose ball foul. He had a clean rebound, but alas, I'm not the ref. (I admit my bias too readily, and I know that if I had the say, Shaq would have six quick ones before the first quarter ended every time his team played Boston. :>) )
The quarter ended as the C's led 75-57 after three
The quarter began with Baker picking up his fifth foul in the first 14 seconds of the period, which sent him to the bench. But it was his most impressive game to date.
Kedrick Brown came back to the court for the first time, and it was nice to see him, as Tony Battie went inside once again. Looks like it was a chance to ease Brown back into game shape.
Pierce got a nice strip on defense and then took an offensive rebound. The Knicks appeared to be giving up, as Pierce sent it to Walker in the corner for three, prompting a Knick time out to look for their effort. The score was now 80-57, and the C's had total control of the game at this point. All they had top do was keep pressuring the Knicks and this game was a lock.
After the time out, Walker took it to the hoop, and got the basket and a foul. He then made the free throw. The Knicks tried to work their way back, but couldn't stop the C's scoring, as a "struggling" Pierce had his 17th point of the game with over 8 minutes to go.
Bruno Sundov signalled the end of the starters playing time by replacing Battie. The C's were ahead by 27 points with 7 minutes to go.
About the only thing going the Knicks way was they got some fouls called their way in the course of the final quarter. Kedrick tried to block a shot and committed a foul, but he seemed to get good height on his jump. Still, it'll be a while before he's really in game shape.
The fact is, that as the first half of the quarter passed, garbage time had pretty well commenced. It was just a matter of making sure the Knicks didn't sneak up on the C's. I think that if it weren't for the fact that Coach O'Brien wanted to give Kedrick some game time and that Baker had 5 fouls, he might have gone with the starting lineup for another couple of minutes, just to be on the safe side. But the Good Guys did a great job of putting away the Knicks in a methodical manner. This is exactly the kind of game the C's need to play consistently.
With 5 minutes to go, Pierce and Walker went to the bench, making this perhaps the least amount of minutes they'd played in any recent game. The lead was still 14 points with the benches on the court.
Bruno hit an air ball--I'm beginning to wonder if he will ever score.
Kedrick Brown got his first two points of the season with just over three minutes to go, and a time out was called with the C's leading 91-75.
Two things had happened in the last two minutes--the C's defense (and offense) went a little slack; and the Knicks bench was scoring better then their starters. I think that it was a calculated risk by O'Brien--how often can you put Kedrick Brown and Bruno Sundov in for over half a quarter? It was worth the chance taken of letting the lead close a bit.
The Knicks bench set out to redeem the embarrassment suffered by their starting lineup, but the lead was in no real danger. With less than 1:30 to go, the C's--despite a couple of notable air balls--still led 91-78.
J.R. Bremer forced a jump ball with Charlie Ward and the C's took the jump. Nice defensive work. Shammond put on a short dribbling demonstration.
Kedrick Brown was fouled getting a rebound with 19 seconds left. The C's dribbled out the clock and the Good Guys won it 91-80.
This was a Great Game. The team played hard from start to finish, and did so well, they were able to spot the Knicks some garbage offense to work Sundov and Kedrick into the game for extended minutes.
Walker played a nice all around game, and only missed a double double because he sat out the last half of the fourth quarter--a smart move when you don't have a lot of active players.
The C's ended up outrebounding the Knicks 47-43, and took the edge in steals (11-5) and blocks (7-4). Their shooting percentage overall was just a bit better then the Knicks, going 29-78 for 37% (a lot of those misses coming in garbage time) vs. New York's 29-80 and 36% (again, mostly in garbage time).
The C's went to the line far more often than the
Knicks, 27-33 vs. 16-17, which will happen when you go to the hoop and
they don't. Tommy Heinsohn must be in ecstasy right now.
HEROES AND ZEROS:
Antoine Walker: 25 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal and a block. He ran the offense well and really played hard.
Tony Battie: 11 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks. I'm starting to look forward to a Bat-Man vs. Superman team up come Finals time.
Tony Delk: 20 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists. He's looking better and better every game.
Paul Pierce: 19 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, and a partidge in a pear tree. He contributed in so many ways, it didn't matter that he went 6-16.
Vin Baker: 7 points, 1 rebound, a block into the fifth row, and a dunk that nearly put the ball through the parquet. If the refs ease up on him a bit--and he tucks in his elbows occasionally-- he'll really make an impact in and around the hoop.
Celtics free throws: Well, I wanted 80%, and tonight we got 81%, which is a definite improvement.
ummm....there were none.
If I had to be nitpicky, I'd say that the C's probably needed to rebound a little harder in the first half, but that's about it. The next game is Monday in Boston, when the Orlando Magic come to town.
And that's the view from the doghouse.
|1st Q||2nd Q||3rd Q||4th Q||Final|