Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls, Monday, Dec 16, 2002  8:30pm
Ever since the embarrassing opening night loss to the Chicago Bulls, Boston has dominated the Bulls in each of the games they've played.  The Celtics were once again on a roll, and looking to take advantage of poor games by the Philadelphia and New Jersey teams in recent days to open an Atlantic Division lead.

The Bulls before the game appeared to be as ever, young and enthusiastic.  Shammond Williams got the start in tonight's game, as Tony Delk rested his knee.  In previous games, the Bulls had assisted the Celtics by turning the ball over early and often.  Coach Bill Cartwright of the Bulls indicated to that he was working on better communication in his backcourt.

First-quarter:

Tony Battie opened the game by the drawing the offense foul off Chicago in gaining possession of the ball for the Celtics.  A quick pass to Eric Williams for a sure jumper gave the Celtics the opening points and lead of the game.  The Celtics defense apparently was getting early start this evening.  Despite being given several opportunities on rebounds by Chicago, Boston seemed unable to convert points in the opening minute of the game.

This resulted in both teams taking two minutes to score to points.

This apparently was of those games were the Celtics got their scoring drought in early, based on a possession where Pierce made a very nice past to Shammond Williams, only to see the ball rim out of the hoop.  Ragged play on both sides resulted in Chicago taking the lead on free throws.

The Celtics remedied the problem quickly by finding Tony under the basket once more.  Has anyone bothered to read scouting reports on Tony Battie besides Orlando?  Paul Pierce made a nice effort to try to save an out-of-bounds rebound, but he was unable to do so.  Still it showed good action and hustle on his part.  On the other end several Celtics were under the basket with their arms up playing active defense including Eric Williams and Pierce.

Tony Battie showed patience and poise under the basket after receiving a pass for he couldn’t do anything offensively with, by sending the ball back out to Eric Williams for a deep two.  Then Baker came in and promptly committed a foul.  With half the quarter over, the Bulls were out rebounding Boston. Then Baker surprised me by hitting a 17-foot jump shot.  But with four minutes in 25 seconds to go, the score was tied at 12.

After the timeout, Chicago hit both free throws, and on the other and Pierce responded by going to the hoop and scoring while drawing the foul.  Chicago had made five of eight free throws, while this was Boston's first trip to the line.

The Celtics made what I think was an offensive mistake, by sending then Baker into a one-on-three situation with no help. Trent Hassle blocked Pierce's shot for the second time in almost as many minutes.  Boston, at that point was shooting 42% vs.  Chicago at 39%, yet Chicago led by two points.  The difference was obviously at the free throw line.  The Celtics defense allowed Tyson Chandler to get 2 slams in the quarter.  Pierce made both free throws on the next possession (YAY!)

With Baker picking up his second foul, Bruno came into the game.  Antoine Walker muscled in for a basket and somehow drew a foul.  Chicago ended the quarter leading the game 24-23.
 
 

Second Quarter:
 

Second-quarter play opened with Chicago among other things, blocking the Celtics shots.  The Celtics had been unable to score from the field since near the end of the first quarter.  Their free throw shooting was really, really bad!

The Celtics had an exceptionally bad stretch with just over 8:37 to go where they failed to get to consecutive rebounds despite outnumbering Chicago 4 players to 1.  On the third try, they got the ball, then tossed it away.

With 7:51 to go, Chicago led Boston 31-25.  The Celtics or playing very badly, and there seemed to be no one player responsible.  Everyone was missing assignments, not to mention missing shots.  When Antoine Walker in wasn't getting called for an offensive foul, Tony Battie was getting air balls.

Chicago's bench outscored Boston’s, 12-5.  The Celtics had yet to score a field goal with just under five and a half minutes to go away in the quarter.  Even a team like Chicago, not playing very well in general, is going to ad to the lead when you give them an opportunity like that!

Not a single player on the Celtics seemed to be able to shoot well, until Tony Battie finally scored from the field with 4:30 left in the quarter.  Chicago, on the other paw, was saving the ball inbounds, making tough shots, and generally out playing Boston.  The score was 43-28, with 3:42 to go.  The Chicago Bulls, amazing as it sounds, were totally dominating the Boston Celtics. Eric Williams finally hit an open shot, in the hopes of salvaging something from this truly horrible quarter.  Then Baker got a rebound and Boston came upcourt.   Pierce fed the ball to Baker.  Baker was fouled going up to the basket.

Paul Pierce sat down, needing a break I suppose, from hauling up all those bricks.  A timeout called with 2:37 to go, had the Bulls leading 46-31.  After the timeout, Pierce came back in.  Paint points favored Chicago 20-8.  Eric Williams then hit a deep two, a possible light at the end of this “Big Dig” sized tunnel.

Jay Williams of the Bulls got an offensive foul against Tony Battie, who contributed a little extra acting ability to draw the official’s attention.  The Celtics salvaged a bad play as Walker lost the ball, and it balanced right into the hands of Paul Pierce, who was fouled taking it up to the basket.  Pierce hit both free throws!! (Don’t laugh, it’s one of the few things the Celtics were doing well by now…)

The quarter ended as Chicago prevented a last second hoop, leading Boston 48-37.

Halftime

Cookie break!

From the very beginning of this game the Celtics play was mediocre, and got worse from there.  While the defense was occasionally adequate, the offense descended into true misery it was one of the worst offensive exhibitions I've seen the Celtics put on sense that really a really bad game against Washington early in the season.

The Bulls by comparison, played consistently, if raggedly, and earned every single bit of their lead.  The Celtics sharing was down 29 percent truly horrible!!  Extras such as rebounding and free throws hardly matter at this point, without some form of consistent offense the Celtics are going nowhere fast.

In the first half the Bulls shot the ball better and more often than the Celtics--they went 18-45 to shoot 40%; as the Celtics went 12-41 for 29% from the field.  Chicago also held a free throw lead, going 9-16 as Boston went 12-14.  The only good sign there was that the Celtics were 86%, while Chicago was 56%.  The three-point line was no friend to the Celtics, who went 1-8, as Chicago made 3-8.

The Celtics would need to do two things in order to have any chance of winning this game.  Play truly outstanding defense, and shoot the ball like they had some vague idea of where the basket was actually located.  Otherwise, the only positive from this game from the Celtics point of view would be to keep Way of the Ray in the prediction list hunt for another couple of days.
 
 

Third-quarter:

Boston opened the third-quarter a much the same way as they had finished the second, by missing a shot.  Tony Battie quickly picked up his third foul less than a minute dawn in the quarter.  The Celtics were now down to shooting 28% from the floor.  Boston, in the second quarter had only shot 18%.  My cat can shoot 18% from the floor, and she’s six months old.

They only good thing about the Celtics poor showing in the third was the Bulls were equally bad.  The Celtics could no longer blame a discrepancy of free throws, as while Chicago had gone to the line a few times more, Boston's percentage was actually better.

Eric Williams, who moments ago had picked up his fourth foul, scored a basket.  But the Celtics problems continued, as Shammond Williams failed to finish a fast break; and Walker, despite going for the rebound, was unable to cleanup.  Then Paul Pierce, on following play, was charged with offensive foul going to the basket.  The Celtics just could not seem to get anything done consistently.  It's not like Chicago was intimidating the Celtics, the good guys just simply weren't getting it together.

Had the Celtics been playing virtually any other team in the NBA, they would be down by 30 points or more by this time.  Only the fact that it was Chicago, which was shooting a little better than usual, kept the game from being a total blowout was over half of the third-quarter to go.  With 4:47 left, Chicago led by double digits.

So far, the only downside to the game for Chicago was Trent Hassell picking up his fourth foul.  Everything else seemed to be going Chicago's way.  Marshall of the Bulls hit another three-point shot.  He was having one of those nights, as was the entire Chicago team.  With 2:25 to go Chicago was leading 65-49.  The way that things were going, the Celtics would not need a run, they would need an all out marathon.

Things got worse as with 1:22 go Tony Battie picked up foul No. 5.  His offense was no better than anyone else’s on the Celtics tonight, but at least he was playing relatively solid defense.  Finally some good news, as Paul Pierce, after losing the ball on a questionable foul, received a lob fast break pass, for a slam.  This reduced the Chicago lead to 11 points as the Bulls played for the last shot, which they did not get.  The Celtics attempted a three quarter court heave, which did not go in.  The score was 67-56, Chicago leading, at the end of 3.
 
 

Fourth-quarter:

The lead was big, but far from insurmountable, based on previous Celtics games.  Paul Pierce had another outside shot, to try to begin to run to beat the Bulls.  Walker then stole the ball and took at all the way for two.  This prompted a Chicago timeout with 10:18 to go and the Chicago lead cut to only eight points.

Following the timeout to Celtics were able to close the lead with another point, but then Walker picked up his fifth foul.  Pierce's shot on the next possession was short.  But he grabbed the defensive rebound, and got the ball up on offense.  The Celtics miss was followed by a Chicago miss, and Pierce once again took the ball up court.  Swift passes lead to another Walker three-point shot.  It was now a three-point game, with 8:00 to go.  Chicago then committed an offensive foul, knocking Antoine Walker to the floor.  This led to another Chicago timeout, with 7:49 to go and the score now 68-65, with the Bulls barely holding the lead.

After the timeout, thus far in the final quarter Boston had outscored Chicago 9-1.  This increased in Boston's favor when Walker hit another basket for two.  It was now a one-point game with 7:22 go.  Jalen Rose had a basket, to up to lead to three.  The Celtics next possession came up empty.  Pierce fought for a rebound on the next play, preventing the Bulls from scoring again.  The Good Guys tried to put the ball through at the other end, only to be blocked by Chicago; which then scored on a hard basket of its own.  They missed the free throw, but Marcus Pfizer of Chicago got fouled going up for the rebound of the missed free throw, resulting in sending Pfizer total line for two.  Justice prevailed as Marcus missed the first.  Unfortunately, he made the second.

Bremer took up the ball into Baker, for an easy two.  Then Paul Pierce stole the ball and was fouled putting up a shot.  Pierce made both free throws-great!  It was now a two point lead again with 5:42 Chicago leading, 73-71.

Only Baker’s foul prevented Marshall from scoring an easy two on the following Chicago possession.  He made both free throws, pushing the lead up to four points.  Then Baker's missed shot on the next possession rebounded back to Chicago.

Walter McCarty tried to take a rebound, and ended up sending Chicago to the line again.  The Celtics were in danger of losing their 1/2 game lead in the Atlantic division.  Pierce was fouled driving to the hoop.  That gave Marshall his fifth foul.  Not that it made a difference.

Pierce somehow got a shot to go in, and it was a four-point game yet again.  But Donyell Marshall promptly sank a three-point shot to make the Celtics take a timeout with 4:02 to go--and the lead back up to seven points.

Following the timeout, Marshall blocked another Boston shot.  The rebound on Chicago's missed shot went back to Boston, and Eric Williams went for the three.  He missed.  Chicago took the ball again and missed again, thanks to Paul Pierce grabbing the rebound.  Pierce drove to the hoop once more and got two as he was fouled.  He made the free throws, to drop the lead to 4 with 3:00 to go.  Chicago took to ball over halfcourt, Jay Williams then sank a three.  Pierce got called for traveling, turning the ball back over to Chicago.  Walter McCarty tried to steal the ball and failed. Antoine Walker then fouled out of the game with 2:18 to go to.  He had 16 points and nine rebounds.

Chicago sank both free throws among and things did not look good for Boston.  Pierce's shot was again blocked, this time by Jay Williams.  When things go bad, they just go completely bad.  The Celtics got back quickly on defense, and Chicago played time off the clock.  The ploy worked as the made a shot clock basket and a score with 1:14 to go was 87-79 favoring Chicago.

The Bulls had another break grow their way when the rebound went out of bounds supposedly off Boston.  The parade to the free throw line began with 1:06 to go.

The game depended on Chicago making its free throws-which so for they had not done so well-and Boston being able to score quickly-which THEY had not done so well.  At first, it worked, as the first free throw shooter for Chicago went one out of two.  With Walker out of the game coach Jim O'Brien obviously depended on Paul Pierce for all his offense.  But, despite Boston's best efforts, they could not score, while Chicago seemingly could not be stopped.  The game ended as Chicago beat Boston 94-83.
 

And make no mistake here, kids—can’t blame the refs for this one—the Bulls beat Boston, by playing tougher defense, and making the second quarter a Celtics nightmare.  That one went 24-14.  The last two quarters were dead even in points, and Chicago outscored Boston by one point in the first.  This game, lacking a serious Celtics run, was over at halftime.

Now, the bulls are making playoff noises, while the C’s leave town with paper bags over their heads.  Outrebounded 58-46, outshot from the arc, and the “tough” Celtics could not muster the strength to overwhelm a team that is in every respect, younger, weaker, and less experienced.  About the only bright spot was that the Celtics finally went 20-25 at the free throw line for 80%.  Even Walker’s having one of his better games against Chicago was negated by his fouling out.  Pierce was doing what he could, but I didn’t see anyone else stepping up and saying, “Give me the ball, I can do it.”  Because no one was doing it.  Take away the rash of bad three attempts and the only one with a decent shooting percentage is Tony Battie.
 

There were no heroes in this game, kids.  They should have won this one going away.  What went wrong?  Name it, it happened.  Bad shot selection, no movement on offense, not a heck of a lot of rebounding against a team that’s not exactly a bunch of giants.  Silly fouls.  The list goes on.  Call it a really bad night.  But the Celtics can’t afford nights like this.  It’s why people don’t mention the Celtics as likely contenders for the Playoffs.  It’s why people laugh out loud when suggesting that Walker and/or Pierce should make the All-Star team.  Yes, it’s rightly impressive when they put the big teams down.  But they should be taking down the lesser teams, too.  Yes, in about three years—assuming Jerry Krause doesn’t do anything stupid come the trade deadline—the Bulls are going to have a heck of a team.  But it’s not there yet, and it should not be coming at the expense of the Celtics.

The Miami Heat come up next.  They’re in something of a funk, and Pat Riley is in a snit over the refs, too.  They’re going to be looking for someone to pound on, and Patty has never minded a win at the expense of the Celtics.  If Boston wants to be taken as a serious team, then they need to look at Wednesday’s game as a demonstration of getting their stuff together and keeping it that way.  Anything less than a 20 point blowout is going to be a moral victory for Miami and more ammunition for those who do not like the Celtics.

And that’s the view from the doghouse.
1st Q 2nd Q 3rd Q 4th Q Final
Celtics 23 14 19 27 83
Bulls 24 24 19 27 94