Celtics vs. New Jersey Nets, Wed Dec 25, 2002  6:00pm
The answer is: “Games like this one.”

That’s the answer to the question, “Why doesn’t the NBA take the Boston Celtics seriously as playoff contenders?”  Or the question, “Why aren’t Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker getting more All-Star votes?” Or even, “Why am I having a stroke whenever someone mentions the Celtics lately?”

Games like this one.

Historically, Boston doesn’t do well on national television.  Boston also doesn’t have much success playing on national holidays.  Further, they haven’t had a whole lot of success against the Nets lately.  Making them play the Nets on national television on Christmas Day proves that whoever draws up the schedule is not a Celtics fan.

Boston opened the game with Paul Pierce hitting a  three-point shot.  New Jersey responded with aggressive work on both ends of the court, and the Celtics looked to be in for a long day.

Between the Celtics turnovers and the Nets offense, New Jersey opened up a 6-point lead with 7:20 to go.  At this point, I was still annoyed that ABC took every opportunity to plug the second game of the Christmas doubleheader in La-La Land.  The Lakers are having trouble deciding whether to fight each other or the other team, and are near the bottom of the standings.  I thought that a match up between the 1-2 teams in the Atlantic Division merited at least some plugging.  But the Celtics defense was unable to stop New Jersey.  A timeout was called with 6:02 to go, and the New Jersey Nets leading 16-8.

The fact is, the game was a lost cause from the opening quarter.  There’s really no point in detailing each quarter, because each one was worse than the one before it.  The Nets led 28-17 at the end of one; 63-40 after the half; 95-70 after three, and ended the game 117-81.

Boston never got its defense going.  Their offense was spotty at best.  They had no energy, no “flow”, no nothing.  By comparison, the Nets moved with quickness and accuracy, looked for and found the open man, played tight defense, and made their shots most of the time.

There’s no one single player to blame.  The entire Celtics team played badly, as if they had no idea what was going on.  Defensive assignments were missed completely, letting the Nets players take wide open shots.  Offensively, the Celtics often made maybe one pass, and then someone tried to drive into the teeth of the defense.  Now, going to the free throw line isn’t a bad idea—unless you keep going 1-2 or 0-2, and then letting the opponents get a transition basket.  Things got so bad, that commentator Brent Musberger finally said, “We waited 30 years for this?” referring to the first ABC telecast of the NBA in many moons.

It was hard to argue with him.

In fact, I give the announcers credit, for repeatedly emphasizing that this game was in no way typical of the Celtics normal play.  But it wasn’t really possible to put a good face on this.

I have to give the Nets their due, though—they were playing so well, that the C’s would have had a tough time beating them even if they were playing up to their potential—or at least within 50 miles of that potential.

The C’s simply didn’t bring their minds and bodies to this game.  They really ought to return their paychecks for this one.  Yes, it was that bad.  I wouldn’t have minded quite so much getting trounced if the Celtics had been playing like they had a clue of what the game was about.

But there was nothing here, just a waste of time for all those fans that showed up for the game in a snowstorm.  It looked, for a brief moment late in the third quarter, that the C’s might make one of those staggering come-from-behind runs, but it fizzled and died for good early in the fourth quarter.

I don’t know what Coach O’Brien could have done, besides administering a few well-placed kicks in the behinds of all his players.

Frankly, the Celtics owe us an apology for their poor play.  They had a chance to make a clear statement to the New Jersey Nets, the NBA, and the fans:  “We are For Real.”  They made themselves look foolish.  Now, the Nets fans will be rejoicing at the expense of the Celtics and the Celtics fans.  The pundits will once again scoff at Boston and pencil them out of any playoff appearances.  Nobody will exactly tremble with fear at the Celtics stepping on their court.

On Friday, they face the Miami Heat, which also kicked their butts all over the court last week.  The Guys need to get their stuff together, NOW.  The game against Miami needs to be a dominant one.  The Celtics need to beat them so badly that descriptions of the game will be used to frighten other teams.  They’re laughing at us right now.  And they earned the right to do so.

The Celtics better suck it up, or they will become, once again, the laughingstock of the NBA.  They’ll have to forget the Playoffs, the All-Star Game, the Olympics, and say “hello” to LeBron James.

I’m rooting for the Good Guys, but they need to meet us halfway, by playing like they want to win.

Otherwise, there'll be more Games Like This One.

And that’s the view from the doghouse.
1st Q 2nd Q 3rd Q 4th Q Final
Celtics 17 23 30 11 81
Nets 28 35 32 22 117