That's what happens when you're a second-generation Celtics fan with little care for perspective. :>)
You know what I like? Beating the Lakers. So tonight, I'm one happy Celtics Beagle.
Coming into the game, the Celtics needed to do some serious defense and rebounding work if they wanted to beat the mealy-mouthed pretenders to a Dynasty. The offense had been shaky, but I figured if you can't suck it up at home against LA, then the season is in the toilet anyway.
The Lakers had just been embarrassed by Cleveland. Shaq was on the bench, and Rick Fox wasn't even in the building. It was anybody's guess what was going to happen with them.
The first few minutes was the Lakers' time as they started the game with a lead, with free throws, but then, the Celtics unveiled what they'd been holding in since last May.
The "You're gonna have to donate blood to get to the hoop" defense. The rebounding, the clogging of the lane, the forcing the other team to take jumpshots that miss defense.
It was glorious. The kind of thing that probably made Jim O'Brien giddy with relief and delight. Kobe Bryant couldn't find the rim with a metal detector, and The Celtics were taking full advantage of the fact that there was no 7 foot plus Center clogging the path to the hoop.
Tony Delk was hot on offense, hitting high percentage shots. Eric Williams and Tony Battie went driving inside. Good thing, too, as Walker and Pierce weren't quite getting it together on offense. But when you play defense like they did here, you don't NEED a lot of offense.
It took the Lakers 10 minutes to score 11 points. They got a couple of cheap baskets on bad plays at the end of the quarter to make it look more respectable, but shot 6-21 in the first quarter. This was an example of the kind of defense that will win Boston it's 17th championship.
The first quarter ended with the
Celtics ahead, 26-15.
Amazingly, things got better for Boston, and worse for LA in the second. The defense ratcheted up several more notches, forcing the Unnameable Ones into outside shot after outside shot. Kobe Bryant was utterly useless on offense. What kept them in the game at all was Brian Shaw coming off the bench and getting loose for a few baskets.
But the Good Guys, led by Tony Battie and Eric Williams, went on a rebounding binge, coming up loaded on both ends of the court. By the time the second quarter was half over, the C's had twice as many paint points as LA. The Celtics also had a 42-27 lead going at that point.
The Lakers were turning over the ball in the midst of an impenetrable Celtic defense, and the C's were hitting 50% from the field compared the opposition 31%. It was a wonder to see.
To cap it off, with 28 seconds left,
Shammond hit a shot from the Boston Common beyond halfcourt to give the
first half resounding emphasis as the Celtics ended the half leading 50-35.
Any game where the Celtics spend the first half slapping the Lakers around like a bunch of 98 pound weaklings is a good game. Tony Delk had 14 points at halftime, and was making life miserable for the Lakers defense. The Celtics shot 51% from the field while holding LA to 33%. The three was going for Boston, 8-17. They had doubled up paint points, 16-8.
But, being a perfectionist beagle, I was bugged by the turnovers--partly things got so furious inside, sometimes the ballhandling and passing got sloppy. Ok, the free throws bugged me, too.
I also knew that somehow, the Lakers would make an adjustment. It was a little much to ask that they play their two worst games in 40 years back to back. Their startegy would be simple--somehow get the ball to Kobe and make Kobe get points.
It was going to come down to finding out if the Celtics could weather the expected Laker rally, and hope their defense would stay up to the high standards of the first half.
Well, the third quarter started
badly for Boston, and it was due to a few things. First, the Celtics'
defense slipped a bit--just enough that the Lakers started getting in close
to the hoop. Then, Kobe got hot at last (having been 4-15 in the
first half), and NOBODY came over to help Pierce defend Kobe when that
happened. I know some people fault Pierce's defense, but when Kobe's
on his game, you really can't defend him one-on-one.
Pierce was kind of left in the wilderness there, and given that none of the other Lakers were shooting that well, I wish someone had come over to double Kobe inside. The tough defensive assignment really hurt Pierce's offense.
As the quarter progressed, the Lakers
slowly closed the gap, and then took the lead, as their offense got into
gear, and the Celtics were having trouble stopping them. It's not
like they gave up, just that the outside shots that didn't fall in the
first half went through the hoop in the third quarter. This resulted
in the Lakers making a game of this. They erased a 17 point deficit
and closed the third quarter leading 71-67.
This was now a grinder of a game. The Celtics had to push their defense as hard as it would go, as they made up the points. Through most of the quarter, the Lakers kept the lead just out of reach, as the Celtics somehow would be 1-4 on a rebound and no fouls got called. Not that it went entirely their way, things were about to get weird.
The Good Guys were now running into a revitalized Laker defense, and that made it tough going, but as the minutes wore on, the score got closer as the Celtics played tougher defense. The Lakers had, to the midpoint of the fourth quarter, upped their shooting percantage to 64%, while Boston's dropped to 35%. Time was running short if the Celtics wanted to win this.
The C's used their defense and rebounding to create offense, and with 1:54 to go, Pierce hit a deep two to give the Celtics the lead at 87-86. On the Lakers next possession, the Celtics outhustled them and grabbed the rebound after the miss, to bring the ball back up but lost it on a steal. The Lakers ran to the opposite end to make a quick basket and draw the foul.
That made it 89-87 LA with 1:05 to go.
After a timeout, the Lakers came out and got the pumpkin to Horry inside, but he missed and Tony Battie--as he'd been doing most of the night--grabbed the rebound. He passed out to Walker who went the distance for two in the lane.
It was now tied at 89 with 33 seconds to go. Kobe missed badly, and the Celtics took the rebound and ran upcourt with 15 seconds to go. The Lakers elected not to go for the quick foul, and Pierce took an open jumper just inside the arc with 4.3 seconds to go. It was short on a deflection, and Kobe grabbed the ball, stumbling toward the sidelines, screaming for a timeout, but failing to signal it. As that happened, Tony Battie deflected the ball out of bounds off Kobe as the refs finally saw Robert Horry signal timeout, but by that time, there was 0.4 seconds left. To top it off, the Celtics got posession of the ball.
Honestly, the Celts got a break here. The refs were looking at Kobe, not Horry, or they would have gotten the timeout before losing the ball out of bounds. They'd have kept posession with 1.7 seconds left and been able to inbound from halfcourt. gleep.
But hey, we're the Good Guys. They're not. And instant replay doesn't cover that.
After the timeout, the Celtics got
the ball in to Walker who got an off balance two that hit the side of the
backboard, sending the game into overtime!!
The first 2:50 of overtime was a wash, as the teams traded points and were now tied at 91. The game now boiled down to the last 2:50 of OT. The Celtics had the ball, and moved it up slowly, looking for a good shot. Walker went inside, then rebounded his own miss and hit for two. It should be noted that Eric Williams and Tony Battie were right there with him. Great rebounding, really great. Kobe answered back with a deep two, and the score was tied again at 93 with 2:15 to go.
The Celtics called a timeout to set up a play with 2:04 to go, and came out with good ball movement that left Pierce with enough daylight to hit a three from the top to put the Celtics ahead 96-93 with 1:54 to go. Kobe brought up and after drawing the defense, fired a pass outside to Devean George, who missed. The rebound went to Boston as the ball went over the backboard.
The Celtics brought it up and got it inside to Eric Williams, who somehow did not get fouled as he went up. You know, the same way Celtics almost never get fouled going inside. :>)
The long rebound made it's way to Walker, who made a shot off the corner of the backboard, and Tony Battie couldn't keep it inbounds, and the Lakers gained posession with 1:10 left. Kobe twisted loose at the top of the key and scored a deep two to bring them within one.
The Celtics brought it up and Walker fired a pass to Eric Williams, who was open in the corner for a three, but his shot just missed. The Lakers took it back up, but never got a shot off as the Celtics converged on defense and came up with the ball with 27 seconds to go. Kobe committed the foul with 10.9 seconds, the last they had to give, and the Celtics inbounded again from the side, when Tony Delk was fouled as soon as he caught the ball with 9.3 seconds to go. Delk made both of his free throws, thank God, as the crowd took up the fabled chant of "Beat LA", and the score was now 98-95 as the Lakers took posession and a timeout, looking to tie the game and force a second overtime.
The Lakers were looking to get it
to Horry to take the shot, but the Celtics defense kept Kobe from passing
it out, and he was forced into an off balance shot that missed. Fittingly,
the Celtics collected the final rebound of the game as they won it in overtime,
This was every kind of game you like to see. It was a blowout, a come from behind, a seesaw, and an overtime game against the Lakers that the Celtics won. My nerves won't take a lot of these, but they're great to see once in a while.
The Celtics won this game on rebounding and defense, and they picked the perfect time to show they still remembered how to do it. Not only that, they won while Pierce and Walker were still not shooting especially well. They outrebounded the Lakers, and considering their recent rebounding woes, that's pretty good.
I did NOT like that there was no help for Pierce against Kobe when he needed it in the third quarter. Had the C's shored up the defense in that quarter, this game would have been a blowout of epic proportions. I'm also not thrilled at the free throw percentage. I really expect them to do better, soon!
BUT--considering this was the second night of back to back games--away and home to boot, I really liked the intensity the C's came out with to start the game. We have to learn to carry it over past the halftime adjustments, but it's a huge improvement over previous games.
Yes, this is still as sweet as a warm cookie out of the oven.
And that's the view from the doghouse.
Scoring by quarters:
|1st quarter||2nd quarter||3rd quarter||4th quarter||Overtime||Final|
Los Angeles Lakers