Celtics vs. New Jersey Nets Tue March 18, 2003 7:00pm
NOTE:  NBAtv.com screws those of us with cable once again.  Bleah.

This was a major game for both teams, as the Nets wanted to make hay for the top of the division, and the Cís wanted to clamb back into the top four in the Conference and get home court.  Say what you will about the Nets play lately, they tend to have big games against the Good Guys.

First Quarter:

Walker made a fade away shot to put the Cís up 2-0 as the game began.  Then Eric Williams committed a shooting foul and sent the Nets to the line.  Richard Jefferson went 1-2.  Pierce rebounded the missed free throw and handed off to Battie for a slammer.  Williams then committed his second foul before a minute had elapsed in the game, and sat in favor of Walter McCarty.

Jason Kidd put the Nets 2 points closer, and then Kerry Kittles stole the ball from Walker and put it in for two more.  That put the Nets ahead, 5-4, with 10:06 left.

Then Kidd rebounded a Pierce miss and dished off to Jefferson for two more on a reverse layup.  The teams traded several possessions with no points scored until Antoine hit a layup.  Then Waltah! rebounded a Kidd miss and sent the ball to Pierce who put it in for two more.  Waltah!, more lovable by the minute, then rebounded Jeffersonís miss, this time handing off to Walker who nailed the three, prompting a New Jersey timeout with 7:46 left in the quarter, and Boston leading it, 11-7.

Following the timeout, Battie sent Kenyon Martin to the line for two, whereupon Justice prevailed as he missed one.  Waltah! was a little less lovable as he lost the ball on a turnover.  Jefferson and Pierce then traded jump shots, and the following possessions for both teams were uneventful.  Kidd proved annoying on the boards, rebounding his own miss.  Kenyon Martin scored the only points during this time.  The Cís were having trouble holding on to the ball, as several passes were picked off in the early going.

Then Brian Scalabrine made his first points of the game, a layup from his offensive rebound.  J.R. Bremer got the ball to Pierce, who answered back.  The Cís were also crashing the boards, always a positive sign.  Kenyon made two more free throws as time ran short in the quarter, and Aaron Williams put up a hook shot for two more as the Good Guys called timeout with 2:26 to go, and the Nets leading once more, 18-15.

After play resumed, Walker was back in the game after a brief rest.  The Cís got some of their own back as Tony Delk stole the ball, and the Nets gave the foul.  Grant Long rebounded a Blount miss and got two for the Good Guys.  Pierce went to the line at long last and made both.  Jefferson and Pierce then traded baskets.  Then Martin and Long did likewise as the first quarter ended with the Cís leading it, 23-22.

The quarter was played VERY close, and the Celtics looked sharp to open the game.  The FGP favored the Cís only slightly, as the Nets were 9-22 for 40.9%, while Boston went 10-22 for 45.5%.  The three point shot wasnít really a factor, as New Jersey was 0-3 for a goosegg, whilst the Celtics werenít much better, shooting 1-6 at the arc for 16.7%.  The free throws were slightly in favor of the Nets, who went 4-6 for 66.7%.  Bostonís 100% at the line came from Pierceís two made free throws.  Turnovers were a definite problem, as the Cís had a 5-1 edge, due largely to the wandering hands of the Nets.  New Jersey also held a 10-8 edge in paint points.  However, it was gratifying to see the Celtics with a 15-10 lead in rebounding.

But the Cís still had three quarters to play.  Could they sustain the intensity?
Second quarter:

Martin traveled to open it up, and Grant Long got it to Walker for a layup.  Grant continued to make himself useful by dishing off to Pierce for the slam.  Aaron Williams tried to stop him unsuccessfully, though Pierce missed the free throw.  A couple of possessions later, Pierce redeemed himself at the line by making 2-2.

Jefferson did his part for the Nets by scoring on two consecutive possessions for New Jersey, the second on a slam after stealing the ball from Grant Long.  He added insult to injury, and tied the score at 29, by scoring again after Pierce turned the ball over on a traveling violation.  After Grant was called for an offensive foul, timeout was taken with 8:53 left in the half, and the score tied at 29 points each.

Kenyon Martin came out of the timeout by going in for a layup off a pass from Jefferson.  Then, Williams (NJ) fouled our Williams, who made both at the line.  Itís always an adventure for Eric at the line, but I was glad he made both this trip!! That gave Boston the lead at 31-30.

The teams traded a few misses before Bremer fouled Harris, who went to the line, making both.  Then Kerry Kittles returned the favor, sending Antoine to the line.  Sadly, Walker broke the string of made free throws, missing one.  The game was now tied at 32 each with 7:17 to go in the half.

The Nets forged ahead on a shot by Jefferson and a trip to the line by Kenyon.  Then Kidd passed off to Martin for a hook shot, prompting a Celtics timeout with 6:01 left, and the Nets now leading it, 38-32.

After the timeout, Eric Williams poured the ball gently into the net for two, only to have Kidd feed Kenyon for the alley-oop dunk at the other end.  Walker and Jefferson then traded layups, before Martin made another steal of the ballówill someone please put glue on the Celticsí hands???  Fortunately, Eric rebounded the miss by Harris.  That led to a conventional three-point play from Pierce as he made the free throw.  The teams traded misses until Pierce was called for a foul going up for a rebound, sending the Nets to the line once more.  Jefferson made both, and the Nets were up 44-39 with 3:30 left in the half.

Mark Blount made a slam dunk, only to have to seethe as Kidd stole the ball from Bremer.  I was seething, too.  Williams committed a foul, and the Nets called timeout with 2:37 to go in the half and the Nets holding a 44-41 lead.

Following the timeout, Harris made both free throws, and Pierce passed to Blount for two.  Unfortunately, Tony Delk announced his return to the game by getting called for a foul.  Kenyon made both, and then Harris made a jumper to boot.  The teams traded misses, crashing the boards at both ends before Kidd made a three-pointer to boost the Net lead.  Harris closed out the half with another basket, as the Nets went to the halftime with a 55-43 lead.

The Nets were indeed ahead, but not oppressively so.  The shots from the field overall were still fairly close, with the Nets going 20-41 for 48.8%, and Boston 17-39 for 43.6%.  It would definitely be necessary for the Cís to not only avoid the dreaded third quarter drought, but to cut down on the Netsí scoring.  The threes werenít falling for either team tonight, with New Jersey making the only successful attempt in the quarter, now 1-7 for 14.3%, while Boston was 1-11 for 9.1%.  Definitely not a night for the deep stuff.  So far, anyway.

The Nets took full advantage of the free throw line, going 14-16 for 87.5%, as Boston followed suit at 8-11 for 72.7%.  Turnovers were alarming, as both teams doubled their totals from the first halfómeaning it was now 10-2 with Boston unfortunately holding the edge.  On the plus side, the Cís had a 24-22 edge in paint points, and a 24-21 rebounding edge.  Would that they held the lead in points!!

This was the part I worried most about, as the third quarter started.  The game could be won or lost in the next 12 minutes.  I was hoping for a Celtics defensive stand of legendary proportions.  At the least, I was hoping that Celtics fans in New Jersey wouldnít get laughed at and poked with sticks tomorrow.

Third Quarter:

The teams traded misses to open the quarter.  Then Jefferson nailed a jumper to extend the New Jersey lead.  Another Boston miss resulted in a Kittles jumper.  This was followed by Walker getting called for a foul while going up for the rebound followed this.  Kenyon made both at the line.  Pierce got the ball to Battie for a jump shot, but Kidd responded with a jump shot at the other end.  Several possessions later, Kenyon went 1-2 at the line.  Pierce then stole the ball from Kidd, but his shot was stuffed by Kittles, and the rebound came back to Kidd.  Jefferson then fouled Bremer, who went 1-2 at the line.

The Cís crashed the offensive boards trying to score, only to see the Nets end up with the ball and another basket.  Timeout was called with 7:07 left in the third quarter and the Nets now opening up a 66-46 lead.

Following the timeout, Pierce stole the ball from Jason Collins.  A jump ball was called between Mark Blount and Kenyon Martin, with the ball ending up in the hands of Walker, who sank the basket.  Unfortunately, Blount then fouled Kenyon, and one trip to the free throw line later; the Nets had added two more points to their lead.  Walker then got the ball to Pierce for two.  Kidd then replied with a pass to Kittles for another alley-oop dunk.  Blount then committed his third foul, sending Jefferson to the line for two more.  Kenyon returned the favor by sending Delk to the line at the other end.  This brought the lead back down to 20 points.

The teams, apparently a little winded, traded successive turnovers over the next 5 seconds of play, giving the Cís hope that the Nets might be too tired after scoring all those points to hold onto the lead.  This continued until timeout was called with 3:51 left in the third quarter and the score still favoring the Nets, 72-52.

Following the timeout, the teams traded misses, before Pierce offset his layup by sending Harris to the line.  At least he missed both.  The teams then committed another series of turnovers; apparently, the ball is a tad slippery tonight.  This went on until Williams got two more for the Nets.

The Celtics were, as they had been all night, working the boards, but what they needed were points, not rebounds.  They got two as Battie went to the line.  Harris rebounded a Pierce miss and passed to Kidd for two more.  Harris made up for this by fouling Pierce.  He made both, but lost the ball on yet another steal as Jefferson went in close for another layup.  The third ended with the Nets leading 78-58.

This was not good, to say the least.  The Celtics struggled to score in double digits in the quarter.  By this stage of the game, the FGP still favored the Nets, who were now 28-58 for 48.3%, only dropping .3% from the halftime; while Boston had sunk to 21-61 and 334.4% shooting. That meant they were 3-22 in the third quarter.  Eep.  No one made a three in the quarter, though they triedóthe Nets were now 1-7for 14.3% and Boston was 1-19 for 5.3%.  New Jersey was slightly less productive at the free throw line, now 21-26 for 80.8% as the Cís went 15-19 for 78.9%.  Both teams were still careless with the ball, but Boston held the turnover edge at 15-9.  Both teams had 30 paint points.  The Good Guys took solace from a 36-35 rebounding edge.

Now, they had to somehow climb out of this deep hole.  Theyíd done it before, including against the Nets.  But it was going to be tough.
Fourth quarter:

Boston started where they finished, with Bremer missing a shot and Jefferson getting the rebound.  At least Harrisí shot missed.  The Cís couldnít score at the other end, but Aaron Williams was called for his fourth foul.  This sent Battie to the line for 2 more points.  Good thing the free throws were going better than the threes were!!  Then Aaron Williams went to the line, making 1-2.  Eric rebounded the miss, and Bimbo Coles got the pumpkin to Battie for two more.  Sad to say, though, Battie soon got the ball stolen from him by Jefferson.  This led to Rodney Rogers hitting a three.  Battie got two of those points back on the next possession.  A couple of empty possessions went by before timeout was called with 8:09 left in the game and the Nets now leading it 81-64.

After the timeout, the teams traded some more misses.  This was not good if the Cís wanted to make inroads on the New Jersey lead.  Over two minutes went by with neither team able to put up any points before Boston called timeout with 5:48 left in the game, and the score still 81-64.

After the game resumed, a basket was finally scored with 5:04 left.  Unfortunately, it was by Anthony Johnson of the Nets.  Harris and Coles then traded jump shots.  The teams then traded another series of missed shots, as time grew short for the Good Guys.  Coles got another jumper and the Nets called timeout with 2:48 left in the game and the score 85-68.

The Nets knew this was in the bag when Tamar Slay came in after the timeout.  Iím not sure his teammates even knew who he was.  The teams continued to trade misses.  Would that the score was close, this would have been a prime chance to have people screaming and tearing their hair out.  Well, that was probably happening anyway on the Boston Bench.  Coles dropped a shot, and the deficit to 15 points, but there was only 1:47 left by that time.  Scalabrine made a tip-in, and stole the ball from Blount for good measure.  Bimbo Coles put in two more from the line with 30 seconds left, making him one of the most productive players in the quarter.  Coles then got the ball to Blount for a jumper to end the scoring with 6 seconds left, after which the Nets dribbled out the clock.  The Nets won it, 87-74, in a game that started really, really close, got blown out in the middle, before Boston tried to make it look respectable at the end.

The stats at the end told the grim tale.  The Nets had actually shot so poorly in the final quarter they were now 32-81 for 39.5%.  The problem was, the Celtics had gone 27-80 for 33.8%.  Nobody could hit a three in the final quarter, as the Nets were 1-11 for 9.1% and Boston was 1-21 for 4.8%.  Ouch!  Free throws werenít much of a factor for the Nets, who ended up 22-28 for 78.6%, but Boston was able to bring themselves up a bit by going 19-23 for 82.6%.  Boston had 20 turnovers to the Netsí 11.  New Jersey had a 34-30 edge in paint points.  Boston did out rebound the Nets 52-47, but many of those were because the Cís shot so poorly.

What can be said?  The Cís came up short against a New Jersey team that stole the ball so often they should have faced Federal theft charges.  Boston wasnít able to keep control of the ball, and on those occasions when they did manage to reach the basket, they often missed.  Not that the Nets didnít have a stinkeroo of their own in the third quarter, but they were up by twenty points at the time.  The Cís didnít have that advantage.  Boston needs to stop yakking about ďPlayoff toughnessĒ and play to win the game theyíre actually playing.  At the rate theyíre playing tonight, they could end up going home in April instead of contending in June.

The Cís now go to Indiana to play the Pacers tomorrow night.  Will they be ready, or will they end up an easy ďWĒ on Isiahís schedule?  Letís hope they play better than tonight, or itís gonna be a looong summer.

And thatís the view from the doghouse.