The Utah Jazz were not the formidable team of
years past, though it's not like you can EVER take Stockto and Malone for
granted. Still, if the Jazz didn't bring their full measure of effort
to the game, the Celtics had a good chance to win, going in.
The Celtics came out on cruise control in the first quarter. Everything from defense to offense was working so smoothly it looked like they were barely aware that a game was in progress. Utah couldn't get a hoop if they had offered to take Mitt Romney back in trade. The Jazz took 10 minutes to score it's first 11 points.
The only drawback was that Tony Battie got in early foul trouble, yet it didn't seem to matter in the first quarter. Tony Delk continued his steady improvement over the last several games, displaying the scoring touch that he lacked at the end of last year. Vin Baker came in to replace Battie, and at long last he seemed to be getting the feel for the Celtic style of basketball, at both ends of the court.
And, of course...Tommy still Loves Waltah! (I wonder that the tabloids haven't commented on that...)
The Celts went inside early and often, balancing their offensive attack and Pierce in particular was devastating with his passing. But it all came from the tight defense being played not only by the starters, but the bench. They really seemed to be putting it all together as the lead continued to build.
How good was it? The C's were 10-22 while holding Utah to 4-13. We had nearly twice as many rebounds at 13-7, and the Jazz had 8 turnovers after one quarter.
The Good Guys were rebounding, passing and getting to the open man on, it seemed, every possession. Everything was going Boston's way to such an extent that I was worried that the Good Guys would start taking things for granted.
I need to tell my worrier to shut up.
The first quarter ended with the C's rolling along, 29-14.
The Celtics offense totally fell apart. This was coupled with the DEFENSE following suit, letting the Jazz not only get back into the game, but to take the lead! I don't want to point paws, but this DID coincide with Cedric Maxwell sitting in with Tommy and Mike in the second quarter...
The change was drastic. With 4:32 to go in the second, the Jazz had scored 18 points in the quarter.
Boston had scored 2 points. That's T.W.O. (or Totally Without Offense) points.
The Jazz were moving the ball better, and their
bench was monstrous in the second, kicking the Celtics around like the
Celtics did to the Lakers the other night. But as the
final minutes wore down, the C's seemed to shake off the spell of slumber--though
not enough to mount an honest-to-God fast break--and came back into contention.
Vin Baker was starting to have a positive effect, but when you're shooting
20% in a quarter, you just have to be grateful you're not playing Dallas.
The Jazz took the lead going into halftime, 45-41.
The halftime was punctuated by the formal recognition of the 1,000 games of the Mike and Tommy show. Clips were shown, kind words said, and an award presented. Even the refs smiled. :>)
To this point the Celtics showed that they were capable of utterly dominating the Jazz. Unfortunately, they also showed that they really needed to get a dictionary and be made to look up the word "continuity". Utah was not about to lay down and die to satisfy the Celtics win/loss record.
What needed to happen was for Boston to come roaring back and show what they could do on a consistent basis. Otherwise Stockton and Malone were going to run us over on their way to the Social Security office.
This brought us the added entertainment of Big Bill Walton joining his voice to Heinsohn's as they berated the refs throughout the third quarter. The refs gave them LOTS to talk about. You'd think Violet Palmer was officiating.
They also had a few choice words for the Celtics bench, which had been embarrassed by the Utah bench to the tune of 33-8 points thus far. They must have heard. Things began to pick up again. They started drawing fouls against Utah and going to the line. The Celtics defense kept trying to come back, only to face eight guys on several occasions--three of them ostensibly impartial.
There was an additional problem as BOTH Eric Williams and Tony Battie were on the bench with four fouls. This meant that we needed to see defense from Vin Baker, among others. This came to pass, and the Celtics started moving the ball again, and looking for the open man. Pierce realized that Utah was determined to run at him when he went inside and this led to his developing a new strategy that will open up the Celtics scoring immensely. He started passing out of the double team. I think some people in the NBA must think Pierce is a ball hog, because they simply did not play him for the pass, only for the shot. The passing was so effective that he was able to make the same pass on two consecutive posessions out to Tony Delk, who shot an open three both times.
That pair of plays gave the Celtics a 2 point lead at 60-58 with 6 minutes to go in the third. As part of this, the Celtics denied Utah ANY shots on three consecutive posessions. The defense was back--and so was the offense, as Vin Baker started cleaning up under the rim, just like we all hoped he would do.
It was like watching a train rolling down the
track--slowly at first, then gathering speed, and Utah was a speed bump
on the tracks. The Good Guys just poured it on as the quarter wound
down, and when it was over, the Celtics held the lead at 82-73.
The C's were practicing their inside game and Vin Baker was working his way inside to help. The Jazz continued to have eight guys on some plays, though things camled down a bit after a few minutes. Plus, the Celtics hit from outside, and kept up the pressuer--and the lead. Walker seems to have rediscovered his offense. He was well into double figures, along with Pierce. The Bench hadn't QUITE atoned for their second quarter breakdown, but the starters bailed them out--as did Utah, with nearly twice as many turnovers as Boston. The Celtics reached 100 points with half a quarter to go.
Not that this lessened the intensity--the Celtics continued to play hard, as did the Jazz. They continued to play hard, and Waltah distinguished himself on the court. Nobody wanted to see another last-minute comback--nobody on OUR team, anyway. :>)
Following a timeout with 1:50 to go in the game, and the score 110-89, Utah Coach Sloan formally surrendered by emptying his bench, and Jim O'Brien accepted by putting J.R. Bremer into the game.
The game ended peacefully as the Celtics won it,
112-95, to extend their win streak to 5, and their record to 5-2 for the
This game was quite literally a wake-up call for the Boston Celtics, as they fell asleep at the switch following a first quarter that was smooth enough to skate on, only to see their lead evaporate in the second quarter. This is not the first time they've done this--they need to learn how to KEEP those big leads, though at least this time, they didn't dig themselves a big hole. Nor did they make a nerve wracking end. The last quarter was decisive after the C's regained their composure--and the lead--at the end of the third.
I like much of what I see--Vin Baker becoming more effective, Tony Delk shooting well and consistently, and Pierce and Walker recognizing who's hot and passing the ball out more. Battie and Eric Williams are getting the rebounding done, and once Baker is settled in more, I think he'll be rebounding a lot more too.
There's room--and need--for improvement. The Celtics need NOT to fall asleep after getting the big lead. More than any other team, they should know that no lead is safe until it's physically impossible to come back and steal the game. Pierce needs to get his shot a little more under control. Walker needs just a little more zip on some of his passes--that'll cut down his turnovers. Baker needs to know where and when to expect the pass.
But after a slow start--common to just about every team in the NBA this year--the Celtics are emerging as a truly elite team, ready to show that last season wasn't a fluke. We started the season tied for last place in the division. Now we're tied for first place in the division. Next up is the Phildelphia 76ers on Wednesday. That should be fun as their portable MASH unit, otherwise known as Allen Iverson, shows us why the NBA needs really good medical insurance.
And that's the view from the doghouse.
Scoring by quarters:
|1st quarter||2nd quarter||3rd quarter||4th quarter||Final|