Pregame: In an interview with the Celtics General Manager Chris Wallace, the discussion began with comments about Rodney Rogers Wallace said it felt "strange" and wished Rodney all the best--except "the few times a year tye play us". Wallace said what they were capable of doing financially to get Rogers wasn't going to cut it.
He also addressed the injury situation, hoping that Kedrick Brown would return before forcing the issue of signing other players. The four players currently unsigned on the Celtics have "done a terriffic job so far, but realisticly have no chance at all" of being signed as a replacement for Brown.
Wallace was hopeful that the "injury bug" would stay away and that Kedrick's injury would be the extent of it. Otherwise, the Celtics could end up sharing the cellar with he Knicks. Per Wallace, they're all "virtually on pins and needles" every time there's a collision in practice.
He believs the Nets will look different with Mutombo this year, but still considers them the current favorite in the Eastern Conference. He referred to Kidd as the best player in the Conference. He felt there was "very little difference" in the teams in the Eastern Conference, and that some teams--like Chicago--"could be dangerous".
Wallace's reaction to the new owners--he hasn't spent much time with them thus far, but thery're "very upbeat and energetic". The estimated timetable to finalize new ownership is expected to be somewhere around early to mid December. No problems forseen.
In an interview with Coach Jim O'Brien, when asked
if the 2nd game the style they wanted to play, he said "No, not defensively--also
speaking for our players. He wants to score easily, but shut them
down on defense--He mentioned wanting a high volume of "good perimeter
looks". When asked for an update on Kedrick, he replied, "He's out--how's
that for an update?" He elaborated that Kedrick was expected to be
out 4-6 weeks. O'Brien's mindset is "not worry too much other than
fast rehab" for Brown--they must put the team together without him short
term. When asked who gets Brown's minutes, he commented that they
might go to Delk and Bremer on smaller teams, and move people around for
bigger teams. "We have options", he stated. The Coach doesn't
obsess about injuries--just wants to do what is best putting the team together
for the season. On Rodney Rogers, O'Brien called him a "unique player
who gave the Celtics tremendous outside presence". Subsequently,
he commented they've got people that will create something hopefully that
is as tough at spreading the other team's defense.
Celtics took the opening ball, good ball movement, then Pierce nailed an 8ft shot. The teams both moving VERY fast, may be a high scoring game if pace continues. Kittles took a really bad shot in the face of the C's defense. Pierce hit a quick three to beat the defense. New Jersey winning most of the rebounds, while missing first nine shots. Pierce seems to be enjoying playing here. Walker also showed he can hit the three. This made it 8-0 Celtics. It was over three minutes into the game that the Nets scored a basket.
Delk was also hitting his shots. Unfortunately, Kidd was still hitting deperation baskets. But Pierce made it 13-5 on yet another shot. Mutombo was doing well collecting fouls against the Celtics, not so well on free throws, 1 of 2. Jefferson nailed a 17 ft jumper over Walker--at least they forced a tough shot.
New Jersey was quickly trying to capitalize on Mutombo's height, with some degree of success, including a natural three point play. Battie's attempt at a jumper over Mutombo was ill-advised. Rebounding was once again a problem for Boston, looking at a 13-4 rebounding deficit. They were complimentary of Tony Delk, saying he looked much more comfortable. It's tough to tell if the low score of New Jersey is due more to Boston's defense or poor shooting by the Nets. Either way, I'll take it. The C's shooting 6 of 11 from the floor, the Nets 4 of 17.
A timeout was called with 5:57 in the quarter and the Celtics led 17-11.
Kenyon Martin hit free throws to help the Nets,
and added a rebound shortly afterward. The teams had
trouble hitting anything after the timeout. Vin Baker had come in to challenge with Mutombo with quickness. Then, Rodney Rogers--looking heavier then we were used to--came in.
Walker and Martin got tangled up, resulting in Walker's third foul--plus a technical. Sundov came in to replace Walker as Kidd hit the T free throw. Another technical foul on the three seconds were called against Boston. The lead was cut 17-15 after that. Then Harris made a shot and the foul to tie things up for New Jersey--the free throw, made it a one point lead for the Nets.
Tony Delk then laser beamed another shot, which was answered by New Jersey moments later. Baker drew a foul going in on Kenyon Martin, sounds like he really is fast. The Nets were balancing bad shooting with great rebounding and an abundance of free throws. Then Rogers hit a three for New Jersey. A timeout was called with 2:56 to go, and the score favoring New Jersey, 23-20.
After the timeout, Pierce was on the free throw line, missing the technical...sigh. Then the Nets handed the ball over to Boston, where good ball movement did not result in a basket. Waltuh! entered the game, C's still trailing by 2. Kidd made an offensive foul pushing Shammond (darn, how did we get that call??)
The C's committed a turnover to hand the Nets
the ball, which results in Harris getting a layup over Waltuh!. Shammond
responded with a deep three when the defense closed the lane down.
Suddenly, a foul was being called every other second, making the first
quarter drag at the end. The Nets closed the quarter with a flurry
of effort as Rogers was fouled on a bad shot that wouldn't have beaten
the shot clock. The first quarter ended with New Jersey on a 20-9
run on on 18-8 rebounding despite shooting 37% from the floor. The
Nets led, 31-26.
The second quarter opened up with the Celtics needing to play catch up after the Nets ground out a five point lead. That was difficult as the Nets hit another shot to open a 7 point lead. Rogers cause the Celtics several problems on the C's offense. The C's seemed to be working the perimeter exclusively--all their attempts were from at or near the three point line. The Nets had opened up a 9 point lead, and the C's were going nowhere fast. Continued missed threes kept leading to New Jersey fast breaks. Coach O'Brien called a timeout with 9:53 to go, and the Nets up 37-26. At this point, I was frantically hoping that someone would say "Guys, shooting threes only works if the ball goes in--let's go inside and see what happens, huh?" Of course, I also hope that the Celtics will send me lifetime season tickets for free. Wonder which will happen first?
After the timeout, and in danger of receiving a New Jersey butt kicking, the C's tried to go to the hoop, but were stopped by a New Jersey foul, after which they went right back outside. Sundov was actually getting rebounds, and got a basket to put the C's withing 9 points. Then, the C's made yet another defensive three seconds call. The Nets got the free throw. Pierce got a rebound and Delk hit a long 2 to make it 38-30, before Rogers hit a hoop of his own for New Jersey, using Scalabrini as a decoy. Pierce then hit a shot of his own. Sundov hit one over Aaron Williams inside, and a timeout was called with 5:53 to go in the second quarter, and New Jersey still ahead, 40-34.
The teams came out of the timeout trading possessions for an extended period of time until New Jersey hit two free throws. Then the Celtics hit a three courtesy of Pierce. Scalabrini seemed to be everywhere on defense and a factor on offense. Another timeout was called, with the Nets ahead, 42-37.
The Celtics were getting a lot of chances, but overwhelmingly shot the three and got nothing as New Jersey gobbled up rebounds like beagles gobble up chocolate to the tune of a 29-18 rebounding edge. Baker went to the line courtesy of a Mutombo foul. Mutombo then made two consecutive lane violations, then Ruben W. of the C's made a lane violation....sigh. Baker finally left the line and the game began again.
The teams traded baskets a bit, then Baker knocked down Mutombo--who evidently has taken acting lessons. The teams traded possessions a few more times, then another foul--the third on Baker. He seems to be forcing his offense without any clear plays designated for him. Shammond beat the Jersey defense and drew a foul. Another three missed it's target, and the C's reset a play thet ended up a Net ball, followed by a New Jersey foul that ended up being called against Boston. Then, an inadvertent tripping foul sent the Nets to the line to close out the quarter. After the free throws, the quarter ended with the Nets leading 52-41 at halftime.
They discussed the May 25, 2002 Eastern Conference final game against New Jersey, the 21 point comeback. Kind of appropriate as they were currently 11 points down. The Nets were shooting horribly--what kept them ahead was great rebounding and lots of free throws, combined with the Celtics not hitting their shots--most of which were from the three point line. Had the C's hit those outside shots, they'd be way ahead. As it is, they'll be hard pressed to win without shoring up the rebounding situation and limiting silly fouls.
The C's opened up with a turnover, which the Nets converted after several rebounds. Pierce was fouled on his shot, and went to the line for two, which met with limited success. The Nets continued to start fast breaks and getting fouled en route. Jefferson hit both free throws, and they continued to pound on the Good Guys. Battie replied with an inside hoop! (finally...)
Again, good ball movement resulted in a missed three for Boston, and New Jersey went back and repeated the last play, ending up at the line after the fast break. Kidd finally missed free throws...about time.
Walker brought the ball up, and Pierce missed a long two, which Kidd broke back to the other end, resulting in a hoop. The game seemed to be much longer by now, listening to New Jersey hit shots and running up the lead. Jefferson hit another three--even succeding where Boston wasn't. Battie got hit in the right foot, then, and the trainer went to check him out. Meanwhile, Vin Baker also got his foot stepped on as New Jersey scored again. And again. And again, building up an 18 point lead with 7:22 to go in the third and the Nets leading 65-47. This does not bode well for the Celtics' season unless there's a signifigant improvement in rebounding and shooting. It shows a tremendous defensive lapse as the Nets rebounded like the Celtics weren't even there--some to think of it, they often weren't there.
Pierce hit a three to stop the Nets run, for a moment anyway. Then Walker hit a fadeaway against Mutombo, unexpectedly. The Celtics seemed to be starting a run, as Pierce got fouled hard going to the hoop. They discovered that Pierce was wearing a microphone transmitter, which got dislodged in the play. The play continued as Kidd got hit with a travelling call. Williams hit an offensive rebound for a basket (yay!). The score closed to 68-55. Sundov picked off Kidd and sent it upcourt, again good ball movement ending in a missed three.
Mutombo and Sundov then got double technicals as they exchanged unpleasantries. Jefferson blocked Sundov's shot to give New Jersey the ball. The injury report was that Vin Baker had a mildly sprained right ankle, Battie banged his knee. (eep!)
Even still, the Celtics were still missing outside shots, then turning over the ball to the Nets. Sundov came up with a rebound off a Rogers miss, and again the C's moved the ball well, this time got fouled before shooting another bad shot. A timeout was called to let the scoreboard cool off.
After the timeout, Pierce missed and the Nets rebounded for an alley-oop basket. Sundov finally drove inside, only to be fouled by Rogers. New Jersey kept hitting baskets, to the tune of a 78-60 lead. As the quarter came to an end, Walker made a nice inside move to score. Then, the Nets tried an outside shot that missed. Waltuh! missed another outside shot, and Kenyon Martin hit a three. The third quarter ended with the Nets up by 19 points, 81-62. Two cookies says that Coach O'Brien's postgame comments include the words "hell and/or "damn".
The fourth opened with New Jersey picking up where they left off. Same with Boston, unfortunately. It was made known, amazingly, that the C's percentage from the three was actually better than from inside the line!! (ACK!!)
Walker banked in a shot while trying to draw a foul from Martin unsuccessfully. Shammond got a rebound (yay!), and tried to get something going. The C's seem to be able to move the ball well, then end up taking a 17 foot jump shot that often misses. On the other Paw, New Jersey is hitting outside shots quite nicely (aaugh!). A timeout was called with 8:18 to go in the game and the Nets up 88-70.
The C's came out of the timeout and hit both free throws. Unfortunately, it wasn't really stemming the tide as the Nets continued to work their will on offense. J.R Bremer made a nice move to the hoop and scored. Moves to live by.
Sundov made another rebound, conspicuous by their rarity among the Celtics players. Bremer repeated his inside move and scored again. New Jersey got another rebound, the stat sheet must be lopsided by now. Another timeout was called with 5:38 to go in the game and the score 91-76 in favor of the Nets.
By this point, all the Boston starters were on the bench. While it was still possible to come from behind and win, it would have required a tremendous effort that one just doesn't see in an exhibition game, so Boston emptied it's bench.
After the timeout, Ruben W. hit his free throws, and the Nets hit another jump shot. The Nets kept rebounding bad outside shots from Boston. Sundov hit a three to look good in garbage time. Shammond then got fouled after making a steal. The Celtics were to this point 16-47 inside the three point line.
The teams traded a couple of baskets, then the score was 95-85 until the Nets hit another three. At this point, the Boston subs were playing better than the starting lineup. When a timeout was called with 2:38 left, the score was 98-85 favoring the Nets. Still, the quick inside hoops showed the lack of inside scoring they'd simply not gotten from Pierce, Walker, Sundov, or Baker. Especially Baker. He simply wasn't an offensive factor tonight. The team really needs him, and fast. It would help if the team ran a few plays for him.
Yet again, good movement but the C's shooting only 37% to this point. Then Scalabrini fired up another three. Sundov nailed a three in response. The Nets had a shot clock violation, and the game slowly continued. With 1:18 to go, Shammond got run over and sent to the line, hitting 1 of 2, to make it 101-89.
The Nets missed one of their few fast break hoops, but by this time it dodn't matter. Sundov hit another three to give him 15 points for the night with time running down. The C's did their best to make it look respectable, shooting the three to the bitter end, and the game ended with a victory for the New Jersey Nets, 104-92.
The game was lost on the lack of rebounding and no inside presence to speak of for Boston. The Nets pinpointed Boston's weakness and repeatedly exploited it. Tough defense from Boston wasn't enough to negate Ner Jersey's rebounding edge--or the large number of free throws. The last culprit was Boston's overall shooting percentage, well below 40%, not enough to beat a tough New Jersey team.
The next game is Thursday night in Manchester, a "Home" game against these same Nets.
And that's the view from the doghouse.
This will be the first time the Celtics face the consequences of giving up Rodney Rogers to New Jersey in the offseason, getting nothing in return. Rogers helped the Celtics to the playoffs, and wasn't asking Gaston to break the bank to keep him in Boston. Unfortunately, the (thankfully) former owner refused to go anywhere near the luxury tax threshold, as it might have had an infinitely small effect on his financial holdings. Goodbye, Rodney.
New Jersey played the Celtics hard last year, in fact, were the only team more suprising to the NBA than the Celtics themselves for their success last season. In their season series, the Celtics went 3-1 against the Nets, having more success against them than anyone else. Unfortunately, a combination of stellar play by Jason Kidd, questionable play from Kenny Anderson, and some extremely questionable calls from the referees gave New Jersey the edge in the Eastern Conference finals, taking the Good Guys 4 out of 6 games.
Basically, the consensus is that New Jersey made itself better, but they didn't need to be a whole lot better to start with, except giving some offensive help to Kidd. This they have done with the addition of Rodney Rogers.
The Nets come into this game with a 2-0 preseason record--a distinction shared in the Eastern Conference only by Detroit and the Good Guys. So after tonight, someone goes 2-1.
This will be the first of two games in two days against the Nets, the second played at "home" (really in Manchester, NH) two days later. The play--and outcome--of this game may well have an impact on what happens in the second game. Neither team has it easy here, but this is a winnable game for the Good Guys, IF their defense is strong and Vin Baker makes the New Jersey defense choose between guarding him, or doubling Walker and/or Pierce. That will be solely dependent on his play in the two games against New York and Chicago leading up to New Jersey. If he plays well, the defense has a tough choice. If not, they'll dare him to take the outside shot and guard the proven offensive threats. That strategy worked well in the playoffs against Kenny Anderson, and there's no reason they won't stay with what worked so well against Boston previously.