Celtics vs. Wahsington Wizards Oct 25, 2002, 8:00pm (Preseason)
Coming into the game, the Good Guys had been in kind of a slump after losing 4 of their last 5 games of the preseason.  This game was nationally broadcast on ESPN, and Jordan deigned to make an appearance on the parquet floor of the Fleet.  The last few days had seen angry rumblings from nervous fans about offense, defense, rebounding, and Vin Baker.  Tonight was an important game, despite the "preseason" tag--this was For Real, and the Celtics had better be up to the challenge.

The word came forth that Jordan wouldn't start because "he needed rest".  Got news for ESPN, not many teams put 40+ year old guys in the starting lineup (unless they're the Knicks, who right now will take anyone who can limp onto the court unassisted--why else is Spreewell still on the roster?).
 

First Quarter:

The game began as the Celtics took the opening tip, courtesy of Tony "BAA-tee", as the ESPN guys kept mispronouncing it.  The early Celtics posessions had good ball movement.   Unfortunately, it was coupled with truly horrendous outside shooting.  On the other paw, Stackhouse was on his way to a really good shooting night, having been presonally responsible for the first 5 Wizard points.  The C's began by hitting one of two free throws (mustn't...preach...again....AARGH).

The rebounds were not good as the game began, though they got better  The Wizards, apart from Stackhouse, were shooting as badly as Boston.  Boston never really seemed to be willing to guard Stackhouse closely out on the perimeter, even after he showed he was hitting consistently.  We got a glimmer of what was to come as Eric Williams scored the first field points by going to the hoop.  The Wizards didn't take advantage of Boston miscues, making several of their own, and the game remained close.

The announcers quoted Jim O'Brien as saying he wanted the Celtics to lead the NBA in threes attempted and made and that he also told them, "I don't want my point guards to make assists, I want them shooting the ball.  I especially wan them shooting threes."--which seems at least partially at odds with other quotes attributed to him within the last 24 hours, as he had then said he was emphasizing "the pass to make the assist" as well as the pass to the score; and wanting to work on rebounding,which would seem to negate having EVERYONE shoot the three.  Which quotes are accurate--or accurately reported?  I have no idea, he doesn't tell ME anything.  (Though I'd be happy to remedy that someday.)

Things stayed quiescent until there were 4 minutes left in the quarter.  Walker stole the ball and zipped upcourt with it, then passed the pumpkin to Pierce at the three point line.  Pierce then made a statue of liberty leap from just inside the free throw line over Jerry Stackhouse for a really cool looking basket.  This tied the score at 14.  People got excited when Jordan came into the game at this point (in fact, from the sound, someone in the cheap seats had an orgasmic experience).  But at this point, it was Jerry Stackhouse who needed to have attention paid to him.  He had 15 of Washington's 25 first quarter points!

Shammond came in and promptly sank a three.  Vin Baker made a great defensive play, getting the rebound, and as he went flying out of bounds, lobbed the ball off the Wizard's Etan Thomas to retain posession.  Baker was the inside presence we've been looking for, and tonight he finally showed me he was serious about playing here.  In fact, they immediately showed him respect by doubling him the next time up, leaving the perimeter open.  As the quarter ended, the Celtics tightened up the defense and did some serioue rebounding at last, and it paid off dividends as the C's finally got points off offensve and defensive rebounds.  The quarter ended as the Good Guys held on to a 26-25 lead.
 

Second Quarter:

Things started off with the right idea, as Vin Baker caught a nice inside pass.  Unfortunately, His dunk was interrupted by Michael Jordan's block.  Still, it was the right idea.  As the quarter, and game, progressed, I saw more and more times when at least one Celtic player went after rebounds at both ends.

This was emphasized as with just over 5 minutes to go in the quarter, and the shot clock under 4 seconds, Walker fired up a "shot clock three" that missed.  Pierce was there, and grabbed the rebound against FOUR Washington players, and put it in the hoop for two.  The score remained close throughout the quarter.  It became evident that the C's still need to work on the inside pass, but it was nice to see the inside pass even being made.  It also was clear that the three was not falling for the Celtics at this point, so it was a great relief to see them working the inside.  The C's had FOUR TIMES as many paint points as the Wizards by halftime.  The teams played each other even to the half, as the second quarter ended with the score tied at 49.
 

HALFTIME

Cookie Break!!

Extra Cookie Break!!  (Hey, it's Beagle Day.)

This was uneven in places, but to me, much improved play from the Celtics.  The rebounds were there, even though Washington held the edge, at this point.  The C's were getting a lot more rebounds than they had been lately.  The defense was getting there, and Baker seemed to be finally getting into the flow of things a bit.  I felt that if the Celtics could just make a decent run offensively and keep the defense tight, they would win this one.  (They'd better, I thought--I had predicted a win in the Beagle Day "To Do" list).

The free throws were a problem--we were hitting only 33% from the line.  This was compounded by the fact that to this point, the Celtics had only attempted six free throws to begin with, compared to Washing going 17 of 17 from the line.  Considering that the C's were getting so many points in the paint, I think the refs might have been a little...say....off-kilter?

ESPN reported that at halftime, Coach O'Brien expressed displeasure to the team that the Celtics were not playing the kind of defense that made them win games last year.  He was thrilled that the Good Guys were shooting over 50% in the first half--the problem was, he said, so were the Wizards--actually, they were at 46%--in any case, he found this unacceptable.  He instructed them to work the defense and create fast breaks.

Cookie Break!!

Extra Cookie Break!!
 

Third Quarter:

The teams were neck and neck once again in the third, and neither could seem to gain any real ground.  The C's did tighten up their defense, and it showed.  When the defense had some problems, they rebounded.  It was nice to see, really nice.  The main problem was the Celtics had no answer for Stackhouse.  He just kept firing away and hitting, especially from outside.  I kept thinking, they really need to get someone on him, but he was hitting even when they DID defend him.  If the Wizards were to win, it would be due to Stackhouse.  If the Celtics won, it would be because they found a way to nullify his input. The Wizards made a mini-run as the last two minutes went down, to break a tie and take the lead as the third quarter ended, 74-71.
 

Fourth Quarter:

At this point, the Celtics had to make their stand if they wanted to win.  And it bacame obvious they did, indeed, want to win.  The Wizards pushed their lead to four points before the Good Guys worked the defense and rebounding to make their stand.  With 9 minutes to go in the fourth, the score was tied at 77.  From there, the Celtics took command of the game, building a lead and slowly tightening the screws on the defensive end.  By the time there was 3:23 left in the game, the lead was 13.  By then, it was a matter of keeping up the work on the defensive end, and making sure that the Good Guys kept scoring often enough to stay ahead of the Wizards.  They did exactly that, and the game ended as the Celtics won, 104-95, to make the Celtics 4-4 for the preseason.
 

This was a very reassuring game, as the Celtics played better defense, rebounded batter, and generally looked more solid than they had previously.  They more than doubled Washington in paint points, they were narrowly outrebounded, 34-33 (including 25 defensive rebounds for Boston), they played well inside.  They did shoot badly from the free throw line, an collective 77.1%, but with the other factors coming together, there will be time to work on that basic fundamental.  Vin Baker played 27 minutes, had 6 points, 3 assists, and 4 rebounds.  He also looked more comfy out there, and I think it's starting to click for him mentally.  People seem to universally say he's a slow starter in preseason, so I'm willing to see what happens as the regular season gets underway.

I'd like to see the C's do more to contain hot shooters like Stackhouse on the perimeter, but it'll help that the rebounding is much improved.  All in all, an enjoyable game, and hopefully, a harbinger of things to come.  We'll have a chance to see a rematch soon, as the second game of the regular season will be against the Wizards, also nationally broadcast (on TNT).

This marked the end of the preseason games, and starting next week, it all counts.  The run for #17 officially begins as the Good Guys face the Chicago Bulls at the Centah on Wednesday, Oct 30 at 7pm.

And that's the view from the doghouse.

Scoring by quarters:
1st quarter 2nd quarter 3rd quarter 4th quarter Final fast break points paint points biggest lead
Wizards 25 24 25 21 95 14 20 5
Celtics 26 23 22 33 104 10 48 12

Washington Wizards
PLAYER POS MIN FGM-A 3GM-A FTM-A OFFR DEFR TOTR AST PF ST TO BS PTS
JERRY STACKHOUSE G 36 11-15 3-5 11-11 1 0 1 3 3 1 3 1 36
LARRY HUGHES G 33 6-9 0-0 3-4 2 1 3 2 3 1 1 0 11
KWAME BROWN F 40 4-9 0-0 3-5 1 5 6 1 2 0 1 0 15
BRYON RUSSELL F 31 1-7 1-4 1-2 0 9 9 5 4 0 1 0 4
BRENDAN HAYWOOD C 11 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 0 2 0 3 0 0
Michael Jordan 23 5-13 1-2 3-5 0 0 0 4 5 2 3 1 14
Jared Jeffries 20 2-4 0-0 4-7 1 5 6 0 2 0 2 0 8
Tyronn Lue 17 3-7 1-2 0-0 1 1 2 2 5 1 2 0 7
Etan Thomas 15 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 2 3 1 3 1 3 0 0
Charles Oakley 13 0-2 0-0 0-0 2 0 2 3 4 1 1 0 0
Juan Dixon 1 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jahidi White DNP
George McCloud DNP
Bobby Simmons DNP
Brian Cardinal DNP
Christian Laettner DNP
Ratko Varda DNP
TOTAL 240 32-68 6-14 25-34 9 25 34 21 33 7 20 2 95
47.1% 42.9% 73.5%
Team Rebounds: 14
Total TO: 21

Boston Celtics
PLAYER POS MIN FGM-A 3GM-A FTM-A OFFR DEFR TOTR AST PF ST TO BS PTS
PAUL PIERCE G 39 10-20 1-5 10-15 2 5 7 5 5 2 2 1 31
TONY DELK G 36 6-11 1-5 2-3 0 3 3 0 2 2 0 0 15
ANTOINE WALKER F 40 6-14 1-5 0-0 0 3 3 9 4 0 4 1 13
ERIC WILLIAMS F 25 2-5 0-1 2-4 2 2 4 0 2 0 1 0 6
TONY BATTIE C 19 5-7 0-0 4-4 1 2 3 0 6 0 0 0 14
Vin Baker 27 2-4 0-0 2-2 1 3 4 3 2 0 1 1 6
Shammond Williams 22 3-7 1-3 7-7 0 3 3 3 4 1 3 0 14
Walter McCarty 15 2-2 1-1 0-0 0 3 3 0 2 0 1 0 5
Bruno Sundov 12 0-2 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 0 2 0 2 0 0
J.R. Bremer 4 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ruben Wolkowyski 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 0
Kedrick Brown DNP
TOTAL 240 36-73 5-21 27-35 6 27 33 20 30 5 14 3 104
49.3% 23.8% 77.1%
Team Rebounds: 9
Total TO: 14