The Celtics Beagle hard at work on another reviewCeltics vs. Toronto Raptors, Friday, October 14, 7:30pm in Manchester, NH.

There were a lot of questions leading into tonight's game about who would be playing Point Guard, but we learned for sure that tonight, at least, it wouldn't be Marcus Banks, who wend down with an injury to his shin, which was described as "a left tibia stress reaction".

Or, a leg injury, as we might call it.  This is the CBW, not CSI: Celtics.

Marcus did not travel with the team, nor will he be in Chicago for the next game.  Realistically,there probably won't be any solid news on the extent of the injury before Monday.  But that means that in addition to losing Tony Allen and Al Jefferson, the C's were now without another of their veterans, and would be for at least two games.  The bright side, such as it is, is that Al Jefferson seems to be coming along, and we might even see him back in harness before too long.

In the meantime, Doc Rivers had a major headache to deal with, adjusting who was going to play the point as he takes extended looks at the candidates for the job tonight. Lucky for Doc he has four other guys to play the position.

Tonight's game was technically a "home" game, despite being played in Manchester, NH.  The fans were more than ready for some fun, as the state had endured some serious flooding rains over the last week.

Toronto was coming off an overtime loss that their coach didn't take very well, giving his team hell in the media.  The Good Guys, meanwhile, were coming off the loss to Cleveland, in which the bench blew a huge lead that the starters had generated.  So, both teams were looking to do better.

CELTICS STARTERS:
Guards: Dan Dickau, Ricky Davis
Center: Mark Blount
Forwards: Paul Pierce, Raef LaFrentz

RAPTORS STARTERS:
Guards: Mike James, Jalen Rose
Center: Rafael Araujo
Forwards: Matt Bonner, Chris Bosh
Coached by: Sam Mitchell


FIRST QUARTER:

Greg Dickerson, the sideline guy on FSN this year, said that Dickau wouldn't play a lot, as Doc wanted to get a look at Will Bynum, who didn't play in the previous game; and Orien Greene.  This sounded like a very good idea as I got a look at Dickau.  The guy is 6 feet tall. That's right, just six feet.  As the game began, I wondered how the hell he was going to stop Mike James.  More on that in a minute.

On the Celtics first possession, a Pierce rebound of a Matt Bonner miss, I saw Paul take the ball upcourt himself, a very bad sign for the point guard, not to mention a bad sign for the team.  Paul needs not to do this.  It took so long to set up a play that they ended up passing the ball back to Pierce with 2 seconds left on the shot clock.  No good.

In fact, that could be said of many of the C's shot attempts in the quarter. They couldn't get a shot to go in, on those occasions when they weren't throwing the ball away.  Dickau wasn't moving fast, and it was obvious that his one move on every offensive set was to pass the ball to either Davis or Pierce.  Everyone knew he was doing that, and was ready for him.  The only thing that made their offense look good was their defense, as Dickau proved he couldn't guard Mike James...or anyone else, for that matter.  The Raptors realized this by their third possession, and routinely blew by Dickau.  On the other possessions, Matt Bonner ditched Pierce for basket after basket.

On one play, after James stripped Pierce--who was once again holding the ball too long--Raef made an impressive rejection and followed up by helping the guy he knocked over as he plowed into the stands to get up.  You take your highlights where you can get them.

Mark Blount showed he can rebound, but once again, the Celtics had more trouble scoring than a crude teenager at an upscale bar.  The only saving grace came at the free throw line, where Paul Pierce gradually made his presence known.  Meanwhile the C's were reverting to bad habits all over the place.  No running, people dribbling into the teeth of the defense, really stupid passes.  It actually made the previous game look good.  By now, Doc Rivers was probably giving consideration to getting Jefferson, Allen and Banks up there to play.

In the meantime, the combination of so-so defense by Pierce and nonexistent defence from Dickau was giving the Raptors a huge lead. With 7:47 left in the first quarter, Dickau managed to get his second foul as the Raptors led, 14-3.   This led to Orien Greene taking Dan's place.  The fact that Greene was 4 inches taller and 18 pounds heavier than Dickau meant that at least Mike James would have to move laterally in order to drive to the hoop.  Dickau's defense was about as effective on Toronto as a speed bump is on a fighter jet.  I'm sure Dickau is a nice guy, but looking at his play tonight, how does this guy stay in the NBA?  Either he was having an incredibly off night, or he's incredibly overrated.

Anyway, the C's now had Greene running the show.  The fact that Mark Blount scored on the next play was already an improvement.  On the defensive end, the second round draft pick rookie got more respect from the Raptors as they went off toward Bonner, who was still being sort of guarded by Pierce.  Everyone knows Paul's defense is iffy, why didn't someone switch off when Bonner started hitting everything?  I suspect that Doc's defense strategies are about as complete as Pierce's actual defense.

To be fair, Toronto's defense had it's problems, too.  Normally, they doubled whoever got the ball under the hoop, but Araujo kept trying to take Pierce one on one, which led Pierce to the line and Araujo to the bench with three fouls in less than 6 minutes.  So far, Pierce's free throws looked great.  A very smooth release, which was a massive relief after his travails at the line last season.

The C's defense showed an unexpected bright spot as Ricky Davis annoyed the living hell out of Mike James.  You'd think there was a bungee cord between them.  A very short cord.

Greene displayed some defensive ability, but also a habit of straying from his man to hang on the periphery of the rebounding action.  That's a bad habit in the making, and defense the way Pierce plays it, so let's hope that stops quickly.

Ricky Davis tried to make a quick behind the back pass to Mark Blount.  Again?  That trick NEVER works.  Blount cannot catch those passes.  He HAS to be ready for the pass, or he simply won't catch it.  On the positive side, Blount seems to have been working on his free throws.

Shortly afterward, Blount sat in favor of Kendrick Perkins.  On the next play, Greene showed a commitment to offensive rebounding and a nice hook shot.  The kid has possibilities. 

Late in the quarter, Brian Scalabrine came in, and immediately drove to the hoop for two.  Nice to see he knows he can cross the three point line without turning into a frog.  On the next play, though, he was too indecisive with the pumpkin and it was taken from him. Fortunately, Orien Greene was able to snag it back at the other end.  Ricky Davis zoomed to the hoop, and while the shot didn't go, he drew the foul for a trip to the line to add two points.  Justin Reed had entered the game by now, just in time to draw a charge to stop a fast break.  As the last minute of the quarter wound down, Ryan Gomes replaced Ricky, much to the relief of Mike James.

Perkins, at least, seems to know if you get doubled on the drive to the hoop, put up a hook shot.  His efforts led to one of two at the line.  By this time, thankfully, Bonner had cooled off, as Scalabrine committed a turnover.  The quarter mercifully ended with the Raptors ahead, 32-20 in an opening quarter where the C's didn't even look THAT good.

SECOND QUARTER:

How bad had the 1st quarter been?  Toronto MADE more field goals than Boston ATTEMPTED, going 13-24 against 5-12 for our side.  We were outrebounded 10-8, but there was one area where the Celtics outperformed the Raptors.  They led 13-6 in turnovers.

Oops.

As the second quarter began, everyone was curious to see how Ryan Gomes would do down low.  The problem with that was that they kept turning the ball over before he could show them.  Will Bynum made his first appearance as a Boston Celtic at this time, He ran well, and paid attention on offense.  He did ok on defense, even contesting a rebound.  Decent start for Will.

But Rivers called timeout to explain that the team needed to do "the little things".  I wondered if he was referring to the lack of offense or the lack of defense.  He apparently criticized the one pass and shoot offense as well.  Nice of him to notice, there in the second quarter.  Bynum showed his weakness--largely shared by the other PG contenders--that he can't bring the ball up well against pressure.  The C's really need to learn to come to the ball to facilitate the outlet pass.

Reed was moved over to guard Peterson, to see how he handled the challenge.  Perkins is still working on that hook shot.  If he can master it consistently, he'll be very tough to stop offensively.  Gomes can make free throws, always good news.  Gerald Green cannot play defense.  Fortunately, justice prevailed as the free throws were missed.

Toronto's defense relied heavily on collapsing to the basket and doubling whoever got the ball inside.  It left the outside jumper open, but it didn't matter, since Boston wasn't hitting consistently from anywhere but the foul line.  Scalabrine sat for Curtis Borchardt.  the Raptor's Villenueva. was playing quite well--sad to say for us--can't figure why people are down on him.

Bynum had a revelation and passed to beat the press, leading to an easy hoop for the Good Guys.  The bad news was that made the score 39-24 favoring Toronto with 8:23 left in the half.

Gomes showed patience, as did the rest of the team, and the C's stopped coughing up the ball like they were allergic to it.  Perkins showed poise at the free throw line after a tough foul.  By comparison, Toronto missed several chances to add to their score at the line.

Not that I'm complaining, mind you.

To my total disbelief, Dan Dickau was allowed back into the game.  Had I been coaching tonight, I would have sent him to the locker room after that first quarter, as an embarrassment to Bob Cousy.  His first act was to give Green the ball far enough from the hoop that an airball was a foregone conclusion.  His second act--presumably a form of seppuku--was to try to draw a charge on Villenueva, who metaphorically wondered what he tripped over on his way to the hoop.

Tommy Heinsohn was describing the players as gears and springs to equate their team roles. That'd make Dickau the little hand on the Mickey Mouse watch.  Dan promptly sat back on the bench, as he successfully convinced the ball boy he was allowed to sit there.

Orien Greene came in and promptly set up a play that ended with Pierce once more at the line.  Ricky Davis came in for Gerald Green, and we were about to be surprised in a pleasant way.  There was 6:46 left in the half, Toronto was up 42-26 and Tommy Heinsohn was once more publicly extolling the virtues of the Sixth Man and Ricky Davis, as if to prepare for Davis being assigned there once more.

The thing is, Ricky really is a starter, and he likes starting.  He took the Sixth Man role with reasonable aplomb last year, but every so often, he wants to start.  It's how he measures success and worthiness.  I don't really know--especially with the spate of injuries--if Doc can keep Davis on the bench.  But Ricky was about to make his case on another front.

Meanwhile, Mark Blount was doing his part, scoring inside and going to the line.  The free throws were keeping the C's in the offensive game.  Then Pierce fooled the defense into following him, and passed the pumpkin out to LaFrentz for an open jumper. Very nice work from Pierce.  Gomes came in for Greene, but Ryan wasn't playing Point Guard,  Ricky Davis was.

Ricky showed his proper attitude when play stopped on the C's defensive end, and one of the Raptors threw up a shot anyway.  Ricky leaped down the lane and swatted the ball away.

That's being a Celtics player.  He may not get a Tommy Point for that, but he did get a cookie.

Then he brought up the ball quickly, and passed properly, leading to a nice hoop by Blount.  I don't think Rivers seriously wants Ricky playing Point Guard on a regular basis.  I think he wanted to show the new guys what he meant by "bring the ball up fast".  Plus,Ricky occasionally will try those overly slick passes. But overall, he did a good job as PG.

When timeout was called with 2:51 remaining in the half, the score was 53-41 with Toronto leading.

There was good news as Paul Pierce seems to have recovered his shooting touch at the free throw line.  He made his 10th consecutive free throw to bring Boston within 8 points for the first time in a long while.  Meanwhile, Ricky continued to make life difficult for Mike James.  I hope Pierce pays attention to how active Ricky's defense is.

Three plays showed that the C's had come to life.  A furious offensive flurry led to an inside hoop by Raef, than on the other end, Ricky Davis slammed to the floor nearly picking off the ball, and was annoyed that he hadn't completed the steal off James.  Shortly afterward, Pierce was called for a blocking foul that should have been a charge...and he smiled, laughing it off.

Raef then got swatted shooting a three, and went to the line, making all three.  Toronto failed to score again before halftime, and the teams went to the break with Toronto leading it,  57-55.

HALFTIME:

The second quarter was a demonstration of patience following a disastrous first quarter. The C's were slowly getting their act together, and quite fortunate that the Raptors weren't on a hot scoring streak.  Statswise, Boston had improved by dint of their amazing second quarter comeback.  The Good Guys finally WERE good, shooting 54% to Toronto's 45%.  Free throws were Boston's salvation, as they went 25-28 whilst the Raptors were a meek 17-26 at the line.  Turnovers had improved,as the C's only committed 3 turnovers in the 2nd quarter, which Toronto matched.

The second half was anyone's game.  Could Toronto start another scoring streak?  Maybe, if Boston put Dickau on James again.  Could Boston's Point Guard contenders pick up where Ricky Davis had shown them the way? Likewise, the C's needed consistent scoring from everyone.  But there's no need to wait. Onward we go....


THIRD QUARTER:

Dan Dickau must have some incredible pictures somewhere, because he was back on the court again.  I think Chris Bosh strained himself either by shooting over Dan repeatedly or by holding in the laughter.  Dickau was useless out there. I hate to pick on the guy, but based on what I saw here, I cannot figure out what he's doing in an NBA uniform.

Raef hit a three as Pierce played decoy, giving the Celtics their first lead of the game of 57-57 with 10:28 left in the third quarter. 

OK, you Dan Dickau fans--you two, over there with Dickau's family. Dan made a very spiffy pass to a zooming Paul Pierce on the break for an easy two points that tied the game at 64 with 8:34 to go in the third quarter.  See?  It's easy to be nice when the guy does something good.  Savor it, because it took him 27 minutes and 26 seconds to do this and there's only 20 minutes and 34 seconds left in regulation.  :)

Ricky Davis took matters into his own hands and started guarding Mike James, leaving Dickau to guard the lesser scoring threat.  Mark Blount took a shot drawing an offensive foul.  Pierce was leading the team in scoring--with all but four of his sixteen points thus far coming at the free throw line, where he only missed one--due, I suspect, to his getting tired taking all those free throws so early in the preseason.

Raef got robbed on a nifty move under the hoop as the ball rolled off the rim, but he did go to the line.  Unfortunately, he's no Paul Pierce at the free throw line.  With 5:49 left in the third quarter, timeout was called, with the Raptors leading 66-65.

Wow.  Dickau made another nice pass inside that led to a hoop.  Ok, I'm presuming he's here for his passing.  If that's the case, he needs to show that off a lot more before Doc Rivers realizes Dan can't play D.  Not too swift on offense either, as he then got stuffed by Chris Bosh on the next trip.

Blount sat for a well-earned rest as Kendrick Perkins came back in.  Blount has potential, but I want to see it consistently before I get too enthralled over his work.  Pierce's free throws looked shakier now.  I think he needs a rest at this point.  He's not quite in regular season conditioning yet. 

Perkins made a tough rebound, followed up with an upcourt heave to Davis, who went in for the easy two and his pose for the cameras finish.  Think of it as his reward for not only playing tough defense, but showing the kids how to play Point Guard.  With 9 seconds left in the quarter, Perkins sat to an ovation as Will Bynum played out the remaining seconds.  With the end of the third quarter, Toronto led it, 78-74, with one quarter to go.


FOURTH QUARTER:

Through three quarters, Boston had leveled off in shooting, with 44%.  Toronto had cooled off considerably overall at 42%.  The free throw situation was similar, with Boston going 33-44, and the Raptors going 20-29.  Toronto was still outrebounding the C's 32-30 but at least the turnovers had abated somewhat.

Gomes opened up the quarter with good offensive rebounding, though the C's still have a long way to go on their halfcourt sets.  Orien Greene made a great steal and fast break at halfcourt, though he overprotected the ball a bit as he went up for the shot, leading to an extremely off-balance shot that went in.  He also drew the foul.  But his free throw went awry.  Tommy Heinsohn opined that Pierce's night was done, that they were cutting his tape on the bench.

But Justin Reed looked to be picking up the slack as he scored, bringing the game to another tie at 78 with 10:13 left in the game. As this happened, Raef LaFrentz and Ricky Davis were being iced down, so it was apparent that the bench was going to win or lose this one on their own.  A minute or so later, we learned that Delonte West, who hadn't played all night, had been sent to the locker room.  He'd hurt his ankle slightly, and since Doc wanted an extended look at the other guys, he told West to go change, and be ready tomorrow night.

Scalabrine looked off tempo tonight, just a step or two behind.  I wondered if he was a little out of shape, though since he was new to the team, I had no idea what he normally looked like as the season started.  By contrast, Ryan Gomes and Justin Reed were revved up and running hard at both ends now.  Now the Good Guys had the lead once more at 84-43 with 7:39 left in the game.

Scalabrine is scrambling hard to make good plays, and Gomes has benefitted.  The C's bench are looking much better here than they have so far this season.  In fact, Gomes got Villanueva to foul out with 4:34 left, and Boston up 92-90 as Gomes went to the line.  Gomes missed, but the Raptors blew the rebound, handing possession back to the Good Guys.  Sadly, Perkins wasn't able to handle Reed's pass inside and the C's turned it over.  But Bynum and Gomes combined to take the ball back where Gomes went once more to the line to shoot two, making both.

Scalabrine then went to the line, as the C's had now shot 41-54 at the free throw line with his two makes.  That gave the Good Guys a lead of 96-92 with 3:30 to go in the game.  Bynum got overanxious on a break and was called for palming, though it looked to me like he just looked lost on what to do next.  With 2:38 left, Boston led 98-94.

Scalabrine goofed at both ends, first blowing a three, then in not wrapping up a player on a break to make sure the ball doesn't go in.  That made it 100-99 with 1:26 to go and Araujo headed to the line with a chance to tie the game.  I was nervously wondering about overtime, especially since the C's were scheduled to play in Chicago tomorrow night.  The free throw was good and the game was tied at 100 with 1:10 left as Justin Reed swept the ball in the hoop for two more. 

The C's defense clamped down as Will Bynum stole the ball with 50.2 seconds left.  He walked the ball up instead of looking up, but he'll learn better....I hope.  I was surprised Toronto didn't foul, letting the C's work the clock, as Reed somehow twisted his upper half out from under the basket to hook the ball in the hoop for a basket with 26.1 seconds left and the Celtics ahead, 104-100.

Following a Toronto timeout, the Raptors went for a three that missed, and Reed took down the rebound.  Justin was, of course, fouled with 20 seconds left, going to the line.  He made both, and the C's led 106-100 as the Raptors took the ball inbound immediately, zipping down the court.  Their shot missed, and Perkins was fouled as he snagged the rebound with 1.8 seconds left.  He made 1 of 2, and the game ended with the Celtics winning it, 107-100.

COOKIES and CRUMBS

Cookies given to:
Paul Pierce for all those free throws he made.  I'll cut him slack on the ones he missed late.
Ricky Davis for showing how Point Guard is played.
Justin Reed for his hard work offensively.
Raef LaFrentz for hitting open shots and opening up the Raptor defense.
Kendrick Perkins for his hard work defensively,
Ryan Gomes for getting the job done in crunch time.
Orien Greene for showing flashes of good work.
The Celtics hard work in the second quarter.
The Celtics free throws, which were pretty darn good for preseason.

Crumbs left for:
Boston's first quarter offense and defense--we'll we'd leave crumbs if we could FIND the first quarter offense and defense.
Dan Dickau. Two good passes do not outweigh a total inability to play defense.
Brian Scalabrine.  He tried hard, but he just looked off his game.  What's his condition?
Doc Rivers.  why, why, WHY is Dan Dickau allowed back in the game after the first quarter?  Please teach your team defense.
The Boston Celtics Rookie Choir, whose pregame rendition of "Happy Birthday" for Paul Pierce and Doc Rovers was at least recognizable, which was more than could be said for their karaoke attempt of "Proud Mary" the night before.

This was a tough game, well played except that nasty opening quarter.  The C's still have this aggravating habit of just dying for a quarter each game, digging a hole and then spending the rest of the game filling the hole.  Guys, wouldn't it be easier to play all four quarters and come away with a big win?  Try it and see, ok?  The next game is tomorrow night in Chicago at 8:30pm, against the Bulls.

And that's the view from the doghouse.