|01.12.09 at 9:43 pm ET|
There were about eight minutes left in the third quarter and the Celtics were down 10 when Paul Pierce knocked down a 3-pointer. OK, here it comes. The Celtics will make a stand. The Raptors answered. Pierce scored again. Toronto hit a 3.
It’s not going to happen. A split will have to suffice. That’s the price for playing everybody 40 minutes the day before. That’s the way it works in the NBA when the games pile on top of each other and the injuries mount and the practice time gets short. Or maybe it was just getting started.
Then Ray Allen pulled out a sweet reverse layup from his memory bank and Pierce made a couple of more shots. Brian Scalabrine hit a couple of corner 3’s. The Toronto lead was six, then it was four. Pierce was in that groove that he gets into sometimes when the game just slows down to a crawl and he has everybody on a string. Maybe he can pull it off? Maybe?
A couple of weeks ago Doc Rivers was talking about the stretch of games between Christmas and the All-Star break. He called it the dog days of the NBA season. The coach marveled at how well his team handled the stretch last season when their focus never wavered and they never conceded a thing. People worried back then that they were pushing too hard, sacrificing too much to win meaningless games no one would remember when the playoffs started.
Wouldn’t it be nice if this team showed that kind of toughness?
Pierce kept coming and coming. Much later Kevin Garnett would break into song when asked to describe Pierce’s night.
“Dun dun-dun-duh, dun dun dun. Dun du-du-dun! Dun du-dun.” The Superman theme for those not able to follow the transcription.
“Y’all need to start playing the Superman theme music when he’s going like that,” Garnett said. “This is Clark Kent right here, ladies and gentlemen. He was 13-for-26 tonight with 39 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Superman.” And 49 minutes. On a bruised knee.
The bench, that much maligned bench, started the fourth quarter with energy and resourcefulness. Eddie House made a couple of shots, Leon Powe and Big Baby Davis banged bodies around and Gabe Pruitt just played. The Garden was rocking and the tidal wave was about to hit. This is how they do it. This is how the Celtics win games. But the Raptors wouldn’t go away.
On and on it went, with Garnett playing Chris Bosh like he was making the first start of his career, not the 1,000th. The long stretch of games, the back-to-backs, the lack of rest, none of it mattered now. Not to Garnett. Not to any of them.
“Yesterday I told you guys that Bosh is to me if not the best, then one of the best power forwards in the game today,” Garnett said. “I told them I didn’t want any help or use any kind of energy on defense. When it came to Bosh, I didn’t want it.
“You see Paul going like he’s going, you let him take care of the buckets and I’ll try to take care of the defense.”
Garnett bodied up Bosh and made him uncomfortable. He reached deep into his bag of veteran tricks, mixing up his defenses like a hoops version of Bill Belichick. Anthony Parker got free on a switch and Garnett doubled back and stuffed him like he was back at Farragut.
The Celtics took command in the fourth quarter and it was over. Cue Gino, drive home safely.
And then it wasn’t. Pierce made one mistake when he missed the front end of two foul shots and the Raptors got one last chance to tie it when Andrea Bargnani hit a 3-pointer after a scramble for a loose ball. Overtime.
Pierce hit a couple of more shots to start the extra session. “Actually I feel pretty good,” he said after working for 49 minutes and 24 seconds. “Could have played another quarter, I think.”
Thankfully he didn’t have to. The Celtics ground out the clock, and the win, after 53 grueling minutes. It was the most satisfying win they’ve had since when exactly? Last June?
Maybe it will catch up with them on Wednesday against New Jersey. Maybe it will be the game everybody looks back on after the season and say, “That was the start of the turnaround.” Maybe it will be meaningless, just another of the 82.
It’s impossible to say on January 12th what last night at the Garden will mean, really. The Celtics pride themselves on the old tried and true one game at a time mantra, and so we’re left with this: For one game, the Celtics were back.
|01.12.09 at 7:58 pm ET|
OT WRAP: In one of the most hard-fought regular season NBA games you will ever see the Celtics completed a back-to-back sweep of the Toronto Raptors. It took overtime, it took 50 minutes and 39 points out of Paul Pierce, but the Celtics got it done.
The recap is here. Much more to follow.
— No idea how this one is going to turn out. No one’s really in foul trouble as we start the extra session. Garnett just got his fourth, and as I type, so did Bargnani.
— Good move by the C’s to get away from the post Paul up on the elbow offense that they’ve been running for the last five minutes. They need some motion. And there it is.
— The Celtics landed the first big punch of the OT. When there were about 5 minutes left I thought win or lose this was one the Celtics could build on. I still think that, sort of, but I also think that if they lost it would be a killer. (Wonder what the rookies think about the atmosphere in here tonight, by the way).
— The Celtics bench thinks Ukic is warding off Rondo with his arm.
— That was the first triple team of the night. In other words, somebody screwed up for the Raptors (I think it was Kapono) and Leon got a layup.
— Huge possession here. One stop and it’s just about over.
— It is just about over.
— Like what I’ve seen out of Ukic tonight. The kid is a player.
— It is not quite over.
— It is over.
|01.12.09 at 7:34 pm ET|
A day before being introduced as one of the Boston Red Sox newest pitchers, John Smoltz received his first standing ovation in Beantown. The TD BankNorth Garden rocked as Smoltz was announced during the Boston Celtics-Toronto Raptors game.
“Somebody told me they’ve got great sports teams here,” Smoltz told WEEI.com. “Obviously I’m being funny but it’s a great opportunity for me. I’m looking forward to it because this is, this is a great place. The fans are unbelievable.”
Smoltz, who later told an excited crowd he will be in the Red Sox starting rotation, is eagerly anticipating Wednesday. After spending the first 20 years of his career with the Atlanta Braves, it will be his first introductory press conference.
“I’ve never done it before so I’m sure I won’t say all the right things,” he admitted. “But I’m going to be excited to be here.”
If the reaction of the Garden crowd is any indication of how Smoltz will be received in Boston, his first game at Fenway Park is something for him to look forward to.
“They just love this city and they love their teams,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to not enjoy that.”
|01.12.09 at 7:24 pm ET|
Hey look, who’s back. Jess is tracking a story down right now I’ll be your guide through the fourth.
FOURTH QUARTER WRAP: A long rebound. That’s all the separated the Celtics from a huge win in regulation. Give the Raptors credit though. They could have packed it in and they took every shot the Celtics had and had one last big Joe Frazier-esque hook left in them.
So we go to overtime.
–This is the bench has played in about a month. Great energy. Great execution.
— What is about the Raptors that inspires these great games? Great matchups, sure, but these have been some of the best games of the season.
— Gotta love Gabe Pruitt’s fearlessness so far.
— Whew. OK, we needed to catch our breath there. Win or lose, this has been an inspiring performance by the Celtics. Shorthanded, tired, you know all the stuff that’s going on with this team. It’s not just that the shots have started falling, the defensive effort has been turned up about 10 notches, or 11 if you’re a fan of Nigel Tufnel.
— David Jones is not making any fans with his calls tonight, but I have to say I think he’s been right on the money. There are a few refs in this league who would not have made those calls against the home team, especially with a crowd as amped up as this one.
— KG has an extra hop in his step. Not sure if it was clear on the TV how in Bosh’s face he was.
– We have 5 minutes and 16 seconds left and for the life of me I have no idea how this one is going to turn out. The Raptors have to go to Bosh down the stretch. The Celtics have been riding Pierce and he’s got that in the flow no one can guard me thing going on. Just a tremendous game tonight.
— KG is doing work on Bosh. That’s why he is the best defensive player in the league.
— Suddenly the Raptors look very very tired.
— Tough call on Leon. Thought he got there. It’s worth mentioning that Joey Graham has been a pain in Pierce’s neck since he took the assignment.
— You may not see a better defensive play than the one Garnett just laid down on Graham. Amazing.
— Big shot by Will Solomon. The Raptors are hanging in there.
— For the first time in the fourth quarter the seas parted and Pierce had a clear lane to the hoop. You just can’t handle the Truth.
— I’m not sure this game can handle overtime. Who gets the shot for the Raps? Kapono? Bargnani?
— OK so the answer was Anthony Parker and Bargnani. Unreal.
— Can’t argue with that call. Great inbound play drawn up by Doc. Overtime it is.
|01.12.09 at 6:56 pm ET|
The Celtics have some work to do in the second half. Toronto’s deep bench played very well in the second quarter, shooting 7-for-12 and scoring 25 points, while keeping the starters on the bench for the most part. Toronto, which is one of the worst rebounding teams in the league also owned 23-16 edge.
The start of the second half will be critical for the C’s. There were some encouraging numbers. Boston turned the ball over just three times, which allowed the Celtics to get up 41 shots. That’s a pretty high volume of shots for them. Let’s see what they have left.
THIRD QUARTER WRAP: I’m officially running out of superlatives to describe Paul Pierce. The Captain scored 14 points in the third quarter and made about five or six huge defensive plays. I don’t know what winning this game means in the long run but in the short run it’s pretty obvious that it means an awful lot to Pierce.
I was about to write them off at about the 6-minute mark and Pierce completely turned the thing around. Brian Scalabrine was also huge with eight points and a couple of 3-pointers. This is going to be a fun fourth quarter.
Third Quarter Observations
— Two big 3’s by Scalabrine have brought the Celtics back. That was exactly the kind of energy boost they needed. But on the other end Jamario Moon knocked one down. Paul Pierce is cheating very heavily toward Chris Bosh in the middle which left Moon wide open.
— Everything but the finish right now for the C’s. They had three or four quality looks, but the shots just aren’t going down.
— Love it when I type something about shots not falling and Pierce sinks a 3-pointer. The Raptors are shooting 56 percent by the way.
— When Will Solomon is bombing three’s it might be a sign that tonight is not your night.
— A big problem the Celtics are having tonight is that they are a pattern team offensively and since Toronto saw the patterns just 24 hours ago they are easier to snuff out. The KG alley-oop play is an example.
— Got to give them credit though. They are playing really hard.
— There are times to get technical fouls. Up eight on the road with momentum on your side is not one of them, Chris Bosh. That was a four-point swing. Amazing.
— Pierce is absolutely amazing tonight. Howe does he have an extra gear after getting kneed and playing 40+ minutes the day before? The guy is an absolute freak of nature.
— Buzzkill thy name is Kris Humphries.
— Scal used the old Red on Roundball pump fake there.
— John Smoltz got a huge ovation when he was introduced to the crowd after the quarter, by the way.
|01.12.09 at 6:11 pm ET|
At the half … Raptors 54, Celtics 45
For Paul’s first quarter recap, click here.
– Doc’s going with Pierce and the bench to start the second quarter. Interesting that Pierce, who was questionable for tonight’s game (knee), is still on the court and showing no hesitation driving hard to the hoop. The Celtics have been looking for an offensive spark in the second unit. Will it be Leon Powe and Big Baby to get it done down low or will Eddie House and Gabe Pruitt get hot from long range?
– Joey Graham is in with Scal on the bench. At least that altercation is avoided for now.
– Leon Powe vs. Chris Bosh. This could be a problem. Bosh’s arms are about 10 feet long (ok not quite) and he’s flailing them all over the place at Powe. The challenge for Powe will be stopping him without getting into foul trouble. The Celtics are shorthanded at the five spot and can’t afford to lose anyone tonight.
– Who’s that guy on the Raptors? That point guard is Roko Ukic and he was drafted by Toronto back in ’05. He had been developing his game in Europe (Croatia, Spain, and Italy) before coming to the NBA to back up Jose Calderon this season.
– Andrea Bargnani’s shot chart will be interesting. So far he has hit a long-range jumper, driven to the hoop, and tapped in an offensive rebound. It is a versatility that is often heard but not always seen.
– Down 45-37, the starters are back on the court. Pruitt was scoreless and House only had three points, so the offense will have to come from somewhere else.
– Will Solomon is standing attentively at the Raptors bench. Over on the Celtics bench, Big Baby is sitting with his head in his hands. The Celtics are down 12.
– Huge dunk and some full court press from KG. He also threw in a few extra words for Kris Humphries.
– Ray Allen capped off the first half with a putback of his own missed layin. At the half … Raptors 54, Celtics 45.
|01.12.09 at 5:39 pm ET|
Greetings from the Garden where the Celtics host the Toronto Raptors on the back-end of their home and home series. The home and home is a curious thing, is it not? A friend of mine who knows nothing about basketball wondered if the two teams flew back together from Toronto after the game yesterday. You laugh, but think about it. Doesn’t that make sense? Why waste the gas when you get two teams on one plane, right?
At any rate, they are here, you are there and Kendrick Perkins and Tony Allen are on the bench in street clothes. For how long? Doc, and remember it’s just a nickname, speculated they could be out all week, if not longer. What does it mean? A few things.
2. Patrick O’Bryant could get meaningful minutes. Could.
3. Sam Cassell will not, however. “He’s kind of like a carton of milk,” Doc said. “He’s got an expiration date.” In other words, Doc doesn’t want to break Sam-I-Am out of the fridge just yet, lest he curdles by April.
4. Bill Walker is in uniform, but when asked if Walker and JR Giddens could play, Doc kind of shrugged, so don’t bet on it.
Jose Calderon is not playing tonight either, by the way. Will Solomon goes in his place.
So, away we go…
FIRST QUARTER WRAP: After one, it’s about what you would expect. Both teams are struggling from the outside and the pace is kind of sluggish. Paul Pierce is off to a strong start, but Kevin Garnett is having trouble getting his jumper going and Ray Allen has yet to attempt a shot. The Celtics got Toronto in the penalty at the 4:32 mark but failed to capitalize.
The Raps came back from a 12-5 deficit and take a 23-19 lead into the second, where Jess has you covered.
First Quarter Observations
— Doc thought it was probably 50-50 that Paul Pierce could play tonight. But there was no doubt when got to the arena. “Paul is tough,” Rivers said. “He scuffed it off. ‘Of course I’ll play.’ That’s just Paul.” And he has the first five points of the game for the C’s.
— Chris Bosh is just deadly with that 20-foot jumper. I’m curious to see how he and Kevin Garnett match up tonight. I really thought KG got the better of it (second item down), considering the amount each player means to his team offensively. The Celtics can win when Garnett shoots 3-for-16. It’s much tougher for the Raptors to win when Bosh struggles, especially with Calderon out.
— Great start for the Celtics up 12-5. Energy is going to be a huge thing tonight, and the more the Celtics bring at the outset the better off they’ll be in the long run. So far, so good.
— Interesting trade note to pass along. That three-way deal between the Bobcats, Mavs and what used to be the Sonics? Looks like it’s off. That’s what ESPN’s Marc Stein is reporting. Any move with the former Sonics is worth monitoring because that’s where Joe Smith is for the time being. That deal would have cost the team that’s not in Seattle Earl Watson and got it back Jerry Stackhouse, which wouldn’t have affected Smith very much
— Every player in the Toronto starting lineup has a foul now and the Raps are in the penalty at the 4:32 mark.
— The shots aren’t going down but the ball movement is crisp. Translation: Tired legs.
— The Raps are forcing Andrea Barganini in the post, probably because he’s matched up with Brian Scalabrine, but he is 1-for-6 from the floor tonight. Jess reported on the Facebook campaign to put Scal on the All-Star team, how about one for the All-Defensive team?
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