Post-game Reactions

…there are many like it, but this one is mine.”

When I drew the dubious task of recapping tonight’s Hawks game, certain thoughts came to mind.  Am I going to be recapping another awful loss typified by overall terrible play by the Celtics?  Am I going to waste my words telling a bunch of Celtics fans how much the Jamal Crawford acquisition means for this potential playoff matchup?  Am I going to be swallowing my pride, putting my allegiance to Celtics fandom aside and say the Hawks have the Celtics’ number?

I can thankfully say that I won’t be doing any of those things.

Never did I think I would be breaking down just how Brian Scalabrine had Josh Smith lock down.  And never did I think I would be explaining how, for a good chunk of the third quarter, I was mentally imploring the Garden crowd to raise their voices in a collective “Don-Na-Ghy! Don-Na-Ghy!”

The Celtics lost, this much is true, but I refuse to let the heart of this team and Celtics’ fans be ripped out so easy.  This is why I would like to discuss three facets of tonight’s game against the Hawks, none of which having to do with Joe Johnson holding court.

Scalabrine.  The Glove Part Deux?

No one, not even my dear friend Brian Brobb, predicted Scalabrine to have this type of game.  After serving his due time in the Doc River’s doghouse after failing to play a meaningful offensive role in quite some time, Scal got a surprise spot start in the place of Rasheed Wallace.  The Wallace injury was a surprise.  Scalabrine starting over Glen Davis was definitely a surprise.  However, neither quite matched up with the awe Scal’s play inspired.

This type of language used to describe Scalabrine is borderline comical and definitely hard to believe, but at the end of the first half, Scal had nine points on 3-4 shooting and three boards.  For Scal’s standards, that’s nearly a perfect half of basketball, offensively.

To make Scal’s first half impact even more impressive was the defense he played on Josh Smith.  Scal frustrated Smith with his ability to move his feet.  There was no one in the building tonight that believed Scalabrine could stay in front of Josh Smith, including Josh Smith.  Watching this matchup was like watching an episode of the Twilight Zone- or if that reference is too old (and played out?), it was like watching that episode of Family Matters where Laura falls for Urkel.  I’m not talking Stephaun, I’m not talking Myra, I’m talking Laura and Steve.  It’s just wrong.

Except tonight it was so right.  Zach put it perfectly in his bulleted recap when he wrote that “Scal needed this.”  He needed a comeback performance more than any other bench player.  Intangibles and good intentions can only take you so far and when they aren’t accompanied by a reliable three point shot, they can’t take you hardly anywhere.

Here’s hoping Scal has figured out his problems this season, but more importantly, that Doc plays his bench more.

Officials, Unofficially

I have never seen the officials try to exert so much control in a game that had so little aggression. Yes, there were two hard fouls, but neither time were heated words exchanged, let alone extra curricular physical contact.

I am willing to admit that Glen Davis put a hurtin’ on Marvin Williams; and only because the replay showed Davis clearly getting a lot of neck and only because Marvin Williams has had a Kevin McHale moment before.  Still, that does not constitute what transpired immediately after all of this.

Glen Davis even bent over to help Marvin Williams up after slightly wringing his neck while contending a fast break.  This simple gesture almost served almost like an admission of guilt.  It seemed like the reaction from the officials was more dramatic than anything either team did after this “fracas.”  The replay shows Doc mouthing, “awful call” over and over again.  The official reasoning behind his exodus is something I cannot wrap my head around at this moment.

Perhaps even more surprising than the whole ridiculousness surrounding Doc’s ejection, is the reaction Zaza Pachulia’s rake across Perk’s face failed to illicit.  I have to give credit where credit’s due.  There may be some out there that say Perkins should not be rewarded for doing what he’s suppose to do- and by that I mean keeping his cool.  To those people, I say you do not know Kendrick Perkins.  Getting his eyes nearly gouged out by a player universally hated by the Celtics, and only complaining to the officials is a huge step in the right direction.  The fact that Pachulia had all his teeth intact after that play is impressive.

Big Baby Showing Growth

The fourth quarter belonged to Glen Davis just as the first half belonged to Brian Scalabrine.  Unfortunately, despite playing well, players would prefer not to own quarters in which their team relinquishes a lead and doesn’t get it back.  Glen capped off an impressive showcase of offensive plays with an amazing And-1, punctuated by the subsequent free throw bouncing around the rim for dramatic effect.

Nine of Davis’ 13 points came in the fourth quarter, which is unsurprising when you consider the rest of his counterparts respective gas tank levels.  If Doc has a bad reputation of playing his starters too many minutes, than Tom Thibodeau is on his way to proving the relative distance between apples and their trees.  After Doc was run from the game, Thibodeau made just one substitution and that came with 7:13 left to go in the third quarter.  That is unacceptable.

I can live with a short bench or short minutes for the bench.  But playing an aging team this many minutes on the second night of a back to back in January is just not worth it.  Shut the starters down for the next ten days and let them vacation with Kevin Garnett.  I won’t even bat an eye.  Especially when fresh, unweathered legs are running up and down on teams that clawed their way through the regular season just to get to May.

So it Goes

Allen and Pierce both had good games, which makes their three misses in crunch time that much harder to swallow.  Ray got a wide open look from the corner that clanged off the rim box.  That three would have put the Celtics up one with exactly 2:00 minutes to go.  Nearly forty seconds later, Ray misfired again by blowing a very makeable foul line jumper.

Pierce didn’t help things out much either.  Despite Pierce throwing the ball away in an attempted bounce pass inside to Perkins, all seemed status quo when Baby was able to get that aforementioned three point play- sending the Garden fans reeling.  Still, it wasn’t enough.

The Celtics needed some other big time shots from Paul and Ray and they just didn’t get them.  Paul drove to the right and put up a shot he had to have- and hit back iron.  I’d cut him some slack if he didn’t make that shot in his sleep.

Hell, I’ll cut him some slack anyway.  He’s playing games with a lot of guts right now.  The amount of minutes piling up makes Doc look border-line insane.  If Paul is committed for the long haul, than we must follow suit.  If Paul’s shrugging this loss off and getting ready for New Jersey, so too must we. After all, as fans, they need us as much as we need them.

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  • The officiating was garbage tonight. Absolute garbage. And, just like with that Lakers/Kings series in ’02, or that Mavs/Heat Finals, there is no way you can convince me that an entire professional NBA ref crew can be THAT bad, THAT one-sidedly, for THAT long, and NOT be doing it on purpose.

    This was a marquee matchup between two top teams on NBATV, and the refs job was to keep it close. That’s what happened tonight. That was NOT an accident, it was NOT a coincidence, and Tim Donaghy is telling us the truth: The NBA uses the officials to tamper with the flow and outcomes of games. Not every game, but enough of them.

  • MikeD

    Even before the flagrant on Baby, I was getting the feeling that the officials were trying to keep the Hawks in the game. The fact that the officials get away with horrible call after horrible call is beyond me. Games like this happen all around the NBA on a regular basis, and it is simply unacceptable. Yes, it is a tough sport to officiate, but it is their “profession” to be good at it. And any fan sitting in the front row could call a better game than them.

  • The flagrant on Baby wasn’t even the worst of it, that call wasn’t entirely indefensible, at least in the context of how they’re calling flagrants this season.

    But yes, the refs WERE deliberately trying to tamper with the game, in order to create a more appealing product for the viewing audience. Without the refs’ interference, the Celts would have won this game by fifteen or twenty, easily.

    And sure, you can say that the Celtics still had their chances to win, and they did. You can say that they should have been able to keep their composure, and they should have. But this whole NBA officiating thing is just disgusting. All I want is for the refs to do their best to call the game the same way for both teams. If the Celtics are getting blown out, so be it.

    Another example, Game 2 of the 2008 Finals was clearly tilted in the Celtics favor. Badly enough that I couldn’t even really enjoy that win, and I almost felt good about the blatant fixing of Game 3 for the Lakers, because it evened things out a bit.

  • MikeD

    Also, regardless of whether or not they are altering games intentionally, the whole point here is that they are downright awful. Whatever your job may be, if you make big mistakes on a daily basis that hurt your business usually you are reprimanded in some sort of way and probably fired. The same horrible officials take the floor every night and make the same horrible calls, leading to all of these conspiracy theories. The NBA needs to solve this right at the heart of the problem – A complete overhaul of the staff. Train young eyes that can keep up with the pace of the game, and build a crew that is on the same page and can call a consistent game.

  • Chris

    A thought:

    Over any given 82 game season, a team of referees will have a wide range of performances. On good nights, maybe they’ll make correct calls 95% of the time…on bad nights perhaps 85%. And, of course, there will generally be some outliers where they get 98% correct, or only 75% correct.

    Basically, I think a poorly officiated game can be explained in a way that doesn’t involve conspiracy theories. Refereeing is a tough job. While there might be a few crooked fellows out there, and while you might take issue with how the NBA decides to officiate some aspects of the game, by and large I think you’re getting honest attempts by officials most nights.

  • Conall Mac Michael

    Didn’t get to see the game live so can’t comment on the officiating. Good to see Scal getting some meaningful burn again, also the evolution of Rondo continues – 5 more shots the the Captain tonight. Overall great recap, just one tiny niggle that is completely irrelevant to the game and to the post really. Donaghy is pronounced Don-a-hee, not Don-a-ghy, sorry just a pet peeve of mine.

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  • @Chris: Totally agree. People are way too quick to focus on conspiracy theories among officials instead of, say, the C’s coughing up the ball nearly 20 times.

  • Chuck

    There was no “conspiracy.” But it was most definitely a vintage Bennett Salvatore officiated game- where whichever team is trailing gets a little help in order to keep it close. Certain fouls committed by the Hawks are then ignored, like Ray Allen getting hit on the head on his drive to the hoop. (He made the lay up, so he doesn’t get the and one.) Rondo is knocked down in the back court. (But he didn’t have the ball.) I wasn’t sure if the flagrant on Baby was a case of this also (turning a normal foul into a flagrant 1, which still keeps Baby in the game) or a case of the officials trying to regain control, as the OP said.

    Still, it didn’t look to me like it was baby’s arm around the neck that caused the fall. He starts to touch him on the neck and then pulled his hand away before the fall. On the camera angle from under the hoop, you can’t see how much body contact there is, only Baby’s arm near the William’s neck. But on the replays from other angles, you can clearly see that it was Baby’s body that knocked the Hawk down.

    I think what Salvatore does is wrong. I have no doubt that if it was the Celtics losing to the Hawks last night, the calls would have gone the other way until the Celtics pulled closer. Then, the usual referee incompetence would have taken over, blowing calls for both sides.
    (Kind of like what happened last night when the Hawks finally closed it. Many fans are complaining about the free throw disparity in the second half- but if you take out the technical foul shots, I think both teams were pretty much equal in attempts. That’s because the Hawks didn’t need the help anymore.)

  • Just to be clear, I think the flagrant (as I said in my bullet points) was a bad call. But that can happen whenever a player touches another player’s head on a fast break, even if it’s just a glancing blow, as it was in this case.

  • Jay P

    @Chris, great post and I agree. However, in light of the Donaughey fiasco, I think a game like this deserves; nay, demands a response from the NBA. That was one of the worst officiated games I have ever seen. Granted, I’m only 24, but I’ve been watching every Celtics game since I was 12, so it’s still saying something.

    That being said, the officials didn’t lose this game for the C’s, they certainly didn’t help, but they didn’t lose the game.

    My question here is:

    1) What the hell took us so long to switch Pierce over to Johnson?

    2) Why in gods name did the starters+baby play 18 straight minutes to finish the game? I’m sorry, but they looked tired at the end of the 4th.

    3) Please for gods sakes, wrap Perkins and Ray Allen in a protective cocoon at all times from now on… ugh, who else is going to get injured right now.

  • Tommy P

    Solid Recap all around. Strong work B Jacks

    The officiating was horrendous.

    I am frustrated by the whole Donaghy thing. If he didnt put it out there it would just be a conspiracy theory that I would not take seriously. I would be like Chris and would assume that the refs were having a bad night, But Donaghy’s comments are the first thing that comes to mind during and after a game like last night.

    Someone let me know when they get back to letting the players play the game.

  • Tom

    Bennett Salvadore and Joey Crawford and the Washington guy, this is why NBA is not as popular as it should

  • KOD

    Anyone with 2 eyes in their head that watches these games on a regular basis knows that the officiating is consistently bad in the NBA. At this point, I expect it to be awful – and I am never disappointed. Having said that (nod to LD), the Celtics still need to be able to close out these close 4th quarter games – especially at home. The injuries are always tough to overcome, and losing ‘Sheed along with KG already being out definitely added to the degree of difficulty against this young and athletic Hawks team – but the Celts managed to control this one for the better part of 3 quarters – so they just need to commit to doing it for the full 48 minutes. As a veteran group, they should be to finish; with Pierce, Allen, and Rondo on the court at the end of the game – they should be able to close games like this out, period – bad officials and all.

  • Sean

    Officiating did not cost the C’s this game–it allowed the Hawks to gain momentum and make a push, but it did not seal the deal. What I would like to know:
    A. Where was Scal in the second half? Barely played, it seemed to me, and sure, with 4 fouls on most players, you want to be careful. But on Brian Scalabrine? If he fouls out playing stellar defense on Josh Smith, so be it. Definitely could have used him more.
    B. Where was Rondo? He was getting to the basket literally at will, no defender was quick enough to stay in front without fouling or giving up layups to the bigs. He shied away in the second half, deferring to the vets. Dude, you were the best player tonight, take it yourself.
    C. If you’re going to run an offense through Pierce, don’t half-ass it. It worked for a few possessions, getting Paul in his sweet spot with smaller defenders on him. But then it stopped, and the Pierce tried to do too much with the ball, making a few costly bad passes.

  • jonathan

    So the officiating is only terrible and biased when it goes against the Celtics then? Cause I never see much mention when the Celtics benefit from shaking officiating. I don’t seem to remember a lot of outrage when the Celtics enjoyed a huge free throw advantage over the Lakers in the Finals from a couple years ago. I seem to remember a lot of excuses given when Rondo smacked Brad Miller across the face last year. Either acknowledge when the Celtics benefit from shaky officiating or stop crying foul (pun intended) every time they lose a game.

  • KOD

    Troll alert on lower case jonathan. Ignore all content from him moving forward. Thank you.