…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.
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.