A tragic comedy in four acts.
ESPN Recap (Hornets 93, Celtics 85)
This game was so frustrating I really felt like turning it off- and I never feel that way. I’ve watched the Celtics my entire life and loved every second of it, but watching tonight’s game was brutal and afterward, left me feeling sick to my stomach.
The Celtics had such amazing success in the first half that I thought for sure this would be the high note they could stick in their pockets for the Allstar break. No such luck. The Celtics came out after halftime with big smiles on their faces feeling like they had already won- and proceeded to have the 12 point lead they built wiped away.
The worst of it is, Doc lied to us- again. He’s said almost every game that he wanted to limit the starters minutes and get them more rest and has failed to do so until tonight. But he also said that if a player makes a mistake, he was getting subbed immediately. Quite the high school tactic to be sure, but he still failed to do it once in the third quarter. A quarter rife with mistakes and thus, opportunities to yank someone out in favor of bench player- a player that came to play tonight.
The Celtics lost tonight. It wasn’t David West exploding for 30 points, and it wasn’t Darren Collison running all over Eddie House. The Celtics beat themselves tonight, plain and simple.
The game started out a little uneasy. The Celtics played pretty well but the end game was really just trading baskets and New Orleans made a living going back door. The best defensive team in the league should not get beat back door as much as the Celtics did in the first quarter. This type of smart play by the Hornets hurt the Celtics enough to put them in a two point hole by the quarter’s end. A two point hole, despite Pierce attacking Peja Stojakovich off the dribble and either drawing fouls from the help defense or getting great looks within five feet of the goal. The bench also came in and provided a much needed lift on the offensive end. This had all the ingredients of the Celtics gearing up to go on a run- and they did.
Doc put five bench players out on the court to start the second quarter and it paid dividends. Glen Davis played as if his football team had just won the Superbowl, mixing an array of turnaround jumpers with quick feet that slid in step with David West’s strong moves to the bucket. Rasheed Wallace also continuously abused Darius Songaila in the paint with turnaround jumpers, bank shots, and spin moves. Songaila had no answer for Rasheed Wallace on the defensive end. On the offensive end, Songaila was routinely left alone to jack wide open 18 footers, which he made with regularity. Songaila was so open so often, it was really a surprise that they Celtics were able to build such an impressive lead by halftime (12 points).
Marquis Daniels also came out and made every Celtics’ fan fall back in love with him. This dude just plays the right way. He will dribble through you with aplomb and he will always be in the right position on the defensive end whether it’s within the team defense or heady one-on-one play.
The second quarter had all the makings of a Celtics blow out, a la the first 10 games of the season. All it needed were the starters to start the second half on a tear and really step on the throats of the Hornets…
No such luck. Dammit. The Celtics, per usual, came out flat and resorted to ineffective one-on-one match ups with Garnett and Pierce, and made everyone remember how poorly this Celtics team takes care of the ball. I’m going to watch this game again and count how many unforced turnovers the Celtics had in this game, nay, in the third quarter. Just appalling. The worst of it is that Doc did nothing but provide a few head shakes and exasperated arm raises. I understand that this is a Celtics team with a lot of veterans on it who really know what they need to be doing. That said, if this team could coach themselves, it would. But it can’t. There are no more player/coaches in this league. The Celtics needed Doc to be strong tonight and stick to his guns about yankin’ mistake makers- but he balked. Doc kept his starters in until they had completely squandered away a 12 point lead and left the bench to fend for themselves with a five point deficit.
Pierce could not do anything productive in this quarter. His shot wasn’t falling and his quick first step was gone. And I mean gone. He could not get by Stojakovich, which to me is a red flag. Doc should have pulled Pierce and given Marquis Daniels a serious run in this game. Daniels was playing so well tonight that he even if the Celtics didn’t have an outside shooter on the floor, they still would have made up for it with good looks. Besides, the Celtics finished the game 1 for 7 from deep- they weren’t getting any production from deep anyway.
The bench came in and played so well I sincerely thought the Celtics would come back in this game. Not a chance. The starters were so inept on the offensive end that their frustrations started to spill over the the defensive end. Kendrick Perkins resorted to hamming up the complaining whenever a Celtics fouled (not even when he himself was called for a foul, but when anyone else was whistled too). Rondo’s reaching came back to bite him in the backside and Collison found his way to the tin way too many times. Pierce decided that he needed the ball in his hands to make this team come back and he couldn’t get anything going. Tony Allen was the only Celtic starter to finish with an over 50% field goal percentage. Deplorable.
I’m not saying what’s on every one’s mind for a reason. The bench also played so well tonight, I can actually think back with some fondness over this game. The problem is, this team should already have these sorts of things “figured out” but they don’t. The good news is, there’s a lot of season left and the role of the bench isn’t going to change- although the personnel might.
*On a lighter note, feel free to decide whether or not New Orleans assistant coach Tim Floyd and actor Josh Brolin are the same person: