We didn't plan ahead enough to get Bent a press pass, but our resident British subject author was able to take in the game and give us his first hand account of the game. Enjoy!
The Boston Celtics faced off against the Minnesota Timberwolves earlier today. I was there, and after reading this far-too-detailed report, hopefully you’ll feel like you were too.
On the whole, it was a decent performance by the Celtics against the somewhat overmatched young T-Wolves lineup, although it was spotty in places, there were signs that the starters are beginning to gel and that the reserves will contribute and find a role.
I will recap what happened in the game here and then for those of you that are so inclined, I will go into a bit more detail and give some of my own thoughts on the event after the jump.
The first quarter ended with Boston leading 23-22, as the teams exchanged the lead. It seemed like both teams came out flat and that there was not much effort on defence, but admittedly having watched this quarter again, that doesn’t come across as much on TV.
The starters played most of the first quarter, and looked keen to push the ball up the floor at every opportunity, which was good to see. The age old problem of defending the pick and roll reared its ugly head, as usual, with the defensive scheme best described as "confused", although admittedly they were giving up jump shots rather than anything going to the hoop.
Perkins was able to open the scoring on a post up move, but it was Ray Allen who got the C’s going offensively by nailing three outside shots. Garnett wasn’t scoring much, but had a big block, fed Pierce underneath for a score and then finally did get on the board with a baseline dunk off a good feed. Rondo also got on the board with a steal and breakaway lay up.
Ricky Davis had a monster first quarter for the T-Wolves, all from the outside, to effectively keep Minnesota close.
The second quarter was far more enjoyable. The period opened with five back-ups in the game and – although they didn’t outplay the Minnesota lineup, they seemed to raise the energy level and when the starters came back in, they started to click and went on a run to lead 50-43 at the half.
The Celtics were making the extra pass and some of the ball movement was great to see. Kevin Garnett also led by example, diving after a loose ball. Eddie House, who also hit a three, made a sweet no look dish to the debuting Esteban Batista, who threw down a big slam and Brian Scalabrine contributed well, hitting three outside shots including a buzzer beating three to give the C’s a 38-37 lead. When the starters returned, great ball movement led to an Allen three from a Rondo dish and then a Perkins slam from Garnett’s touch pass. Garnett then found Perkins again for an uncharacteristically athletic looking one-handed dunk on the reverse. Allen rounded out the half with a breakaway two-handed slam.
In the third, Boston quickly built a 15 point lead and ended the period up 75-63 (and only then because Telfair hit a buzzer beating three for Minnesota). Ray Allen once again shone, hitting from the outside, taking the ball to the basket (including a sweet finish as he changed hands in mid-air) and even finding time to make a nice bounce pass to send Perkins to the line. Garnett had a big block and got the roll on a jump shot, but he and Pierce – who couldn’t get anything going offensively, but did draw several fouls - were content to defer to the hot hand. Rondo’s crossover and circus scoop shot on the drive was perhaps the most crowd-pleasing play of the period, but his penetration and dish to an open Allen on the perimeter was a perfect indication of what the C’s will want from him this season.
The starters did not play in the fourth (they all played between 24 and 29 minutes), but the bench was comfortably able to hold off the Ryan Gomes-inspired T-Wolves attempt at a comeback, which got as close as five, with seven minutes to go. Tony Allen finally scored, as he drew contact and got it to go. Davis, Pruitt and Jones saw action in the last seven minutes, with Davis in particular showing some skills, on a spin move and left handed finger roll and a drive a dish for another Batista flush. Jones also got a fast break lay-up, from Allen’s dish, to effectively ice the 92-81 win.
More quick hit thoughts on the players and the event itself…
- Perkins: Looks to be in great shape … Worked really hard … Still picked up some cheap fouls … Finished strong around the hoop and moved the ball well … Looked comfortable with the starters, from whom he got constant encouragement … Looked particularly confused when the games was stopped so the players could have tea in the third quarter
- Rondo: Got his wires crossed with KG on a few outlets … Great quick hands defensively … Does not look entirely comfortable in the offense yet, but pushed the ball and got it to Allen, Pierce or Garnett, which was usually enough … At one point in the second half, he bizarrely jumped out of a pipe, ate a flower, grew to double the size and jumped onto and flattened the entire T-Wolves line-up in order to put the Celtics 1-up – I think this was something he learned in Italy … British announcers pronounced his name "Ray-Joan" … Crowd booed him when he made a lay-up rather than dunking on a breakaway
- Garnett: Constant encouragement and the first guy up off the bench when the second unit returned if a timeout was called … Didn’t score much, but he did a lot of everything else and his passing was superb, even though he only had two assists … Showed some emotion, with his measured fist pump after winning a third quarter loose ball clearly a blatant homage to British tennis player "Tiger" Tim Henman
- Pierce: Outside shot wasn’t falling and he couldn’t buy a free throw either (he was 6-11, but it felt like 3-20), but he drew a load of fouls driving to the hoop … Effort defensively was inconsistent, but at times was giving a good effort and even diving after loose balls … Rolled around on the floor in apparent agony on one first half foul, in the hope that one of the Minnesota defensive players would be given a "yellow card" – something he must have learned in Italy too … Couldn’t seem to make a dunk in warm-ups, which obviously was a sign of things to come … British announcers pronounced his name "Paul Parker" (I wish I was kidding)
- R. Allen: Smoothness personified … The guy I was with described his J as "a thing of beauty" and his mother even texted him to say "Ray Allen is having a good game" – what more do you need?
- Scalabrine: Good outside shooting and made a nice pass to Posey … Stayed in front of his man well defensively … Is looking more hench these days, having definitely bulked up over the summer … Was annoyed at a first half foul call and even gave the offfical some "frosty stares", which is ironic, because "Scal" spoken with a London accent, sounds like "Scowl" … British announcers pronounced his name "Scal-a-breen"
- T. Allen: Aggressive, but erratic … Twice looked like he might dunk after the whistle but then thought better of it (even though Garnett did at one point and drew more reaction from the crowd than most of the plays that actually, y’know, mattered) … Seemed to be limping after several collisions … Still can’t shoot … Would have liked the DJ, who apparently also has A.D.D. because he kept annoyingly changing the song after about three seconds … Obviously Bangers and Mash doesn’t have the same effect as Salmon and Mash
- Posey: Made some plays on the defensive end, but didn’t impress offensively, notably with a badly missed finger roll … Looked keen though and encouraged the young guys
- House: In warm-ups, it’s pretty evident that he knows what his role is – either that or he’s allergic to paint – jumpshot after jumpshot, even in the lay-up line … Had maybe the pass of the night to Batista … British announcers pronounced his name "Howes"
- Batista: I think the word is "serviceable" … Finished at the rim, hit some foul shots and grabbed some rebounds in a decent outing … Did get blown by a few times at the defensive end, notably by Jefferson … British announcers pronounced his name "Bastita" and then "Batissta" … His eyes are too far apart, just like Mario Jaric (or Mario Maric, as the British announcers called him) has his eyes too close together – not that I’m sure what this proves
- Davis: Big Daddy V (or whatever his name is) showed some skills in limited action … Is clearly really popular with his teammates, who go crazy for everything he does … Made a bit of an idiot of himself on a dunk attempt in warm-ups, although he may have done this on purpose … Ended up in speed mismatches a few times too often
- Pruitt: Did not really do much, other than unselfishly passing up a three to feed a teammate (who missed) … Looked athletic in warm-ups, but his jumper is nowhere near as smooth as Ray Allen’s (neither is Pierce’s though)
- Jones: Made a fast break lay-up and a jumper, but bricked a couple of free throws … Is starting to go bald
- Rivers: Was a bit lazy with substitution patterns, as there wasn’t much rotation, just all starters or all back-ups, with a slight overlap … The deafening silence after they announced his name, having just announced the players to a rapturous reception was priceless … Did not give any minutes to Powe, Manuel or Wallace
- Minnesota: We know these guys so well, I hardly need to go over it … Hey, Minny, that’s the pig – you might wanna feed him? … Telfair can score when there isn’t a whole lot of defense going on, but still lacks focus, as evidenced by him missing his first lay-up in the warm-up … Gomes did the same job as always, but kind of led them a bit in the third … Davis can still score in bunches, but went cold thereafter … Green’s ball handling has gotten worse – he had two turnovers in the lay-up line – and although he hit one shot, he looked uncomfortable out there … I don’t know why Randy Foye barely played, but that was weird … Who is this Theo Ratliff guy? I thought he was dead – they should’ve brought out the dry ice and introduced him in a hooded cloak with atmospheric organ music – he looked pretty useful today
- The Arena: Not too bad, even if it does look like a modem from the outside, although the seats are way too far from the floor … We were able to get down to (almost) courtside for the pre-game warm-ups … The arena is inside what used to be the Millenium Dome, a bizarre exhibition celebrating the third millennium, which featured a larger than life, inanimate, expensively-constructed human body, that just used to sit there and basically do nothing – and now we have Mark Blount fulfilling the same role and order is restored to the world (I can’t believe I didn’t realise Mark got a DNP until I got home)
- The Legends: At half time, they introduced three legends to the crowd – Bill Russell (which was awesome), Rick Barry and B J Armstrong. Huh? That’s like going to the rock and roll hall-of-fame and getting to see Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Daniel Powter (or several other variations of the same joke). Sadly, I think more of the fans knew B J than Bill
- The atmosphere: I have been to the Continental Airlines Arena and this was exactly the same as that … The biggest cheers of the night were for the in-game "entertainment" and then the crowd would fall silent once the game restarted … Much like the hockey crowd last week was only interested in seeing fights, this crowd was mostly only interested in dunks, even when they didn’t count … Most of the crowd were pro-Celtics, but it was blatantly heavily "pink-hat brigade" influenced, which annoyed me a bit … I saw a ton of people I knew, which also annoyed me – "Can’t you see I’m working?" … What annoyed me most of all was the wave – or as we Brits call it, the Mexican wave (because we only found out about it after the Mexico World Cup in 1986) – "I am trying to watch the game!" – to me, this just says that the crowd was bored with the game, which is not a great sign for basketball in this country, as the wave started halfway through the third and continued in the fourth … The crowd also booed the Celtics for running down the clock, whereas to shoot would have been unsporting – we have a lot to learn but it did not ruin the experience for me on the whole
- The Celtics Dancers: Give them credit, they look better in person than in their unflattering pictures on the team website, but in honor of Red, I watched, but did not enjoy them (not physically anyway…let’s just say I didn’t inhale) … Lucky, who I include in this category, is just as annoying in person as he is in concept
- Travel arrangements: I don’t want to sound like Peter King, but I had a real nightmare even getting to the game on time. The trains weren’t running properly and I wouldn’t be surprised if many people travelling from North of London didn’t completely miss the game. Ultimately, I had to shell out for a cab to North London before getting on the subway, but I guess it was worth the expense – besides… I couldn’t let you guys down, could I?