The pre-game started with several light-hearted moments: The first was a replay of Tommy Heinsohn singing about how he loves the Celtics when they run. I love you Tommy, but please leave the singing to the Foxwoods commercial guy.
The second was a more historical moment as John "Hondo" Havlicek (coincidentally both a member of the 20,000 pt club and the Celtics All-Time Leading Scorer) presented a cermonial basketball to Gary Payton for his 20,000 point milestone, which occured while he was in a Celtics uniform.
Now, onto the game:
Precursor: The Bucks are giving up an average of 99 points per game. After the Orlando game, you almost have to salivate over the prospects of that stat.
If you watched the running feast that the Celtics displayed last game in Orlando, you might have been rubbing your eyes after the first half of this one, because it was decidedly a tale of a different, more half-court oriented style.
The 1st quarter was a suprisingly heavy dosage of feed Mark Blount, posting up in the paint. To Blounts credit he seemed to make several very good scoring moves when given isolation against his man. They ran when they could and it was enough, but it wasn't nearly the dosage most Celtic fans would probably have been expecting. When Kendrick Perkins got in, early in the 2nd quarter, not only did they try to feed him in the paint several times, but he ran the floor well and almost converted on all of them(in other words, I believe that he missed them all, but they were good shots and good efforts). His ball handling is going to need some more work as his body movement seems to be ahead of where the ball needs to be. The positive side of this is that the C's coaching staff appeared to treat him just like they did with Blount, in relation to play calling, trying to utilize him in much the same way.
The defense played sometimes excellently, but mostly adequately, although the superb shooting of Micheal Redd made it difficult for thier effort to look effective. Not only was he straight up killin' it, but he was doing it with Celtic defenders right in his face, often coming off good picks.
NOTE FOR THE SECOND HALF: Find a way to keep the ball out of Redd's hands.
Ball movement for the C's was plentiful and there were some very pretty no look and over the shoulder passes. Everyone had a great pass or two and I'm very encouraged at the ball movement. Paul Pierce was the C's leading scorer with 13 pts in a 54 point 1st half, signifying a well balanced attack.
Former Celtics Mike James and Eric Strickland saw playing time in both the 1st and second half, but seemed to contribute more on the defensive end of the floor.
End of First Half: Bucks 58 Celtics 54
Things to make you think about (or more to the point, potentially pull your hair out over):
1. Marcus Banks coming into the game cold with 40 secs left in the 1st quarter and taking a long, end of the quarter shot, after isolating himself.
2. Paul Pierce tossing the in-bounds pass in with 1 sec left on the clock in the 1st half, to Gary Payton no less. (Pardon me fellas but doesn't it make more sense the other way around? I mean with 1 second left, I'd rather have PP shooting than anyone else, with GP potentially being the 4th option on the floor, with RD, PP and RL out there)
Redd continued to kill us with dagger like shooting and Williams joined the fray. Marcus Fizer continued his quasi-comeback, posing as a formidible post presence for the C's to contend with.
I noted a problem with Banks earlier for a bad habit play, so let's give one back to him, he earned it. With 45 secs left in the 3rd quarter, Tony Allen stole the ball and moved it down court, only to be stopped from getting to the hoop by 2 Bucks. He promptly kicked it out to a waiting Marcus Banks, who was trooped out at the 3 point line. Banks got the pass, had time to look it over, and then chose to take a dribble or 2 inside the line and hit an easy and still open 2 pointer. Well done Marcus.
Speaking of bad habits, let's talk about Paul Pierce, who has taken his share of shots from the critics of late. From a general standpoint, the detractors aren't going to have much fodder to toss PP's way after this game. He played a very good all-around game, playing good defense (several good steals that lead to points) and passing and rebounding the ball well. However, with 4:45 left in the 4th, PP pulled a throw back to the OB days and pulled up on the break, to camp out beyond the 3 point line (roughly out, across from the foul line elbow). The audible from Doc Rivers from the bench was clear and bellowing: "You gotta run the floor all the way". He promptly sat PP for a minute and change. While PP didn't seem to be a big fan of the move, he took his medicine and promptly came back into the game with roughly 2:35 left and did it right, when on a Payton penetration, the defense stopped the drive and the kick out went to where it was supposed to, with PP hitting a 3 pointer from the corner, after following the play through the way it should be.
Lesson Given, Lesson Learned. Let's move on.
Player of the Game: Mark Blount
Perhaps one of the easier calls I'll have to make this season. While Raef LaFrentz certainly made a claim for himself, Blount not only did all the little things that Raef did, but tallied 16/16 and really anchored the paint for the C's....
Let me repeat that, because it's new for me to say also: BLOUNT ANCHORED THE PAINT. I haven't been that impressed with Blounts play or effort in a long time. There were still moments when he missed things (like several pick and rolls where he wasn't looking for the pass), but he did a hell of a job and deserves the accolades for this game. LP cut us off before they announced it, but I'm guessing he got the Tommy Award also.
All in all, a different kind of win than I was expecting going into the game, but none-the-less satisfying. It showed that when we put it all together we have more options than just the run game. Although, I have to say, it's probably a more entertaining way to win. ;-)