Before the Boston Celtics scored a single bucket, they had shot and missed eight different times, Paul Pierce had registered four turnovers and Kevin Garnett, sitting and watching somewhere else, preferably inside a cage and with handcuffs keeping him in control, may or may not have considered defriending Ryan Hollins, like a real-life version of Facebook.
Pierce finally drilled a mid-range jumper with 5:47 left in the first quarter to put the Celtics on the board, but the ugliness would not end. I know. I was there, watching from the rafters, pretending to be interested in the sloppy mess hundreds of feet beneath me. The first quarter ended with the Celtics shooting 4 of 17, to go along with seven turnovers, a 12-5 rebounding deficit and just two assists. They trailed by only seven points at the time, 17-10. Thanks in large part to the Heat’s 11 turnovers, the first quarter actually featured 50 percent more turnovers (18) than made field goals (12).
A long, crazy lockout season led us to this night, which seemed like fun upon the schedule’s release. Instead, the center tip-off featured Hollins jumping against Dexter Pittman, a scene I’m not sure TNT envisioned when making this a nationally-televised game. Just so you can gather how much the game’s outcome mattered to the Heat, I’ll share with you that Lebron James and Dwyane Wade had a very serious conversation during the pregame media session… about what they would order for dinner while their teammates competed in this debacle.
The second quarter was especially notable for Sean Williams’ first point in a Celtics uniform, which he followed six minutes later with an “ew”-inspiring 16-foot airball from the right corner. Oh, and Keyon Dooling cut himself taking an unintentional elbow to the mug, after which the Celtics’ guard screamed a string of obscenities and knocked over a garbage can in the hallway. I assume he was upset about having to play in the debacle at all, rather than needing to leave it prematurely. (Note: He returned, the poor bastard, which tells us he was probably upset that the injury wasn’t serious enough to keep him out of the second half.)
Marquis Daniels has spent most of the season in Doc Rivers’ outhouse, located about thirty yards past his doghouse. But Daniels took advantage of his extended playing time to demonstrate an activity level none of his teammates could match, at least on this less-than-inspirational night. Daniels pulled down a team-high five rebounds in the first half, added eight points, made a few fine passes (the Celtics made a habit of ruining his assists, which is why he entered intermission with just one) and even got a couple shots to fall from inside the painted area, from where he’s struggled all season long.
The first half mercilessly ended with the Heat ahead 34-28. Several fans had their eyes closed at that point, snoring and drooling and generally trying to ignore the professional sporting even happening in their presence — or maybe that was just me. It was weird to think that this game, which the Celtics clearly approached without any sense of urgency, could ultimately decide whether Boston gains home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Obviously, home court is a secondary concern, or at least a concern located many miles away from primary.
Pierce convinced Rivers to play him so The Truth could gain a rhythm entering the postseason. Instead, he finished the first half with five turnovers, four points, zero assists, zero rebounds, and approximately as much rhythm as yours truly, the only person ever kicked out of the Williams Middle School orchestra for sucking too badly. He did recover with a few Pierce-ian moves in the second half, in case anyone was worried about Pierce’s poor first half. Nobody probably noticed, because really, who wanted to watch?
With 5:54 remaining in the third quarter and this offensive shootout resulting in a 46-36 Heat lead, my mind briefly wondered how many calories Dexter Pittman used to eat per day, back before he lost much of his baby fat and became a reasonably-productive bench big for the Heat. I settled on 12,000, a number I — and I’m not exactly sure why — based on Michael Phelps’ calorie consumption during the Olympics. These are the conversations that occur in your mind when you watch too much crappy basketball.
The Celtics rattled off an mostly uninteresting 10-0 run to pull even at 46-46. Still concentrating on my ongoing, silent Phelps-Pittman monologue, I remember very little about the run. Memories that stand out: Sasha Pavlovic and Avery Bradley both hit pull-up jumpers, and Brandon Bass hit a jumper to knot the score at 46-all. Boston’s defensive pressure also seemed to rise, with bodies flying around the court, even if those bodies weren’t especially skilled.
The Celtics used the rarely-seen “isolation Pavlovic at the top of the key” set at the for their final possession of the third quarter. No punch line. That happened. And it actually worked. Pavlovic hit a layup to give the Celtics their first lead of the second half, 50-48. Norris Cole, who once played a fabulous game against the Boston Celtics, hit a jumper on the other end and one of the least exciting tied games in NBA history entered the fourth quarter at 50-50.
Not that the Celtics care — they obviously don’t — but around the time the third quarter ended, the Atlanta Hawks completed a win against the Los Angeles Clippers. That means a Celtics loss would secure home court advantage for the Hawks. Again, Doc Rivers and his crew obviously don’t care, or else their starting lineup in the fourth quarter would not have been: Sean Williams, JaJuan Johnson, Marquis Daniels, Sasha Pavlovic and E’Twaun Moore.
The Heat’s first possession of the fourth quarter featured Terrell Harris running a pick-and-roll with Joel Anthony. So did the second. Anthony even scored on the second, hitting a nice baby hook from the paint. From what I hear, though, the folks from TNT weren’t entirely impressed. At least they hit the elderly demographic — with Juwan Howard starting the fourth quarter, I’m sure at least two or three grandparents tuned in to see their former CYO teammate play in the NBA.
Sadly, his former teammates would be disappointed: Shortly after I wrote the rest of this paragraph, Johnson pinned Howard’s layup attempt off the backboard and, presumably, back into the 1970s. Minutes later, Williams lined up a Howard jump shot and swatted it, forcing a 24-second violation. In fairness to Howard, the 24-second shot clock didn’t exist when he was in James Naismith’s gym class initially learning the game.
If you fail, try, try again — Howard attempted an isolation post move against Johnson later in the fourth quarter. I swear the shot actually went in, but he traveled before he could release it. Poor Mr. Howard. At least he’ll always be a trend-setter for baggy shorts, trash talk and hanging on to his NBA career for far too long.
At some point, one of Boston’s athletic young bigs — I believe it was Williams — attempted to save a loose ball underneath his own basket — always a no-no — and actually threw it off his own shoe, probably also a no-no. But Williams scored a big putback bucket as the Celtics took a 60-54 lead, and — whoa — Pavlovic just came soaring down the lane with a big-time two-handed dunk. Whoa again, he just drilled a three-pointer to put the Celtics ahead 65-56. The lesson, as usual: When Sasha Pavlovic decides to put the team on his back, he succeeds every time 1 percent of the time.
I believe I got off track at that point and blacked out in respect to the great Sasha, though I did snap back briefly to observe him drilling another trifecta from the corner, and then again to see him drain a step-back jumper from the same corner.
Anyway, the Celtics won 78-66. Home court advantage remains a possibility, even if the Celtics would rather subject us to basketball torture.