Celtics Crushed in NBAx Opener

October 11, 1997

Maybe this is why everyone said they weren't expecting anything special in the first exhibition game of the season. They knew what to expect. It's called sloppiness.

The Celtics began last night's game against the Hawks at Bryce Jordan Center with Bruce Bowen and Dee Brown at guard, Pervis Ellison at center, and Antoine Walker and Chris Mills at forward.

Predictably, they looked like a group of guys who were playing together for the first time because, in many cases, they were. Everyone looked timid, including the playoff-tested Hawks of Dikembe Mutombo, Steve Smith, and Lenny Wilkens. Somehow the teams combined for 92 first-half points. It may have been unintentional, but someone wisely reset the score to zero at halftime (the accurate count was 50-42, Hawks).

In only one half, the Celtic deficiencies glared: size, size, and more size. That is, they don't have it. They were outrebounded, 25-18, in the half. Travis Knight is a 7-footer, but he did most of his work from the perimeter. Lorenzo Coleman is a 7-footer without either a guaranteed contract or solid shot at making the team. Coach Rick Pitino is counting on Ellison, Tony Massenburg, Andrew DeClercq, and Walker for muscle. The coach said all week that he is looking for another big man.

The final was 113-89, Hawks. It was not quite a redux of last season's mess, but there were a few familiar things that led to the thumping: The Celtics had a 14-minute, 18-point scoring funk; they were lost on defense; they had very little inside presence. A group led by Bowen, Walker, Tyus Edney, Knight, and Brown contributed to a third-quarter surge, but the deficit was too deep.

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