DeClercq the hero in marathon win over Grizz

DeClercq the hero in marathon win over Grizz

February 18, 1999

   VANCOUVER - At this rate, you're going to get to see the Celtics' games live on "Good Morning America."

Boston and Vancouver dueled into the late British Columbian night last night, matching improbable 3-pointers, dealing with questionable calls and enduring three overtimes before a survivor - the Celtics - finally emerged with a 131-129 victory. The game was won on an old-fashioned 3-point play by, of all people, Andrew DeClercq, who had 7 points in the game.

Six players had 20 points or more, led by Vancouver's Shareef Abdur-Rahim (39), while Ron Mercer and Antoine Walker each had 27 for the Celtics.

Boston scored 5 points in the final 56 seconds to win. DeClercq's play came with 15.8 seconds left and the Grizzlies' last chance fizzled on their 31st turnover - and rookie Paul Pierce's seventh steal.

The NBA season may still be lacking substance and style, but, in the case of the last two evenings with these two teams, it has not lacked drama.

Vancouver was playing a triple OT game on the heels of a double OT game the night before in Anaheim. The Celtics were coming off an emotional loss in Sacramento that seemed longer than regulation.

Boston was lucky to even get to OT, needing a Dana Barros trey with a half-second left in regulation to tie the game at 94. Vancouver matched that in the second OT, with Sam Mack tying the game on a 3-pointer from the corner. In between, there was a blown 8-point lead (Boston), some maddening calls (and non-calls), nine lead changes, four foul-outs, and a bunch of players getting by on fumes.

Vancouver led most of the third overtime, building a 4-point lead on two occasions, the time at 129-125 on a runner by Abdur-Rahim. But hoops by Pierce (26 points) and DeClercq's big 3-point play finally ended things.

Boston trailed by 10 heading into the fourth, but needed only 4:10 to take its first lead, 80-79. The lead changed hands seven times over the rest of regulation with the biggest lead by either team being 4.

Both teams were in a serious sleep deprivation situation heading into the game. Each had played the night before. Each game had gone down to the wire and, in Vancouver's case, to a second and third wire. Each team then had an overnight flight into town, landing in the wee hours.

It was not surprising, then, to see both teams stumble a bit out of the gate. The Celtics, however, continued to play under water for most of the first quarter, recreating their role from the night before. The result was a 9-point Vancouver lead after one.

As was the case the night before in Sacramento, there was a collective awakening in the second quarter. Mercer, Pierce, and Walker picked it up offensively, enabling Pitino to press and trap, a rarity this season. (Don't think that doesn't make him furious.) The Grizzlies responded with a slew of turnovers and Boston got to within a point (33-32) after a Pierce bomb from somewhere near Whistler.

Two things then happened. Abdur-Rahim started to score inside - he had 8 of his 16 points in the final four minutes - and Walker started to look a lot like Eric Montross at the line. Walker was 1 for 6 from the line in the quarter, and the Celtics again fell behind by 9, 47-38, in the closing seconds.

But, on Boston's last possession, Walker freed himself up for a long trey and, of course, it hit nothing but net. That gave him 11 points for the half and brought the Celtics within 6 (47-41) at the break.

Neither coach was able to inspire his troops at halftime as the third quarter basically was an extension of the first two. The Grizzlies got the lead back up to 9 until Mercer hit three straight hoops offset only by a Mike Bibby free throw. The Celtics were back within 4, but got no closer in the third.

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