Rookie Pierce goes for 24, 12, 3 and 2 in Loss
Rookie Pierce goes for 24, 12, 3 and 2 in Loss
February 22, 1999
WASHINGTON - The Celtics' game was unavailable to television viewers yesterday and that probably was a good, and safe, thing. Those who might have had the urge to watch missed the worst offensive performance of the season, some on-court sniping between Kenny Anderson and Antoine Walker, and a depressing end to a lockout-inspired road trip that had the team playing on both coasts in less than two days. The result was probably not all that surprising. The Celtics scored a season-low 75 points, shot a season-low 32.5 percent, had a season-low 13 assists, and fell to 3-5 with an 86-75 defeat to the Wizards.
The team finished 1-3 on its Western/Eastern swing, the sole victory coming in triple overtime against Vancouver last Wednesday/Thursday. Yesterday, the team looked lethargic and a step behind, lowlighted by Walker's under-water performance (2 for 12, 8 points) and, basically uneven play by everyone not named Paul Pierce. Boston had two suicidal stretches of vapor lock in the second and third quarters, going a cumulative 12:53 without a field goal. Over that game-deciding stretch, the Celtics went 0 for 15 from the field and had four turnovers. By the time the third quarter was over, the Celtics were shooting a hideous 31 percent and trailing by 14. They never got it closer than 11 in the fourth, missing several opportunities to make it interesting. "Our offense is out of sync," said Anderson, who had 6 points and three assists off the bench. "They didn't do anything so special. They scored 86 points.
We just didn't execute at all. Our offensive chemistry is a little bit off right now." Nowhere was that more apparent than in the third quarter. Walker started yelling at Anderson to get into the play and, during a break, got into it verbally with assistant coach Jim O'Brien. Coach Rick Pitino told everyone to keep quiet, lest they face a week's suspension. Things quieted down after that, although Pitino said after the game that the matter would be taken care of today. "It won't happen again," the coach said. Neither Anderson nor Walker made a big deal of it, either. "I like Kenny," Walker said. "It was a frustrating day, obviously, and we shouldn't let that stuff happen on the court. But it did. We just have to forget about it and move on." Anderson said, "It's no big deal. Stuff like that happens. We just can't get down on ourselves.
We've got to stay together and if we do, we can overcome this. We can't compound things by being selfish. Everyone is trying to be so perfect, but we have to just play. We're young. It's going to take some time." The one lining of silver in the game was the redoubtable Pierce, who looks less and less like a rookie every time he's on the floor. He had 24 points, 12 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocked shots. He was relentless going to the basket, making 10 of 14 from the line. But he also was on the bench with two fouls for the final 14 minutes of the first half, a span where Ron Mercer (17 points) briefly carried them but one that ended with a stretch of 5:40 without a basket. The thinking at the time was that Pierce would be needed for trapping purposes in the second half and that it wasn't worth risking a third foul. But even with him playing 21 of 24 second-half minutes, the Celtics still could get very little done.
The club had trouble with the Wizards' veteran backcourt of Rod Strickland (20 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists) and Mitch Richmond (25 points). The Wizards shot just 39 percent, were outrebounded, 49-44, and still won rather easily, which says more about their opponent than themselves. Boston wasn't without opportunities. Washington shot 29 percent in fourth quarter - don't you love these numbers? - and the Celtics trailed by 12 with 4:48 left. That's an eternity for a Pitino team. Washington involuntarily tried to coax the Celtics back by butchering five straight possessions. The Celtics trumped that, also butchering five possessions then bricking two free throws on their sixth. That was 2:38 without a point scored. Pitino even tinkered with the starting lineup, going with Dana Barros and Bruce Bowen in the backcourt to try to pressure Strickland from the outset. It was a draw. The Celtics continued their pattern of getting down by 10 (all eight games) and trailing at the half (all eight games). There was no rally, no comeback, not much energy by then.
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