Celtics Handling the Rock Much Better
March 17, 2002
SAN ANTONIO - When Paul Pierce perused the box score of Friday night's game against the Grizzlies, he could find only one positive statistic on the sheet (other than the final score): The Celtics kept their turnovers down to 12. Boston's abilty to hold onto the ball has become a trademark this season.
It was deja vu last night, as the Celtics again comitted 12 turnovers in the loss to the Spurs.
Through 66 games, the Celtics have 879 turnovers. Over the same number of games last year, they had 1,040. Turnovers have decreased so much the Celtics are on pace to record their fewest since 1973-74.
Antoine Walker has been one of the primary reasons for this turnover turnaround. He is on pace for the best assist-to-turnover ratio of his career. Through 65 games in 1999-00, he turned the ball over 203 times and his assist-turnover ratio was 1.04. Through 65 games last season, he had 253 turnovers and his assist-turnover ration was 1.34. Going into last night's game, he had 205 turnovers and his assist-turnover ratio was 1.62. He had two turnovers last night.
"I think [Walker] is the difference," said coach Jim O'Brien. "I think he's taking more pride in taking care of the basketball and making really solid, simple passes. For our guys, it's a sign of maturity, that we're valuing the basketball. On the flip side of that, to have our turnovers down and our steals up, be No. 1 in the league in steals [9.68 per game] without pressing, without really trapping, speaks to our aggressiveness." Stealing the show
And speaking of steals, as a veteran NBA point guard, Anderson knows you have to be able to take it as well as dish it. And we're not talking about the jawing that went on between Anderson and Memphis point guard Jason Williams Friday night. (At one point, Anderson was seen to call Williams a "punk.") We're talking about all the steals Anderson has racked up this season.
Before last night's game, Anderson ranked seventh in the league, averaging 1.87. His game high stood at five. He had one against San Antonio.
"I'm doing it right now," said Anderson, who made a big play by stealing an inbounds pass late in the Memphis game. "I'm anticipating the ball well." Postseason preparations
The playoffs are approaching, and the Celtics ticket sales department is busy filling orders for the postseason. Season ticket holders received packets last week offering them the option to buy ticket strips for all 14 potential playoff games. The season ticket holders can buy extra strips, if they want. Ticket packages for all 14 games will be available to the general public April 6. About a week later, individual game tickets will go on sale. Prices will be higher than for regular-season games, though there still will be $10 tickets available for single games. "The bills were in people's hands last Tuesday, and we had at least 50 accounts pay on the first day," said Celtics chief executive officer Richard Pond, who noted the new option of paying online at celtics.com. If the Celtics earn home-court advantage, it's likely they would play their first postseason game in the FleetCenter April 21 . . . The Celtics caught a break, in a manner of speaking, when the Spurs' starting shooting guard, Steve Smith, suffered a posterior right ankle sprain against the Bulls Thursday night. The injury forced Smith to miss at least last night's game againt Boston. That left Tim Duncan as the only Spur to start every game this season. Smith was San Antonio's third-leading scorer, with an average of 12.0 points per game. He was leading the league in 3-point field goal percentage, making 49.3 percent of his attempts from the arc. When the Spurs and Celtics met at the FleetCenter Jan. 9, Smith scored 13 of his team's last 15 points to secure a 93-90 win . . . . . . The Celtics' 38-27 record going into last night was their best 65-game start since 1990-91. That team was 48-17 . . . The Celtics started Tony Battie last night, so he could get back into the flow. He played just three minutes against Memphis in his return from a small tear in his lower calf. Battie played 22 minutes, scored 5 points, and had 4 rebounds. Vitaly Potapenko, who had started the last seven games, was suffering from flu-like symptoms and did not play.
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