Jose Calderon Bad defense
Celtics 94, Raptors 88

Next time I hit up Dave and Buster’s, I’m bringing Ray Allen with me. He might as well have been playing Pop-A-Shot in the first quarter the way he was dropping those daggers. Money.  Of course, when you’re that good and you have Kapono trailing behind you like an eager little brother instead of playing defence, it pretty much IS playing Pop-A-Shot. When were down big early, everyone knew it was over. The Raptors haven’t shown the ability to close a gap, and the way they play from behind, they’ll never be a top.

Jose was back in the lineup (and totally surprised the crowd) with the start. Unfortunately, Ocho looked more like an eighty-year-old out there, his mobility slightly faster than Stephen Hawking without his scooter. He didn’t look comfortable, had little impact on the game (other than getting picked off by Brian Scalabrine, of all people), and probably should have sat this one out. Rondo executes the dribble penetration as well as any PG in the league, and today he took burning Jose off the dribble to a whole new level. Rondo would have had more than 11 assists if Big Baby didn’t have hands of stone. Seriously, I bet Glen drops his bacon-double cheeseburger at least twice a day.

Speaking of Scalopini,  his big pasty red ass was another surprise start. With Perkins out, you’d think Rivers would start Davis, Powe, or even benchwarming tree trunk Patrick O’Bryant. But I guess he figured that Scalabweenie is a better match for Bargnani. Matching goofy white for goofy white is good thinking, except Scalabeanie is way too slow to stay with Bargnani, who’s no speed demon in his own right. Big Red picked up three quick fouls and dropped his freckled easily-sunburned rump back on his “reserved” seat. His 6th foul got a bigger ovation than Jose’s return. I hate the guy, but I’m sure he gets that all the time.

We had good ball movement early in the game and jumped out to a 12-6 lead, which is only worth mentioning to say that it’s not worth mentioning at all. The Raptors keep a lead about as well as Barkley keeps a diet. Point proven as I barely blinked before Ray Allen dropped 15 quick points on us, at one point outscoring the entire Raptors team 15-14 in the first quarter. It was a basketball bukkake all over our faces. And it’s not that a 30+ player with bad knees stuck in a long shooting streak outscored your whole team on his way to a season high, it’s that ANY player outscored your whole team. Embarrassing.

I won’t linger too long on Ray’s first quarter performance, other to say that if they kept passing him the ball he could have had three or four more buckets, easy. He was that zoned in. I swear I saw him jogging back down the court before the ball left his hands on a couple of them. Somehow, our defence has YET to learn their lesson this season and continue to leave the arc wide open, despite being torched for longball after longball. We should have brought Graham in the game earlier. 

Next Big 3 member: Paul Pierce. When he went down and grabbed his ankle in the first I got excited, hoping he’d be helped off the court only to miraculously return in the 3rd and deliver a 360 jam, followed by him tilting his head to the sky and doing his laughable little “can you heard me God? I’m screaming!”  routine. Instead, we were spared the drama as he limped his way into an 11-6-6 performance. I guess I’ll take it.

Watching KG today,  five things are clear:

1. If NBA rules allowed Garnett to wear his championship ring on the court, he would.

2. His close-talking, head-banging thing against the support padding before the game is creepy and quasi-psychotic.

3. He sets moving screens better than anyone since the Mailman.

4. He considers Chris Bosh his bitch.

5. Chris Bosh IS his bitch.

Garnett takes every opportunity to push, nudge, bump, grab, and rattle CB. The result, of course, is obvious. He not only gets up in his face but in his head, causing Chris to play hesitant, like a JV player being asked to sub in and cover the varsity All-Star in practice. Chris Bosh had to find a way to score on Garnett for us to steal this game. He did not, and we did not. As I told the guy sitting beside me: “When Jamario Moon is your leading scorer (he was until the 4th), you’re not going to win against the Thunder.”

To our credit, we were a Jumpshotio Moon pass away from being down 2 very late in the 4th quarter. Kapono was wide open in the corner, Bargs at the top of the key, yet Moon hesitates and jacks a three that even he knew wasn’t going in. Oh, did I mention that Kapono was 5/6 for 12 points in the quarter and that Bargnani’s been shooting 60% from behind the arc lately? Just sayin’.

That was one of five big mistakes today that drove me nuts. The other 4:

- Jose not getting to ball to Moon when Pierce injured himself in the first. I mean, dude could barely stand, but instead of exploiting the injury Jose turned the ball over. He’s that against passing the rock to Jamario.

- Andrea triple pump-faking his way to a shot clock violation, despite being covered by Stay Puft Marshmallow Davis.

- Ray Allen killed us all game. Ray Allen has 5 fouls with 7 minutes left in the fourth. Ray Allen does not foul out. Why? Because no one took it to him. Getting Allen out of the game should have been priority #1, especially with every other Celtic struggling to hit a shot.

- Not exploiting mismatches. At one point, Bosh had Rondo covering him IN THE POST and he:

a)   Backs him down for the easy two

b)   Turns and shoots over him for the easy two

c)   Passes the ball bask to Solomon at the top of the key, who turns the ball over

I’ll let you guess the answer.

Despite making our regular mistakes protecting the perimeter and stopping dribble penetration,  as well as committing the specific errors above, we were in this one to the end. Who would have predicted that Ukic, Kapono, Graham, Moon, and Bargnani would be the lineup to bring it from a 20 point game to a 5 point game? The only thing more astounding would have been for Hassan Adams to be in on it. Oh, and that comeback was without $43,201,099 worth of our “big three” on the floor. That 43 million contributed a -27 and a DNP, for the record. 

Moon and Graham both had great games, but we’re obviously outmatched against the Celtics. Tomorrow night should be more of the same, with Boston returning to the comforts of their home court and Toronto travelling without Jose and JO….but I’ll let Arsenalist handle this one tomorrow.

Some DiNotes:

- Cabbie was sitting a few rows over…wearing a Boston cap. Tsk tsk. And he calls himself the Black Gerry Dee.

- Overheard in the crowd:

Kid: “Is Roko Ukic from Croatia?”

Father: “No, he’s European.”

- Has Bosh finished a contested dunk this season? Every time he’s fouled on the way to the hoop, he rims out.

- With 5 minutes left at halftime, the whole Celtic team was out shooting and getting warm. We had Bosh, Voskhul, Solomon, and Parker. We were down 20. WTF? At the very least, Roko should be the first person out there, every game.

- The top of the refs head must have been freezing, because he was tapping it all afternoon. There were more shot clock violations in this game than I’ve ever seen.

- Watching Tom Thibodeau off the bench screaming out defensive assignments as they’re up 18 proves he’s a head coach in an assistant’s body.

- I did not miss Kendrick Perkins’ me-so-ugly scowl one bit.  

- I’m not sure the comeback speaks to how we played as much as it speaks to how much Boston has lost their killer instinct. Can’t blame them, Popovich learned that you can’t play every game like it’s Game 7 many moons ago. 

 

Finally, today’s “Alice Fine” line: Joey Graham Makes Good Things Happen™.  

He set the tone, brought energy and toughness, and lit a fire under us. Hard fouls,  the shoving match with the Ginger Giant, firm defence on Garnett – his best game of the season. Good/Bad Joey is now officially Joey –  a beast on the boards, including a few possessions where he boxed out Big Baby so that other Raptors could grab the board. I hope Joey picks up Triano’s dinner tab after every game, because this kid owes him his career.