In a game that looked more like a playoff game than a preseason game, there were 12 lead changes and 11 ties and 4 technical fouls called. The game had a physical tone right from the start and was close right to the end where the Celtics pulled out a 90-89 win.
After all the talk about Stern reforming the refereeing and bringing in an Army General to oversee the program, we saw a lot of the same old stuff tonight as they allowed the Rockets to get away with hard fouls and they called the game very much one sided with the Rockets taking 48 free throws while the Celtics took only 29.
With just under 7:30 left in the first quarter, Pierce drove the lane against Artest and was literally mugged by Artest with no foul called. The Rockets took advantage of the no call and scored on a fast break at the other end while Pierce went to the locker room with a bruised shoulder. He would return after a brief absence. Moments later Artest gave Ray a hard hip check that sent him into the first row, again with no call. Later, Artest landed hard on Pierce as they fought for a rebound.
Emboldened by the fact that they were getting away with a lot of contact, Tracy McGrady joined Artest by giving Walker a shove as he drove to the basket. You have to love Walker as he doesn't back down from anyone. He stood up to McGrady and had to be held back by Patrick O'Bryant while Pierce held back McGrady. In the midst of the melee, McGrady and Eddie House got into it and were assessed double technicals. After all that contact and the hard hits that the Rockets got away with, Pierce barely touched Artest and he flopped and Pierce was given a technical. Finally, once McGrady and Artest went to the bench, the teams settled into playing basketball.
It all came down to the last minute of the game. With 40 seconds to go and the Rockets up 1, Big Baby missed a 19 foot jumper and the Rockets rebounded. They worked the clock down and missed a jumper. Miles grabbed the rebound and immediately called time out. Gabe Pruitt was the hero of the game as he banked in a 14 foot jumper with just 6.6 seconds to go. Doc inserted JR Giddens for the first time in the game for his defense. Miles and Big Baby combined to swat Scola's layup attemt out of bounds with .4 seconds to go. The Rockets got it back to Scola, who hit a jumper but it was ruled after the buzzer and the Celtics walked off with the hard fought win.
Patrick O'Bryant put in a solid performance for the third game in a row. He finished with 8 points, 6 rebounds, and 1 block. After being singled out by Doc after the last game, Big Baby put in his best game yet with 12 points and 6 rebounds. Leon Powe was typical Leon with 10 points, 4 rebounds, 1 block and 2 steals and fouled out after playing 23 minutes.
Miles got very little playing time last game and played only 9 minutes, but he played well in those minutes. He is still a bit rusty, but shows enough promise that the team should keep him. Walker played only 9 minutes and had 1 point, 1 rebound, 1 steal and 5 fouls but won even more fans by not backing down when McGrady tried to push him around.
Tony played only 12 minutes in this game after playing 42 minutes in the previous game, finishing with 3 points and 1 rebound. He wasn't near as aggressive as he was against the Cavs as he was saddled with early foul trouble. Gabe Pruitt played very well in his 20 minutes with 6 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist and 4 steals and he hit his first NBA game winner. Scal played under 2 minutes and pretty much had the same impact as he did when he played close to 30 minutes: none.
After playing only 9 minutes last night, Doc played the stars a little more in this game with Pierce and KG playing 22 minutes and Ray playing 25 minutes. The way the starters mesh while on the court is a thing of beauty. As much as Artest tried to rattle Pierce with his rough play, it didn't work as Pierce out played him and finished with 15 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists.
The Celtics shot 49% from the field while holding the Rockets to 38% and out rebounded the Rockets 41-37. The Celtics outscored the the Rockets 40-28 in the paint. The Celtics also did much better taking care of the ball as they had only 15 turnovers to 20 for the Rockets. From the numbers, it would seem that the Celtics should have won by more than just 1 point but the free throw disparity made the difference.
The young players are showing a lot of talent and fight. The starters are so good it is scary. I really like what I have been seeing from this team.
Rockets were called for only 7 or so less fouls in the game. Not a large disparity. Much of those that led to free throws were from Celtics players biting on upfakes and fouling shooters. That will often lead to missed shots...so the disparity in shooting % is also a product of the Celts defense. Point being that the performance was not quite as good as this post may indicate.