BOSTON, MASS---Do you want to know what is ugly in NBA standards? Getting beat by 52 points; Shooting 29.9% from the field as a team; An NBA franchise finishing the game having tallied... BOSTON, MASS---Do you want to know what is ugly in NBA standards? Getting beat by 52 points; Shooting 29.9% from the field as a team; An NBA franchise finishing the game having tallied only 66 points; Your star player finishing the game 1-for-15 and your other star player not even finishing the game; A 60 point deficit at any point in the game; Having all this occur on your home court while your beloved fans cheer as the visiting team’s second team even puts on a clinic is – to coin a line from a Dr. Dre song – “super ugly”. Boston accomplished all that and probably more as the Detroit Pistons came into the Fleet Center and gave the Celtics the worst beatdown in franchise history – all this in front of Orchard Park, Roxbury’s own Michael Bivens of New Edition and Bell Biv Devoe fame.
It was the first game back for Employee Number 8, Antoine Walker, but it was a return that I’m sure ‘Toine would quickly like to erase from his mind. He stepped on the court sporting a heavy-duty brace on his knee, and that extra weight may have caused his shot to fall flat all night. But more on that later.
If the former Celtics’ #3 1997 NBA draft pick out of the University of Colorado, Chauncey Billups, was looking to get even with the team that he started with he did it tonight. And if Richard “Rip” Hamilton was looking to show the coaches of the League that he deserved to be in Atlanta playing as a reserve in the 2003 NBA All-Star Game he made an even stronger case for himself against the Celts.
Believe me when I write that this game was decided in the first quarter. Chauncey connected on all six of his field goal attempts, which included three from the deep end, and missed his only free throw attempt, as he torched the Celtics for 15 first quarter points in 11 minutes of action. It was obvious from the start that his focus was on lighting up his former team as he dished out only one dime.
‘Toine’s first shot dictated how the rest of his night would go, as did Rip Hamilton’s; however, Rip’s was on the opposite side of the shooting spectrum. ‘Toine took the game’s first shot when he hoisted a three-pointer that was way off the mark. Rip, on the other hand, decided on a more high percentage shot, a baseline drive that he converted for the and one (free throw made). After an Eric Williams basket, Rip showed a good touch when he connected on a 13-foot shot from the baseline. A Battie basket was followed by Billups recording the first three of his 24 points when he hit one from beyond the arc right on his former teammate Paul Pierce (4-8 Pistons).
From there, the game produced a first quarter sequence that made the sell-out crowd of 18,624 start to worry. The sequence included the following: Rip’s 17-footer from the left elbow, a ‘Toine miss, another 17-footer by Hamilton, another ‘Toine miss, a Billups 20-footer from the left, still another ‘Toine miscue, and a Billups three-ball from the left. At that point the score was 6-17 in favor of the visiting team.
The sequence continued to include a J.R. Bremer feed to Tony Battie that resulted in a two-handed, backboard-tappin’ slam to bring the Celtics to within nine (10-19). To be fair, I will write that a good portion of ‘Toine’s shots were falling in then out of the basket. At one point, frustration set on Walker’s face when a pretty spin down low could not reward his own steal. And to add salt to the wound, Billups responded with his 12th point of the quarter, a 22-footer (16-24 Detroit)
The Celtics showed a sign – if only momentarily – that they might be able to hang in the run-n-gun style of play that was established by the Pistons’ guards when Antoine Walker finally broke his no-for-everything, as a three-point attempt found its way through the net (19-24 Detroit). But Billups made your writer wonder what the Celtics would be like if Pitino only had patience for the young man when he answered