October 30, 2012
Game 1: Boston Celtics (0-1) at Miami Heat (1-0)
Screengrabbing season kicked off on opening night with the instantly infamous Snub Heard ‘Round the World. Kevin Garnett’s hilarious rebuff of Ray Allen’s petition for skin-to-skin contact (copyright Tas Melas) had hoops “commentators” and “analysts” from coast to coast falling all over themselves in a maniacal scramble to see who could wave the banners of good sportsmanship and common decency most gymnastically.
In our write-up on “the incident,” we said that Garnett received his former teammate with a degree of enthusiasm normally reserved for street folks soliciting smokes and coins from the suit and tie crowd. This called to mind a notable bit of dialogue from the John Huston classic The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which obscured from us the chance to do some diehards-only quoting from the Tim Burton classic Batman.
We have since remedied the situation.
November 7, 2012
Game 4: Boston Celtics (2-2) vs. Washington Wizards (0-3)
After an 0-2 start, the Celtics got themselves into the win column with a ho-hum 89-86 victory over the truly awful Washington Wizards who are, at the time of writing, dead last in the league in offensive rating (95.2), effective field goal percentage (.438), average margin of victory (-6.55 points), and winning percentage (.000).
The teams dispensed with the rematch tout de suite, running it back on Causeway Street four nights later. The Celtics came away with a 100-94 overtime victory, running their streak of seasons opening with back-to-back losses being reset to zero by back-to-back wins over the Wiz to two.
At the head of the effort was Kevin Garnett, who led all participants with 20 points and 13 rebounds. While the statistical contributions certainly helped, it was the deployment of Garnett’s singular brand of psychological warfare that set the tenor of the game and quite likely pushed the Celtics over the top. Over the course of 35 schizoid, raving minutes, Garnett barked, snarled, screamed, stalked, and generally bullied the Wizards, playing both ticket-taker and ringmaster in his own personal Carnival of Horrors. Attractions included:
Displays such as these have made Garnett into one of the most divisive players in the game, adored by those who play for and support his teams, despised by most everyone else. Detractors look at Garnett and see a “punk,” a “punk and a coward,” a “poor sport,” a “dirty player,” a “blistery” – yes, “blistery” – “asshole.” His proponents see a “warrior,” a “lion,” a “beloved teammate,” a “respected leader.”
For what it’s worth, we at the Kuts see all the world’s malice and cruelty roiling in a cauldron of godless terror and unfathomable despair.
What gets undersold by both camps, though, is the role that Garnett’s histrionics play within the framework of the larger team game. His tendency to go after players he perceives as weak or inferior (young guys, little guys, foreign guys, guys who stink) rather than the big stars and heavy hitters is borne out of practicality and a firm grasp of long-play gamesmanship. Essentially, you intimidate those you can break because they’re the ones who’ll start making mistakes as a result.
Consider the Wizards game. While Garnett had brewed up enough frothing insanity to lap the table twice, he held back his largest doses for third-year forward Kevin Seraphin. From the second quarter on, it appeared that Garnett was making a point to mess with the Guianan big man, pushing, poking, and prodding as much as possible within the boundaries of the rules. Seraphin had tallied 19 points and 7 boards in the previous game, repeatedly drilling the Celtics’ interior on his way to an 8-9 shooting night. Knocking him off the beam would go a good bit of the way toward a Boston victory.
With less than three minutes of regulation to play and the score tied at 80, Seraphin began to crack. Up to this point, he had been having a pretty decent game: 16 points off 8-17 with 7 rebounds and 3 assists. From the 2:37 mark to the end of the fourth quarter, though, he turned the ball over three times – a bad pass forced and stolen by Garnett, an offensive foul taken by Garnett, and a strip by Paul Pierce facilitated by some very aggressive defense from Garnett – and attempted zero shots. In the overtime period, he was a veritable non-factor, going 0-2 with one rebound as his team was outscored 12-6 to close out the game.
Due to the groundwork he had begun to lay a full half of play earlier, Garnett was able to fluster his under-experienced opponent into a series of screw-ups and bad decisions at the game’s most critical juncture. As he so often does, Tommy Heinsohn put it weirdest and best: “They’re just getting Seraphin to think in English instead of French, and he doesn’t know how to think his way out of a double team.”
November 9, 2012
Game 5: Boston Celtics (2-3) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (3-2)
With 3:13 left in the first quarter, Rajon Rondo inbounded from under the hoop to Brandon Bass on the wing. Fronted by Spencer Hawes, Bass immediately went into a strong, lefty dribble-drive, blowing by his man in two long strides. Bass hit the semicircle and went up hard to the rim, the ball held high over his head with both hands. On the way up, he was clipped on the forearm by helping big Lavoy Allen, who gave the ball a momentary stay from the cylinder. Bass went to the line and smoothly sank his two free throws.
Between FTs, Tommy Heinsohn explained a subtle new wrinkle in Bass’ game with an A+ extended simile, which we were more than happy to transcribe and provide a visual representation of.
Add this to his game: his ability to do what he just did there. Last year, when he would drive, he would consistently show the ball to the defender and the defender had a good chance of blocking it because it was like putting an apple pie on the windowsill as a very hungry man was walking by.
November 14, 2012
Game 8: Boston Celtics (5-3) vs. Utah Jazz (4-5)
Following their 106-100 home loss to the Sixers, the Celtics got on a bit of a roll, taking their next three from the Bucks (96-92), the Bulls (101-95), and the Jazz (98-93). The Jazz game was particularly fertile in terms of screengrabbing. The Kuts came out firing early, snapping up this first-quarter close-up of Gordon Hayward’s dirt chops, which suggest a passive insistence on the part of Utah’s third-year guard to be known as “Gord” or “Gordie” Hayward from here on out.
Jeff Green’s early-season inconsistency has been remarked upon quite a bit. While he’s sprinkled a handful of decent games into the mix, his per-36 numbers are below his career averages across the board, except for the turnovers, which are up. The guy did sit out all of last year to recover from a major cardiac procedure, so we’re sure we can cut him some slack while he builds his game back up.
He took a big step forward in that department against Utah, turning in 16 points off 5-9 from the floor and 6-7 from the line in 27 minutes of action. Amongst the 16 were a pair gotten off a rafter-quaking throw-down over former Celtic Al Jefferson, the sort of thing you might show a time-travelling Donald Dinnie if he were to ask you what a “posterization” was.
Green seems like a nice guy. Like most nice guys, he also seems like a bit of a square. This is evidenced by his puzzling decision to play basketball in black Steve Madden wingtips with white socks crumpling down to the ankles like he lost his garters. Come on, Jeff; everybody knows that if you’re going to rock the high socks, you’ve got to bring ‘em all the way up to the knee. Right, Big Dog?
Paul Pierce led all players with 23 points, getting 15 of them in a red-hot third quarter which saw the Celtics’ captain knock down three consecutive triples over a span of two-plus minutes. The third one put the C’s up 60-58, and inspired rookie forward Jared Sullinger to unload a wicked windmilling celebration from the sideline.
November 15, 2012
Game 9: Boston Celtics (5-4) at Brooklyn Nets (5-2)
The next night, the Celtics hopped the Fung Wah Bus to NYC for their nationally-televised matchup with the Brooklyn Nets. Clearly feeling stiff and fatigued from the ride, they dropped the game 102-97, despite actually outplaying their opponent in a number of different ways. They shot the ball better from the field (.467 to .424), from the line (.800 to .786), and from downtown (.538 to .364). They pounded the ball on the inside (46 points in the paint to 36) and ripped the net in transition (19 fast break points to 5).
Unfortunately, they also allowed a season-high 18 offensive rebounds, which resulted in an 85-75 field goal attempt advantage for the bad guys. Basically, the Celtics did offense better, but the Nets did it more often.
While it wasn’t necessarily emblematic of how the game went, Keith Bogans provided what will assuredly be the most lasting image from the evening. Towards the end of the second quarter, he attempted to twist Leandro Barbosa’s head off his body like he was opening a Fanta.
Several minutes prior to that, Jason Terry took a valiant swipe at Jared Sullinger’s sideline celebration crown, but went down in a third-round TKO. After a bucket from KG brought the Celtics to within four, Terry rose from his seat, lifted his knee, and extended his right arm toward the Nets’ end of the floor in what looked like an interpretation of the famous Lady Justice statue.
It looks as though Terry meant to do… something…but whatever it was, it came out sideways and half-cocked at the moment of truth. On the plus side, he may have accidentally stumbled across a thinking man’s expression of satisfaction for the next time an opponent turns the ball over or bricks a shot after a bogus call goes against the Celtics, a sort of non-verbal “ball don’t lie.”
November 17, 2012
Game 10: Boston Celtics (6-4) vs. Toronto Raptors (2-7)
The Celtics put their first wire-to-wire walloping in the books nearly three full weeks after the season began, dropping the Raptors 107-89 in a Saturday matinee at the Garden. They had played four home games prior to this one, losing two and winning the others by a total margin of 11 points. That’s not Gino time. Knocking down 57 percent of your shots while your voodoo priest point guard drops 20 dimes and your undersized rookie “big” man racks up his first career double-double? That’s Gino time.
November 21, 2012
Game 12: Boston Celtics (6-6) vs. San Antonio Spurs (9-3)
Though they were only down by two at the time, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo were stricken by a profound sadness as they watched their team grapple valiantly with the mighty Spurs. It was as though they could see the game slipping away long before it happened, like a pair of expatriated Slovaks whose exhilaration at the prospect of engaging with the American Dream has been snuffed out by the absolute fact of the hard road growing only harder as it twists into the foggy alienscape ahead.
November 25, 2012
Game 14: Boston Celtics (8-6) at Orlando Magic (5-8)
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: at 15 seasons and counting, Paul Pierce still has the best smile in the business.