Converse Firsts: Overly Dramatic
Celtics, Bulls set record for consecutive nail-biters to start a campaign
Nov. 17 -- It was a harbinger of how the start of the season would play out.
In the first game of the 2005-06 NBA season on Nov. 1, Michael Redd stuck a dagger through the collective heart of the Philadelphia 76ers with a game tying-three pointer at the 1.6 second mark, completing Milwaukee's seven-point comeback in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter. The visiting Bucks took full advantage of their second breath, running away with the game in overtime, 117-108.
By the time the first week of the season was over, fans had been treated to nine more overtime delights.
Of that total, four nail-biters came in games featuring either the Boston Celtics or Chicago Bulls. Those finishes, along with a pair of one-point decisions from each franchise, made Boston and Chicago the first teams in NBA history to experience such outcomes in all four of their contests to start the campaign.
Previously, the Trail Blazers in 1990 and the Lakers in 1991 found themselves in overtime or one-point predicaments in the first three games of their seasons. For the Celtics and Bulls, their wide rides began Wednesday, Nov. 2.
That night, Chicago displayed a never-say-die attitude in rallying from a 23-point fourth-quarter deficit to post a 109-105 victory in overtime. The Bulls used a 10-0 run and five three-pointers in the closing minutes to put themselves within striking distance. With 34 seconds remaining, point guard Chris Duhon -- who had 18 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists for the game -- took a feed from forward Darius Songaila, and nailed a jumper from three-point range to close the margin to 98-95. The pair reversed roles in the waning moments, with Duhon feeding Songaila this time for a game-tying three-pointer with 5.1 seconds left, forcing an extra five minute period.
Duhon wasn't the only player to post a triple-double that evening. The Celtics received an inspired performance from Paul Pierce in a 114-100 overtime decision over the Knicks at home. Pierce's 30 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists couldn’t prevent New York forward Antonio Davis from tying the game with two seconds left on a fadeaway one-hander, but it did help the Celtics pour in an incredible 20 points in overtime, five short of the NBA record set by the Nets during the 1996-97 season.
Perhaps drained physically from that contest, the Celtics' luck wasn't so good two nights later when they hosted the defending Eastern Conference champion Detroit Pistons Friday. Things looked to be in Boston's favor when Mark Blount set off a wild but premature celebration at TD Banknorth Garden by sinking a jumper from the foul line with 0.8 seconds left to give his team an 81-80 lead. After a timeout, Detroit stacked its players in the lane before springing guard Richard Hamilton around three screens. Unguarded inbounder Tayshaun Prince found Hamilton on a curl toward Boston's bench, from where he swished a jumper as time expired with Celtics guard Ricky Davis in tow.
The Bulls suffered a similar heart break in their 100-99 road loss to the Nets Saturday, Nov. 5. After Chicago guard Ben Gordon split a pair of free throws to give Chicago a 99-97 lead with 7.2 seconds remaining, New Jersey's Jason Kidd found Richard Jefferson breaking to the basket for a layup with 1.5 seconds to go. Jefferson was fouled by Tyson Chandler and made the go-ahead free throw. Nets guard Vince Carter blocked Andres Nocioni's shot from behind as time expired.
Later that evening, the Bobcats took out their frustrations from the Chicago comeback by topping the visiting Celtics, 107-105, in overtime. Boston held a 10-point advantage at the 3:38 mark in the fourth quarter and looked well on their way to victory, but a sellout crowd of 19,026 willed their team back into a game that also represented the grand opening of the new Charlotte Bobcats Arena.
On Monday, the streak of squeakers continued, with the Bulls falling to the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, 104-95, in overtime. Chicago punctuated their four-game string of close-call contests versus the Warriors Wednesday, with free throws from Bulls forward Mike Sweetney at 6.3 second mark giving it an 85-84 triumph. Golden State's Jason Richardson looked like he might steal the game from Chicago in the final moments. After beating Luol Deng on the penetration for an open path to the basket, center Tyson Chandler -- whose foul on Jefferson led to the game-winning free throws for New Jersey Nov. 5 --rotated and smothered Richardson as time expired.
And, in the contest that put Boston in exclusive company with Chicago, the Celtics' Ricky Davis -- who couldn't contain Richard Hamilton on the final play of the loss to Detroit Nov. 4 -- converted a 17-footer game-winner as time expired to defeat Memphis, 99-98, at home.
"I will say this - if we have 82 of these, I don't know if I can take this season," Boston coach Doc Rivers said after the game.
Rivers may not be able to, but we sure as heck could.