Good Ray, the Ray Allen that hit 19 three-pointers in the final four games against Miami. Bad Ray, the Ray Allen that shot 35.1% from behind the arc for the first half of the season.
Which Ray will the Celtics get against Cleveland?
If you want to base it off recent levels of heat, the Celtics will get Good Ray. He was a man on a mission against Miami, drilling shots left and right. It got to the point, against Miami, that I was shocked — shocked! — when Ray missed a jumper. Even contested ones. He may be the greatest shooter ever, and he was on top of his game. Scary for opponents, glorious for me.
But there are other ways to decide which Ray we’ll get. If you base it on his performance against Cleveland this season, we’ll get Good Ray. I’ll let A. Sherrod Blakely describe Allen’s regular season against Cleveland.
Allen is averaging a team-high 22.5 points per game against the Cavs this season, which includes a season-high 33 points when the two met earlier this month.
Cleveland coach Mike Brown has been fielding a wave of questions about Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
But he’s quick to add Allen to the list of players he and his staff are concerned about.
“Ray has done a terrific job against us, especially in transition,” Brown said. “We have to do a better job of recognizing where he is at all times on the floor. He shot the mess out of the ball coming off these screens in the Miami series.”
Of course, we could also get Bad Ray, which we’ll get if Cleveland can limit him like they did in the 2008 playoffs. In that series, Ray averaged only 9.3 points and shot only 16.7% from behind the arc as the Cavs trapped him off screens to get the ball out of his hands and limit his open looks. The Herald had a nice quote from Doc Rivers about the Cavs’ decision to limit Ray.
“They trap him a lot,” Rivers said. “They make a choice with Ray. Coming off of screens they blitz him to try and allow him not to have shots. That’s why transition is so important for us, and just trying to make the next pass. Where we get stuck is not finding Ray. When we’re moving and attacking we find him, so we have to continue to do that.”
I expect the Cavs will have the same plan to keep Ray from beating them. When the Celtics are at their best, Ray is stroking that picture-perfect jumper straight through the nets, and Mike Brown understands that. But Rajon Rondo has improved and has become adept at finding Ray Allen in transition. In 2008, Rondo was one of the weak links. Now, he’s their best player, and wonderful while the defenders are backpedaling. And Rondo’s improvements on the fast break and semi-break are the two biggest reasons why Ray Allen is unlikely to go through another tough series like last time against Cleveland. It’s tough to defend a three-point shooter in open space.
Will Ray get as many open looks as he did against Miami? Highly, incredibly doubtful. But will he struggle as much as he did against Cleveland in 2008? Again, highly, incredibly doubtful.
He’ll probably be somewhere in the middle. The Celtics can only hope it’s enough.