Great shooters aren’t like you and I.
They never think they’re cold. Misses don’t bother them. The next shot, great shooters think, is always going in. And so it was that Ray Allen, 2-11 from the field and 0-5 from three-point range at the time, swished home the biggest make of the night, drilling a three-pointer from the corner to cement the Celtics’ 99-95 win. And thank God he did: the Celtics came *this close* to blowing a 16-point lead in the final five minutes.
As far as near-collapses go, this one was pretty epic. If you’re a Celtics fan, you know the drill. Play hard for a quarter or two, build a big lead, then relax and either a) hold on for a closer-than-necessary win, or b) blow the entire lead and lose a game that easily should have been won. I’m far past thinking the Celtics will provide 48 minutes of all-out effort every night. But is it too much for me to hope they stop being so nonchalant with late-game leads?
The C’s scored only once in the final five minutes, and it was the aforementioned three-pointer. They stopped attacking, preferring to run clock off the board rather than building the lead. I’m fine with using shot clock, but be aggressive, too, damn it. The last seven shots Boston took were jumpers — only Ray’s went in.
Other than the late-game stretch of failure, this game was a tough one to judge. I never felt the Celtics were playing well, but they shot more than 57%. I guess it helped that Glen Davis thought he was Glen Rice, and Paul Pierce thought he was Dave Hopla in an open gym. I never felt the Celtics were rebounding well, but they out-rebounded the Blazers 30-28. I never felt the Celtics really cared much about this game, but they still blitzed the Blazers, at the end of the third and start of the fourth, to open up that 16-point lead. And then they damn near flushed that lead straight down the toilet
Before I continue about the blown lead, let me speak about Paul Pierce. His maturation is nothing short of incredible. Once upon a time, Pierce created every shot by himself. His favorite word in the English language was probably “iso.” Now, he lets his offense come to him. Almost nothing is forced, with this new, mature Paul Pierce. If he doesn’t like a shot, or it isn’t in rhythm? He’ll run the offense until he finds a look he’s comfortable with. You don’t know how much Pierce, and his one-on-one forays to the hoop, used to frustrate me. I would spend half my night cheering for Pierce’s great plays, and the other half cursing at his bad shot selection. Not anymore. Now, he picks and chooses his spots and takes almost all good shots. Maybe it’s just the effect of playing with better teammates, but Pierce has matured like fine wine. Don’t look now, but he’s shooting better than 50% from the floor, 40% from threes, and almost 85% from the line. That’s spelled E-F-F-I-C-I-E-N-C-Y.
Other than Pierce and Davis’s barrage of jumpers (and the meltdown, and Ray’s corner three-ball), nothing too important happened. Shaq had his way inside, but that was to be expected. As Tommy Heinsohn noted, “If you took O’Neal and Camby side by side, he makes two of Camby.” Rondo had another ho-hum double-double, Nate Robinson played only three minutes (but still had a nice drive-and-dish to Semih Erden), Kevin Garnett was Kevin Garnett, and Marquis Daniels seemed to do absolutely nothing but still led the team in +/-.
Now, on to the Blazers. Did anybody else almost tear up seeing the new Brandon Roy? I’ve seen him play a few times this year, but every time it’s sad. This guy used to be one of the league’s best talents. He was the player Kobe Bryant had the most trouble defending. He could do ANYTHING on a court. Now, he’s reduced to playing like a damn power forward. Roy posts up, and backs opponents down, and plays like he’s either 6’10″ or about 45 years old. It’s not even that he played badly tonight; he didn’t, not at all. He was good, even. It’s just that his athleticism is so diminished. I used to be afraid of Brandon Roy. I used to love watching him play. Now, he’s so much less.
Roy almost has Andre Miller-type athleticism now, which is not good. Still, I admire Miller and would take him on my team any day. He plays like the 40-year old at the park, the crafty vet who shouldn’t be able to score buckets, but does. He’s strong, uses his body well, and knows the angles. He’s kind of lumpy, pretty slow, and you can’t really tell if he’s worked out once in the past five years or so; but Miller gets the job done. As long as you keep him away from the arc, that is. Miller entered tonight’s game shooting a tidy 7.7% from three-point range. Yes, you read that right.
Also, Wes Matthews? I was wrong about you this offseason. You’re worth every penny the Blazers offered you. Not only are you tough and gritty, but you’re skilled and young. Matthews is a winner, point blank. He’s a Raja Bell type, someone who probably won’t ever average twenty points but will always help a team win.
Even now, I don’t know what to think about tonight’s win. Oh, well. I guess I’ll just end this post by thanking Ray Allen.
It’s like my uncle used to tell me. If you’re hot, keep shooting. And if you aren’t hot, shoot until you are. So thank you, Ray Allen, for not having a conscience like the rest of us. No matter what, Ray always knows his next shot’s going to splash through the nets. It’s a good thing, too. That collapse wouldn’t have sit well in my stomach.