In the first quarter of last night’s game, the Celtics looked like a team possessed.
Rondo looked so determined to get to the hole that he drew five fouls on Bulls players. By the end of the first quarter, Lindsey Hunter was forced out of “retirement” to actually play meaningful minutes. I was convinced that this would be a huge factor in this game.
I figured as soon as Ray went 1-4 to start the game, Doc would substitute Tony Allen for him and continue with the dribble penetration/drawing fouls trend. Everything seemed to perfectly fall in line with that conjecture but then it didn’t happen. Tony Allen ended up playing four seconds in the entire game and none of the Bulls fouled out.
I can’t really be upset that Ray wasn’t taken out of the game, since he came up huge for us (30 points, 5 dimes, and the game winning shot). But what I can be upset with is the heart attack (too soon?) I almost had watching this game.
After the game Doc was quoted as saying, “I pray that Danny Ainge didn’t watch this game” because of how stressful it was. While the game would have been very intense and competitive, I think every Celtics’ fan would have watched a little calmer had Ben Gordon picked up a few more fouls and had a little less time on the court to make practically every single shot he took down the stretch.
During the regular season, TA was far and away the best Celtic slasher at drawing fouls at 17.2%. That means that during the regular season, TA was fouled 17.2 percent of his shot attempts — and since we know he’s barred by every coach on the Celtics bench from ever shooting the ball, it’s a fair assumption that these fouls came on drives to the basket. No one, except for Pierce even comes close, and unfortunately Pierce settled for jumps shots after getting two of his lay ups emphatically blocked.
When Rondo was out of the game, the Celtics had no one drawing any fouls on guards because of Pierce’s tentativeness, and Ray Allen’s propensity to pull up in the lane for short jumpers.
All the more reason to put TA in. What’s maybe the most troubling is that usually a player doesn’t get put in a game because what they bring to one end of the court doesn’t outweigh the sacrifice the team makes on the other end.
But that’s the thing. TA is arguably out best one-on-one defender and while he can’t shoot to save anyone’s life, put him, Pierce, Eddie House in as guards while Rondo is hurt and you definitely have enough arms to get the ball up the court. When Rondo comes back, use TA to spell Ray and you have two elite dribble-penetrators drawing fouls.
The Bulls had their foulin’ arms out tonight and I just hope the Celtics didn’t waste an opportunity to make the game easier for themselves.