Pace: 94 possessions (slightly above average)
Offensive Efficiency: 104.2 points/100 possessions (below average)
Defensive Efficiency: 101.1 points allowed/100 possessions (elite)
You can either celebrate a much-needed win and the return of Kevin Garnett or you can wonder why the C’s had such trouble beating a Blazer team missing half its best players, including its star two guard.
Which path do you take?
We’re jumping right to bullets, because it’s Friday night (actually Saturday morning), and because Jay Leno sucks:
• What a difference one shot makes. If Ray Allen misses that open three that gave Boston a 96-95 lead with 41 seconds left in overtime, the lead on this game is: “What’s wrong with Ray Allen?” If he misses that shot, Ray (likely) finishes 2-of-14 and wraps what would easily have been his worst two-game stretch in Boston. Instead, we’ll read how shooters keep shooting, how Ray says his shot felt good all night, how a hot streak is always right around the corner.
Even with that made three—a huge shot, obviously—Ray is 6-of-24 in his last two games, and his three-point percentage for the season is down to a dismal 34.7.
• Doc actually sat Ray down from the 10:23 mark of the 4th quarter all the way until the 3:08 mark—more than seven minutes—because Ray could not guard Andre Miller. Without Brandon Roy, the Blazers are essentially forced to play the whole game with two point guards, meaning Ray Allen was going to have to spend the bulk of his minutes defending one of them. That is not a good match-up for Ray, who is better suited to defending a traditional two guard—someone like Ray Allen.
It’s not as if Tony Allen was shutting down Andre Miller in the 4th quarter. Before Ray re-entered the game with 3:08 left, Miller had scored six points in the quarter on 3-of-4 shooting and dished two assists. But Miller couldn’t get free from TA on his own; he needed screens from his teammates, and the C’s are generally very good at defending screen/rolls they can see coming.
• And wouldn’t you know it? On Ray’s first defensive possession after that 3:08 mark (with Boston up 89-83 and in control of the game), Andre Miller blew right by him going left, drew a foul and hit a running lay-up to pull Portland within 89-86. It was, at that point, the biggest play of the game for Portland. A game-saver.
• The C’s had two chances to win the game in regulation and couldn’t capitalize on either. On the first, Doc called timeout with 1:02 to go and set up a very simple play: Rondo stood with the ball on the left wing (guarded by Martell Webster in a late-game adjustment by Nate McMillan) and the C’s had KG get in position to set a screen near the top of the three-point line—to Rondo’s right. The rest of the C’s cleared out to the other side of the floor.
KG walked over for the screen and stopped short. It’s unclear from the tape if Rondo called him off or if the intent of the play was only to get Webster thinking about the screen. I’m leaning to the former, because Rondo waited a couple of beats and just blew by Webster along the sideline, coasted in for what should have been the game-icing lay-in and just plain missed it.
Nice possession, fluky bad result.
• After Portland tied it at 91, the C’s got the ball back with 34 seconds left and called a play we’ve seen them use in end-game situations many times: Pierce dribbled at the top of the three-point arc as Ray Allen raced over from the right side to set a screen for Pierce to dribble around. The intent is for Ray to set a quick screen and pop back out behind the three-point line on the opposite side as Pierce dribbles to the right wing. A big man (Perk in this case) is supposed to pick off Ray’s guy, allowing Ray to spring free, receive a cross-court pass from the captain and take an open three.
The Blazers sniffed it out tonight. Rudy Fernandez (guarding Ray) stopped before Ray set the screen and switched onto Pierce, allowing Pierce’s man (Andre Miller) to take Ray, avoid the Perk screen and break up the play. Pierce had to improvise and missed a pull-up jumper. The C’s grabbed the loose ball rebound and called another timeout.
• What happened next was ugly. The C’s appeared to have no plan other than having Pierce dribble the ball beyond the three-point arc and wait for Portland to use the foul the Blazers had to give. Except Portland didn’t do that, and Pierce realized, “Holy crap, I have to do something.” This led to a vintage 2004 Pierce against the world drive, a charging foul and OT. Yuck.
• Sixteen offensive rebounds for the Blazers tonight, as teams continue to kill Boston on the offensive glass. I hope to take a look at a few of Portland’s ORBs on video later this weekend. As you’ll see, everyone on the team needs to do a better job in this area.
• If you’re wondering why Scal didn’t play tonight, he suffered a separated shoulder. He expects to miss Monday’s game and play Thursday against the Magic, according to WEEI.
• I am upset that Triumph the Insult Comic Dog did not make a final appearance on Conan tonight.
• One number that stands out to me: The C’s committed 28 fouls, the Blazers just 18. This was not a case of bad officiating. The Blazers run a sophisticated offense using lots of motion, and they run it well. They topped the league in offensive efficiency last season, and they’re 5th so far this season despite all their injury problems. They shot badly tonight, but they were able to break the C’s down with Miller screen/rolls and creative movement off the ball. The C’s were a few inches out of position all game.
• I thought KG looked great, though he came up limping late in the game and didn’t look the same after.
• KG missed some jumpers he usually makes, and that’s to be expected. The C’s were able to create open looks almost anytime they wanted them; they just failed to knock the shots down. Go back and watch the last half of the 2nd quarter, when Boston scored just seven points over the last six minutes. You’ll see KG miss two open jumpers, two Ray shots at the rim spin out and a Rondo missed lay-in.
The shots were there all night. This is a good thing.
• Another thing about KG: After the loss against Detroit Wednesday, I wrote that the C’s went to far too many isolations in the 2nd half. Doc complained about the same thing after the game, and Kelly Dwyer mentioned it in his write-up the following morning. KG’s presence helps mitigate against that sort of iso-heavy stagnation. He is one of the best and most willing interior passers in the game, and he gives the C’s an inside creator they lack otherwise. The offense won’t put up sterling numbers every night just because he’s in the line-up, but it will be less prone to isolation-heavy dead streaks.
• Late in the 2nd quarter, we saw KG on the court with Sheed and without Paul Pierce or Ray Allen. This never happened in ’08 or 09; KG played almost all of his minutes in those seasons with both Pierce and Allen. Let’s hope Doc has enough time to experiment with these sorts of line-up tweaks before the playoffs.
• The C’s did something tonight you almost never see them do: They went away from standard man-to-man defense and over-loaded the strong side on a few possessions to cut off Andre Miller’s penetration. That’s how good Miller was tonight. Watch the Portland possession that starts with about 7:00 left in regulation. Miller dribbles against Tony Allen on the left wing with the rest of the Portland offense on the right side of the floor. All of a sudden, Glen Davis leaves Dante Cunningham on the right edge of the paint and slides over to the other side of the court. This leaves Paul Pierce responsible for both Cunningham and Martell Webster in the right corner (i.e. far away from Miller, who has the ball).
Portland made the C’s pay immediately. Miller flung a pass all the way to Webster, and Pierce, who had dropped down between Cunningham and Webster, recovered late and “fouled” Webster on a three-point attempt. (It was a shaky call; Webster sort of kicked out his leg to draw contact, Reggie Miller-style).
• Good things happen when Eddie House sets screens for Paul Pierce. More on this in the coming days.
• When is the last time both Pierce and Ray Allen air-balled threes in the same game?
• That’s it for tonight. Dear Jay Leno: I’m sure your “new” Tonight Show will be really good…FOR ME TO POOP ON!