Pace: 89 possessions (slow)
Offensive Efficiency: 107.8 points/100 possessions (slightly above average)
Defensive Efficiency: 85.4 points allowed/100 possessions (well beyond elite)
Thumbnail: The C’s defense dominated an admittedly weakened Blazer team, and Ray Allen—the same guy everyone just spent three weeks dealing away on the trade machine—scored 11 points in 4:10 of the 4th quarter after Portland trimmed the lead to single digits. This was a very physical game, and Portland stayed in it despite dismal 33 percent shooting by attacking the rim and earning 40 free throw attempts. That’s the 2nd-most attempts the C’s have allowed in a game this season.
• We may as well start with the 15-2 run the Celtics/Ray Allen went on beginning at the 10:17 mark in the 4th quarter, because it put the game out of reach, made up for some awful Boston sloppiness that helped Portland get back in the game and stretched the lead so that KG and Rajon Rondo could rest the entire 4th quarter.
The run had a little bit of everything, but it was mostly about Ray Allen and Glen Davis. Big Baby squelched a Portland run that had cut the C’s lead to 73-64 by drawing a controversial charge on Rudy Fernandez with 10:33 to go. It was a shaky call, but a lot of block/charge calls are shaky.
On the C’s next possession, Allen ran some typical cuts on the right side, drew Nic Batum on a switch and lost Batum on a cut out toward the three-point line. Sheed delivered the ball, and Ray drilled it.
Portland then went to Rudy again, and again Big Baby rotated into the paint to draw a charge. This one was more clear cut.
• A note on Davis: He is really good at drawing charges. Including tonight’s game, Davis has drawn 10 charges in 22 games, according to Hoopdata. That ties Ray Allen for the 2nd on the team, behind only Paul Pierce, who has drawn 16 charges in 43 games.
• Back to the run: With the C’s up 76-64, the Blazers switched Batum onto Ray Allen full-time. Batum did a nice (and physical) job impeding Allen’s progress along the baseline, at one point pinning Ray a full two feet out of bounds underneath the hoop. But Ray broke free, cut up the left side of the floor and lost Batum briefly thanks to a solid Sheed screen at the left elbow. Tony Allen delivered the pass, and Ray drilled another three. 79-64, and that was basically ball game.
• Next possession: Ray Allen hits a baseline jumper. Next possession: Ray’s cuts along the baseline produce nothing, so he comes to the top of the key with about 10 on the shot clock and plays point guard, running a gorgeous screen/roll with Davis that results in a Baby And-One.
• Ray finished with five assists. That’s a significant number for a shooting guard, and at least two of them game on that pet play where Ray cuts up around a screen from the baseline, catches a pass at the elbow, rises like he’s going to shoot only to change course pass off to screener. That screener—almost always Perk and KG—is open so often because his guy has to jump out and help on Ray.
Nice to have him around, huh?
• Baby finished with 10 points tonight, and I’m anticipating a big last 25 games for him. He can be a real force on offense, and he has recommitted himself to playing on the interior. All eight of his shots tonight game from within nine feet of the rim.
• A splendid passing game from Rajon, who finished with more assists (11) than the entire Portland team (7). Among those assists: A nice little interior lob to Davis at the end of a Rondo/Davis screen/roll with just over 2:00 to go in the 3rd. Rondo turned the corner, taking both his man (Jerryd Bayless) and Baby’s man (LaMarcus Aldridge) with him. Davis rolled to the hoop parallel to Rajon, and Rondo, probing the defense like Steve Nash, found Davis with a short five-foot pass across the paint. Davis finished with a lay-in.
• The C’s, in fact, ran the Davis/Rondo screen/roll on four straight possessions at the end of the 3rd after the Blazers had cut what had been a 21-point lead down to 12. The play produced, in order: The Baby lay-in described above; a drawn foul; an open Rasheed Wallace jumper; and a turnover on a bad pass from Rajon.
Nice to see two young guys teaming up on an effective play.
• Brandon Roy wasn’t right tonight, and it was obvious. He took only eight shots in 34:20, and while some of that was due to outstanding Boston defense, a healthy Brandon Roy just doesn’t go through games taking eight shots when his team needs scoring. We barely saw Roy isolate at the top of the key or run screen/rolls from there, and both are staples of Portland’s offense.
• Mid-way through the 2nd quarter, Doc switched Rondo onto Roy, and Rajon spent more time guarding Roy from then on than any other Celtic. I’m not sure what prompted Doc to make the switch, and I’m not sure he’d have done it had the C’s been dealing with a healthy Roy capable of taking Rajon into the post.
But I’ll say this: Andre Miller took advantage of Rajon’s tendency to wander on defense early in the game. With 7:16 to go in the 2nd, for instance, Rondo was guarding Miller on the left wing but turned his head to watch Roy handle the ball in the middle of the floor. Miller cut back door, and Ray Allen had to foul Miller to stop a lay-up.
About 1:15 later, Rondo lost track of Miller along the right baseline, allowing Dre to slip in unnoticed and tap an offensive rebound to Aldridge.
You can’t defend Brandon Roy like that; you have to stay home. For that reason alone, the switch worked.
• The C’s defense overall was tremendous tonight. They were clearly determined to yield no open threes, even if it mean yielding penetration on run-outs and screen/rolls. And once Portland got into the lane, Boston contested everything aggressively—even mid-range/floater-type shots, which they often yield without much of a fight. The penalty: A massive 40 foul shots for Portland. The benefit: Very few easy shots, from anywhere.
• Sheed has picked up KG’s habit of goal-tending opponent shots that come after a non-shooting foul. Copy cat!
• Juwan Howard gave Sheed a sarcastic rendition of “Ball Don’t Lie!” after KG missed a foul shot in the 4th quarter. (The Blazers contended—correctly—that KG traveled in setting up for the baseline turnaround on which he drew the shooting foul).
• Portland is a very good team. They work hard, and they have the 6th-most efficient offense in the league despite having suffered so many injuries. But the C’s helped them get back in this game by committing three absolutely silly turnovers over a span of about 1:20 bridging the 3rd and 4th quarters. The first two, at least, were completely inexcusable.
For whatever reason, Doc brought Brian Scalabrine in with 4 seconds left in the 3rd to inbound the ball underneath Boston’s basket.
Scal, brought in for this crucial assignment, opted not to pass the ball to halfcourt as part of some genius play, but instead to give it to Rondo standing maybe five feet away from him. You or I (or, you know, the guys who were already in the game) could have completed this assignment. Except Scal thought Rondo might want him to roll the ball out so that Rajon could follow it a bit toward midcourt and save some precious time.
Rondo wasn’t expecting this, and Jerryd Bayless sprinted in, stole the ball and laid it in before buzzer.
And then Tony Allen opened the 4th quarter by throwing a lazy—and telegraphed—pass to Ray Allen, a pass so slow and so obvious that Rudy Fernandez had time to jump the passing lane for the steal and transition lay-up. The And-One foul shot made it 73-64, and when Big Baby responded to a double team on the C’s next possession by flopping onto the ground, well, I was gettin’ a little upset.
When this team doesn’t turn the ball over, they can be so good on offense. It’s a shame they keep turning it over.
• Perk also sat the entire 4th quarter. Rest is good, even for the young.
• Boston did a great job running Rudy Fernandez off the three-point line and forcing him to score in other ways. He scored 5 points on 1-of-7 shooting.
That’s it for tonight. One more stop on the road trip—Sunday in Denver. It sounds almost certain that Nate Robinson will miss that game as he recovers from a flu or flu-like virus, so Rondo’s 4th quarter rest tonight was huge.
He has Ray Allen to thank for it.