Post-game Reactions

Two weeks before the trade deadline, I wrote the following in this post:

Think about how many times you’ve seen this sequence: Ray cuts from the right corner around two baseline screens. Ray curls out to the elbow, receives a pass and faces the basket. He has a decent shot, only the big guy defending Perk has jumped out to try and deter that shot, leaving Perk open for a brief window. Allen rifles a quick pass to Perk who either lays the ball in right away or waits for the rotating defender to fly by him before going up for a dunk/lay-in.

The post was not a plea with Danny Ainge to keep Ray Allen, because it was perfectly reasonable for Danny Ainge to shop Ray if he had a chance to acquire, say, Kevin Martin in return.

The point of the post was that Ray’s value goes well beyond his three-point shooting percentage. And if you ever doubt that, you can do two things:

1) Look at Ray’s plus/minus stats, which have been by far the best of any Celtic over the last two seasons and show a consistent ability to elevate bench players; or

2) Much more fun: Watch the stretch between the 6:26 and 4:41 marks of the 3rd quarter from last night’s game.

The C’s scored 12 points in that 1:45—and Ray was responsible for all of them. 

And here they are:

(6:26)—Ray runs left to right along the baseline and around two screens—one by Big Baby, then another from Perk. As Ray receives Rajon Rondo’s pass on the right wing, Perk jumps out to set another screen on Ray’s guy (Dwyane Wade). The screen catches Wade, and Ray dribbles around it, stops and rises to shoot.

Perk’s guy (Joel Anthony), sensing trouble, jumps out to contest Ray’s shot. Perk rolls toward the rim. Ray slips Perk a bounce pass on the right wing about 18 feet from the hoop, and Perk has a clear lane to the basket. Udonis Haslem sees this and rotates off of Glen Davis (standing in the paint) to rush out at Perk.

Perk delivers the ball to Baby, who lays it in.

Ray gets nothing on the stat sheet for this play—no assist, no shot attempt, nothing. But he creates it. That’s two points.

(5:58): Ray starts the next C’s possession on the left block, with Dorrel Wright fronting him. Glen Davis stands across from Ray on the right block. Ray fakes a cut toward Baby, which is probably convincing if you’re Dorell Wright, since Ray has made that same cut about 50,000 times over the last 14 seasons.

This time, though, Ray’s faking. He instead cuts back out toward the perimeter on the left wing, where Perk is waiting to set a screen for him at the left elbow. Wright has already fallen for the fake cut, so he’s two feet behind Ray before he even realizes he has to curve wide around a Perk screen.

Rondo hits Ray in stride. Once again, Perk’s man (Anthony) jumps out to contest a possible Ray jumper, and once again, Ray bounces a pass to Perk about 15 feet from the hoop. And once again, Udonis Haslem has to leave Big Baby in the paint in order to prevent a Perk dunk.

Guess what happens next? Perk dishes to Baby for the And-1. (Baby missed the foul shot).

Again: No assist for Ray. But this is all him. That’s four points.

(5:37): Rondo feeds Ray in the left corner for a transition three-pointer. That’s seven points in 49 seconds.

(5:09): This is a really gorgeous play. Rondo dribbles the ball on the left wing, near the sideline and behind the three-point arc, and the C’s gear everything to that side of the floor to fool Miami into thinking that’s where the action is. As Rajon dribbles, Ray Allen sets a screen for Pierce under the basket. Pierce uses it to cut along the baseline to the left corner (i.e. the ball side), where Perk another screen for Pierce.

At this point, the entire Miami defense thinks the play is for Pierce to catch the ball on the left side. Rondo is staring Pierce down as he bounces the ball, like Ryan Leaf telegraphing a pass.

But something else is happening on the right side of the floor. Ray is still standing near the right edge of the paint, and he suddenly cuts up toward the foul line, where Glen Davis is waiting to set him  screen at the right elbow.

And Rondo, without warning, picks up his dribble, turns his head toward Ray and fires a pass that way. You can practically hear the Miami D gasping, “OH CRAP! THE PLAY IS OVER THERE!!”

Big Baby nails Ray’s man (Wright again) with a solid screen, so Baby’s guy (Haslem) has to jump out to try and disrupt what would otherwise be an easy Ray elbow jumper. Davis rolls to the hoop uncovered, and Ray finds him with a simple pass that leads to a Baby lay-up. That’s nine points. Ray actually gets the assist for this one.

(4:41): When people say Dwyane Wade can get caught ball-watching, this is what they mean. Wade is guarding Ray in the right corner, but he’s standing on the edge of the paint with his back to Allen and his eyes on Rajon Rondo dribbling on the opposite side of the floor.

Dwyane Wade is literally paying no attention to one of the greatest shooters ever. Ray’s response? He runs across the baseline to the left corner, getting so close to Rajon that Rondo can almost hand him the ball for the open three.

The best part? Wade sees Ray sprinting along the baseline and responds by pointing at Ray, hoping some other Heat player will take him. Wade does not move. Not an inch.

No one takes Ray. Swish.

That’s 12 points in 1:45. If your team scored 12 points every 1:45, they’d finish the game with about 340 points.

And regardless of what the stats say, Ray accounted for every single one of those 12 points.

I want to finish with one thing: A bunch of people Tweeted last night about how glad they were the C’s didn’t trade Allen. I get that. But one outstanding performance in Game 2 of a first-round playoff series does not alone vindicate Danny Ainge’s decision to hang onto Ray or call into question Ainge’s initial decision to shop him.

The goal is to build a championship team, either now or in the future, and two home wins against Miami do not prove the 2010 C’s are a championship team. This team’s problem has been consistency. It has been wonderful to see the 2008 defense for six straight quarters now.

Let’s cross our fingers that this team can bring that defense consistently over several weeks.

And let’s enjoy Ray while he’s here. Because last night was damn fun.

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Zach Lowe

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