The Celtics are going to need to play their best basketball of the season to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers four times in seven games, including at least once in Cleveland. Everyone is going to have to contribute, especially on offense, where the C’s were mediocre all season.
And the C’s offense will have to function even as its best pure scorer, Paul Pierce, depletes his energy on the other end, where he will defend LeBron James for much of every game. If you don’t think guarding the best player alive on defense will impact Pierce’s offense, ask Phil Jackson whey he waited until Game 5 of the Thunder-Lakers series to stick Kobe Bryant on Russell Westbrook. Or ask Adrian Dantley whey he waited until Denver was facing elimination to try Chauncey Billups on Deron Williams.
The odds say Paul Pierce is going to have one or two bad (by his standards) offensive games in this series. When that happens, the team’s other players must produce and it’s other weapons—especially the three-point shot—must function.
Luckily, the team’s best three-point shooter is once again shooting the ball the way he has for most of his career.
Here is a breakdown of Ray Allen’s three-point shooting numbers:
Career: 2,444-6,196 (39.6 percent)
First 41 games, 2009-10: 66-188 (35.1 percent)
Last 41 games, plus playoffs, 2009-10: 98-247 (39.7 percent)
So for the last 46 games, Ray Allen has shot the three ball like….Ray Allen. Now, 46 games isn’t a huge sample size, but it also isn’t some little 10-game hot streak you could easily toss aside and attribute to random chance. We’ve got more than 1,000 games that say Ray Allen is an elite three-point shooter and 41 that say he might be turning into an average three-point shooter in the twilight of his career.
I’ll put my faith in the 1,000 or so games.
And against Miami? Ray was on fire—19-of-36 (53 percent), and that’s despite tossing up an 0-of-4 from deep in Game 1.
After that, Ray knocked down 19 threes in four games. That represents the most three-pointers Ray Allen hit in any four-game stretch this season.
His previous high for makes over a four-game stretch this year? That’d be 13, which he did a couple of times, according to his game log.
The Celtics are the underdog against Cleveland. Certain things will have to go right during most of this series for the underdog to win. I’m convinced that winning the three-point shooting battle—or at least playing it to a draw—is absolutely essential for Boston to win this series. And on offense, that starts with Ray Allen, the guys setting screens for him and the point guard in charge of getting him the ball in the right spots.