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A Bit of Redemption for Rasheed

 

Let’s be clear: Rasheed Wallace deserved every bit of criticism Celtics fans directed his way this season. He showed up out of shape—with “rolls of fat” hanging over his waistline, Ric Bucher said in one ESPN.com Podcast—and he spent the first 50 games of the season jacking threes at a ‘Toine-like rate even though he was making fewer than 30 percent of them.

And his defense? Let’s be nice and say it came and went. He has been a target of Cleveland’s offense every second he has been on the floor in this series, and until Sunday, he was not up to the challenge on that end.

But in the 4th quarter on Sunday, when the Celtics absolutely had to have a win, Rasheed Wallace protected the paint as if it were 2002 again. He started the game as nothing more than Boston’s front line foul absorber, kept on the floor with three fouls during the 2nd quarter just so more important players—players who would be needed later—didn’t pick up those same fouls. He finished the game as an impact player on defense.

The interesting thing? From the 11:11 mark of the 4th quarter until the 4:50 mark, when Perk replaced him, Sheed had to contend with a small-ish Cleveland line-up designed to be too quick for Boston’s centers. Mike Brown pulled Shaq 49 seconds into the 4th and went the rest of the way with Anderson Varejao or J.J.  Hickson playing center. Doc stuck with a traditional line-up, perhaps thinking the C’s would need Sheed’s “outside shooting” if Cleveland packed the paint against the TA-Rondo combo.

And the Cavs went at Sheed, running screen/rolls and driving into the paint, forcing him to rotate:

• With 9:56 left, the Cavs run a Hickson/James screen/roll on the left side, and Big Baby, guarding Hickson, jumps out to cut off LeBron. Hickson pops down to the left baseline, about 18 feet from the hoop. Sheed, standing on the right side of the paint, sees that Baby is not going to be able to recover in time and sprints over to take Hickson just as James feeds Hickson the ball. (Big Baby switches onto Varejao).

Hickson, seeing his quickness advantage, tries to take Sheed one-on-one. Sheed stays with him, back-pedaling until Hickson goes up for a shot, at which point Sheed smacks the ball away. Sheed collects the ball and tosses to Rondo, who then hooks up with Baby for that insane football pass and lay-in. (What an incredible catch-and-finish by Glen Davis, huh?).

• On Cleveland’s next possession, Sheed is guarding Hickson at the top of the key when he makes a fantastic read. He sees LeBron begin an aggressive drive against Rondo (guarding LBJ after a switch) from behind the three-point line on the right side. Watch the clip: Sheed drifts down into the paint to help on LeBron before James even crosses the three-point line on his drive.

When James arrives in the paint, Rondo is on the floor and James is in the air for what appears to be an easy lay-in. But there is Sheed, swiping at the ball. It’s hard to tell whether Sheed hits the ball, LeBron’s arm or nothing but air. But something happens, and LBJ loses the ball on the way up. The C’s recover and push, leading to a Tony Allen baseline drive against Hickson to make it 80-72 Boston.

(Side note: That basket may have been the most mature play of Tony Allen’s career. Paul Pierce found TA under the hoop in transition, but Jamison and Hickson were all over him. TA had no real shot, but it looked for a moment like he was going to try a classic reckless TA play in the paint. Instead, he dribbled out to the corner, realized Hickson was on him and waited for his teammates to clear out. He then blew by Hickson on the baseline. A great play).

• On Cleveland’s next possession, Sheed rotates left-to-right across the paint (leaving Hickson again) to get a piece of what would otherwise have been a wide-open Delonte West lay-in.  The block ignited a fast break that ended with another Rondo-to-Big Baby lay-up.

• Two Cleveland possessions later (8:20), Sheed is on the left side of the court guarding Varejao when Mo Williams and Jamison run a screen/roll on the opposite side. The play frees Williams for a drive to the hoop. Once again, though, Sheed sees what’s happening early and reacts quickly. Williams has barely crossed the three-point line when Sheed moves off of Varejao and into the paint near the block/charge circle.

He meets Mo there and strips the ball away as Williams goes up for the lay-in.

These plays show how crucial it is for Sheed to be fully engaged. He’s not the athlete he once was, and if he’s going to arrive at a certain spot on the floor at the right time, he needs to read the play early to give himself enough time to get there. If he does that, he has a chance to make a play. If he doesn’t, he’ll either do nothing or commit a foul.

On Sunday, he was fully engaged.

• Finally, on Cleveland’s next possession (7:23), Sheed grabbed what may have been the best rebound of his season. Antawn Jamison launches a three that misses and bounces to about the dotted line. Anderson Varejao is in front of Sheed; Anthony Parker is behind him. Sheed fights off both of them to control the ball, drawing a foul on Parker in the process.

The C’s were +5 in the 4th before Perk replaced Sheed. And Sheed had a lot to do with that +5. You couldn’t say that often during the regular season.

Does about 10 minutes of strong defense make up for the rest of Sheed’s season? What about 10 minutes of strong defense plus a scoring outburst in Game 2? Does that justify a $6 million paycheck and erase memories of a season’s worth of substandard play?

Keep in mind: There are still at least two more games in this series and two more years on Sheed’s contract. But for one game, Sheed found a way to contribute without making a shot.

  • Sami

    Maybe… but only if he continues to do some combination of both for the rest of the series. Even better would be doing both in one game.

  • Cptn Bubbles

    The Van Gundster even was going on about how much he liked Sheed’s play & effort in the game. Sheed looked like he was getting manhandled in other games, but this time he was the hammer, & they were the nail. It is so much better when we get mean Sheed who hangs around the lane & uses his length & toughness to put the paint in lockdown.

  • Jay P

    I am really glad you decided to write that Zach. I completely and totally agree.

    I can clearly remember thinking how impressed I was with Sheed’s effort on the boards and on defense. I really thought he had a great game, and truly impacted things late in the 4th. I’m glad someone is taking notice of it, because his performance isn’t going to show up on a highlight reel or in a box score, but it was vital to that game.

    Good stuff.

  • mitch

    Ball Don’t Lie

  • SHEED IT

    If Boston wins the series… His one outburst would have been worth his contract and his terrible regular season. However, there may be some truth to him stepping it up for the playoffs.

  • pam

    ah sheed. tempting us with your ability. will you deliver on a constant basis or become lazy again? i think someone really needs to find out what motivates him (docs job). any ideas anyone? maybe get him to guard varejao and automatically get him motivated because he like everyone else in the world hates him so much?

  • Paolo

    I think I also recall a certain play wherein Sheed pulled the carpet down on Hickson and it became a Cavaliers turnover. Great veteran defense on an over-energetic young guy.

  • Jay P

    @Paolo

    I remember that play, ya, that’s a perfect example.

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    @paolo, JP: That’s the first play described here, when Sheed took Hickson on the baseline. Great play.

  • Anthony

    As much as the well-deserved credit goes to Rondo, I think Sheed’s contribution went undetected. When he sub in the game, both me and my girlfriend almost instantly said “did he lose some weight”. I thought he was in noticeably better shape than even just a week ago against Miami. He wasnt great offensively like in game 2 but he was effective defensively. He’s such a skilled player and I think that’s the main reason why the fans are upset with him. He doesnt live up to his potential. This is a guy that potentially has a better offensive game and just as great a defensive game as Tim Duncan. I’ll settle for a great effort for the rest of the playoff.

  • Jay P

    @Anthony

    If he get that kinda effort out of Sheed for the rest of the playoffs, the Celtics will be a hard team to beat.

    His offensive contribution are a bonus, and honestly, they will come. His shot looks better now, a lot better. With the exception of one pretty terrible 3, his shot looked smooth. He had more than one turnaround that I was convinced was dead on, and just rattled out somehow.

    But if we see that kind of effort from him on defense, it’s fantastic, and this team is deadly.

  • http://www.livefromapt.blogspot.com w2

    To quote Marv….”Yessss!”

    Love him or hate him, Sheed is great TV.

  • http://hoopstersworld.blogspot.com miss j.moxie

    I know he was mentioned only parenthetically in this post, but I am just glowing with pride at the growth shown by Tony Allen. It’s funny how we fall in love with (some of) our role players.

  • Jay P

    Tony’s all heart. And to be fair, even when he was (less than) loved by celtics fans for his inconsistent, sloppy and sometimes infuriating play, he always had heart. He played hard, no matter what, and it was his downfall, he played too hard, out of control most of the time.

    His play now is a testament to his maturing, learning his role, and raising his Basketball IQ. He’s really coming along, and it’s a wonderful thing to see. He’s developed as a legitimate second point guard for small minutes, and his energy is fantastic on both ends of the floor.

    I can’t say enough about Tony, and I was certainly not a supporter of his earlier in the season, and definitely in the off season. I thought the Daniels signing was the best thing for us, and didn’t see Tony cracking the rotation all year.

    I am happy to say, I was wrong. Very, very wrong.

  • JP

    Sheed needs to keep stepping up with Pierce being dead and Rondo potentially being guarded by LeBron in game 5

  • DRJ1

    I think what motivates Sheed is the big game. So figure he’ll be motivated most of the time for the rest of this season. Also agree about TA. Love watching him. Especially the unassuming way he ambles away after a play, the “aw shucks” thing he does when he misses, and that from-the-gut pure joy he showed the first time he made a great play back in the season. There’s something very basic and real about that kid.

    Seems everyone is stepping up. One more guy, and this story will be complete.

  • complexity

    You could tell he was putting his heart into the game, when he was in, maybe in the third, and missed a shot, then tipped it twice, trying to get is own board.

  • Curlandwe

    I like the graf about Sheed’s read when he adjusts a James driving lay-up, especially the “But something happens …” part, because it’s clear a few different things could have happened. I think that phrase mostly speaks to the hesitation/fear-for-elbow(?) LeBron must be experiencing, because it looks like Sheed will put it all on the line and is willing to deny by any means necessary. Some call it “tentative” but James just looks flustered and bogged down. Frustrate him early and his own demons of title-winning pressure will surface and hurt him.

  • JayJay

    You’re full of kool-aid.

    Sheed has been pulling this crap for 7-8 years: playing like a dog for weeks on end, having one good game and then riding that for a couple weeks until public dissatisfaction with his slacking, lazy coasting and screw-loose on-court behavior rises again.

    You’re also making the delusional mistake of all the Sheed-slurpers, citing a half-dozen entirely pedestrian plays he made *which happened to work out* as evidence of his “fiery desire” and “amazing basketball IQ.”

    Sheed doesn’t “put his heart” into anything except “CTC”: collecting the check.

  • Sophomore

    JayJay – I don’t know if he’ll do it again, but he did exactly what we’d hoped for in that game, and boy did we need it.

  • rav

    I wonder how much money it will take to re-sign TA.

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