|Turnaround Tony||05.09.10 at 9:29 pm ET|
While everyone will rightfully point to Rajon Rondo’s historic triple-double performance in Game 4 on Sunday against Cleveland as the spark the Celtics needed, it was Tony Allen’s all-around court presence that might have made the biggest difference at the biggest moments of the game.
Allen — as is his style — came in full speed off the bench, running interference on LeBron James and flying down the court with the greatest of ease, taking passes from Rondo and dunking the ball to energize the Celtics and the TD Garden crowd in a crucial 97-87 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
With the game tied at 70 late in the third quarter, Allen was smart enough to follow Rondo in transition. As Rondo drew James to the basket, that left Allen wide open. With a half-circle behind-his-back pass, Rondo fed Allen for a dunk and the Garden exploded.
“Ya, that’s what you call an energy play from Rondo,” Allen said. “I mean he had energy all night. I don’t know what his stat-line was like but I know it was big and we fed off of his energy all night.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Allen had the chance to return the favor when he drew James to the basket, only to find a trailing Rondo behind him for another easy basket.
“It’s just one of those things where I got out in transition and we figured if we could get out quick, we could get some easy baskets,” Allen said.
Then there was just the simple matter of winning a game the Celtics absolutely needed, especially after the worst home-court playoff loss in Celtics history on Friday.
“Nobody wants to apart of history from a losing effort, losing by 30 in your home court,” Allen said. “Everybody was looking at film yesterday and was down on themselves. I think today they came out and just wanted to turn that negative energy that we had last game into something big today. I think that we did a good job of that.
“We all do a great job of listening to [defensive coach] Tom Thibodeau, Doc [Rivers] do a good job of drawing up plays, but most importantly we hang our hats on defense. I think that’s why we were big today.”
From the moment the season began, Doc Rivers told the Allen off the bench that his playing time will be dictated by two things – his defense and his energy.
Both have been in high gear at the best time of year for the Celtics so far.
“Most definitely, I think once I get a few chip in baskets, they give me a little energy but for the most part I am a defender first on that court,” Allen said. “I need to do that in order for me to stay out there.”
With Paul Pierce saddled with five fouls and Ray Allen using all six of his, it was up to Allen off the bench to assume responsibility for helping to hold LeBron in check. And with just 22 points in 43 minutes, Allen and the Celtics accomplished their goal.
“My plan for that was to listen to [defensive coach] Tom Thibodeau and call out those sets before hand and him looking at that formation, and I was just ready to roll. He did a good job just telling me the formation.
“Basically all I have to say is that our whole concept is feeding off of our defense. Our team concept is slow to the ball and get it out to the shooters. I was just trying to be active on our team defense and I took advantage of that today and I was fortunate enough to convert that in the fourth quarter,” Allen said.
If the Celtics can get more of that in the next week from Tony Allen, they might just need him later in May, too.
|Ray-Ray: Our predicament is ‘not too bad’||at 4:56 pm ET|
Ray Allen has always been extraordinary when it came to putting things in proper perspective – especially when the spotlight is brightest.
Everyone watching the Celtics on Friday night couldn’t believe they got blown out of their own building and were trailing by as many as 35, suffering their worst-ever home court playoff loss.
But Allen, before Game 4 Sunday, played it cool, just like he was taking a potential game-winning three-point shot.
“You go into Game 3, it’s almost Game 1 for both teams because you haven’t playing four days so you can’t take anything from the first two games and think there’s going to be too many similarities,” Allen said, attempting to explain the overwhelmingly poor performance.
“You’re almost starting fresh, everybody has a couple of days off, sitting around watching games and just relaxing. It’s like your first game of the playoffs so to speak.”
Allen certainly looked like he was taking his own words to heart in the first half of Game 4 Sunday when he got out in transition with Rajon Rondo and spotted up for open look after open look, drilling a couple of key 3-pointers. He even got into it with LeBron James, late in the second quarter, showing an emotional spark rarely seen.
Maybe it was the fact the Celtics found themselves in a virtual must-win situation, down 2-1, with Game 5 Tuesday in Cleveland. Or maybe he was just trying to provide an emotional jump-start to his teammates.
But Allen believes in not making the game any bigger than life. He sees a 2-1 deficit entirely manageable if the Celtics play their game, get to the basket and attack.
“Really hard to put a finger on it,” Allen said. “You have to deal with the predicament we’re in, which is really not too bad.”
Doc Rivers had a slightly different but still similar take on the dire need to win Game 4 at home and what happened in Game 3.
“If we had lost by three or lost by 40 or won by three or 40, it has to be the each mindset to begin each game,” the Celtics coach said. “I thought they came in to Game 3 with the right one and I didn’t think we did. And I think in Games 1 and 2, you can say we did. I don’t know if they didn’t but I know we did.
“I really don’t care about their mindset really, honestly. There’s going to be a game in this series where both teams are going to play great and we’re going to have to find a way of winning that game.”
|Doc Rivers press conference||05.07.10 at 11:10 pm ET|
Doc Rivers speaks to the media following the Celtics 124-95 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
|Cavs don’t rest on off day||05.04.10 at 9:47 pm ET|
What was supposed to be an off day in their Eastern Conference semifinal matchup with the Celtics turned into a full day of news from the Cavaliers.
The team elected to watch film in Cleveland Tuesday, even though they had a scheduled off day. Cavs coach Mike Brown ripped his team’s effort after Game 2 in which the Celtics evened the series with a decisive 104-86 victory.
“We have to decide if we are going to take the fight to them and take these games,” Brown said. “Ain’t a [expletive] thing is going to be given to us at all in this series. Plain and simple, they kicked our behind. This series is one to one. We are going to see what we’re made of in Game 3.”
The bigger story, however, is that LeBron James is scheduled to have another MRI on right elbow before Friday’s Game 3. He had one last week before the Cavs closed out the Bulls in their first-round series that revealed a bone bruise and a sprained elbow. James admitted that he started Game 1 tentatively and he faced questions after Game 2 when he attempted 15 shots (he also had 15 free throws).
Also, Anderson Varejao was examined by the team’s physician after back spasms took him out of Game 2. He is listed as day to day.Varejao was one of the few Cavs big men who played well in Game 2 and he was doing his best to try to rile up the Celtics.
[Go here to listen to Kevin Garnett's post-game interview with WEEI in which he talked about Varejao's play, as well as calling our Rasheed Wallace after Game 1]
This is a potentially huge problem for the Cavs who are getting minimal production out of Shaquille O’Neal and are also looking at big matchup problem with Antawn Jamison guarding Garnett. The Celtics believe they can exploit this matchup throughout the series and they have made a concerted effort to isolate Garnett on the left block against Jamison.
Rivers wants Garnett to look for his own offense more, which runs counter to his nature.
“He’s got to stay on that,” Rivers said between games. “He fights his own self because people don’t get that. They criticize him for being unselfish which is the craziest thing on earth, but that is who he is.”
Garnett has been aggressive. He tied a season-high with 20 shot attempts in Game 1 and shook off a slow first-half in Game 2 in which he went 2-for-9, by making his first three shots in the third quarter when the Celtics dominated play.
“Kevin was playing way too fast in the first half but he was still a concern on the post,” Rivers said after Game 2. “They’re trapping. They’re worried about him right now.”
Varejao is the key to the Cavs multiple frontcourt lineups because he can play both the four and five spots and is a much better defender than J.J. Hickson. Without him in the lineup, the Cavs have to either play small with James and either Jamison or Hickson up front, or go big with either O’Neal or Zydrunas Ilgauskus, which makes them much slower.
For their part, the Celtics took the day off and are scheduled to resume practice Wednesday.
|LeBron: I came out tentative||05.02.10 at 1:16 am ET|
CLEVELAND — It’s the story that won’t go away in this series and after a game in which LeBron James picked his spots instead of playing with his usual reckless abandon, the elbow dominated post-game talk, including a question about whether he had a cortisone shot.
“I did not take any shots,” he said. “I don’t like needles, so I didn’t do that. I tried not to hyperextend it any worse than it was. Did I come out a little tentative? I thought about it a little bit too much. It’s the first real injury I’ve had to play with, especially with it being on my shooting hand. I came out tentative, but if I’m on the court I have to be productive. I’m not a guy to make excuses.”
James took five shots in the first quarter, most of them in the lane, and missed four of them. He took two outside shots in the second quarter and missed them both. But then he heated up in the second half and finished with 35 points on 12-of-24 shooting and 4-for-9 from beyond the arc.
“I think his elbow is fine,” Doc Rivers said. “I’m pretty sure of it, actually. I really thought he was trying to get everyone involved. That’s what he does. He eases into the game and he actually did a pretty god job, but he just didn’t make some shots. You knew it was coming.”
|LeBron rested, ready||05.01.10 at 7:47 pm ET|
CLEVELAND –The most important elbow in basketball spent the last three days avoiding contact, but LeBron James said prior to Game 1 between the Cavaliers and Celtics that he is ready.
“I spent the last three days concentrating and preparing for this series,” James said. “I expect a lot of physical play. I haven’t done much physically in practice, I’ve been very conscious, knowing that today is the most important day besides the last three days, physically. We took it very light the last few days. I’m ready for today.”
We won’t the full extent of his elbow injury until the two teams take the floor, but the Celtics are preparing as if he is 100 percent.
|Allen prepared for Cavs defense||at 12:30 am ET|
The Celtics are zoned in on containing LeBron James, but two years ago the Cavaliers were on the same mission against Ray Allen.
Allen enters the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals averaging nearly 20 points in the first round. His next opponent, however, is the same team that shut him down offensively in the past.
The Cavaliers held Allen to just 9.3 points per game in the second round of the 2008 playoffs. He only hit four 3-pointers in the seven-game series and shot less than 35 percent from the field. It was a dramatic drop in offensive production.
“I was put on defense more, but the way they were guarding me in Cleveland, they jumped me every pick-and-roll,” Allen explained. “The way we played, they weren’t letting me come off pin downs. I think in the regular season I was averaging 22 or 23 against them, so their mindset was, ‘We’re not going to let him get involved. We’re going to take everything away from him.’ They did a good job of that.”
Allen was the Celtics leading scorer against the Cavs this regular season, averaging 22.5 points (48.3% FG, 57.7% 3PG) in four games. He expects the Cavaliers to step up their defense in the playoffs and can anticipate how to counter their attack.
“I just know during the playoffs, they contribute two guys to me, always, just when I’m coming off pin downs,” Allen said. “I have to make the right play, (Rajon) Rondo has to be in the right position, our bigs have to be in the right position, and we have to capitalize off of that. The only way we can force them away from that kind of defense is if we penalize them for doing that.”
The Celtics often practice beating a double-team during shootaround, Allen explained. They run through various scenarios that leave different players open.
Allen also prepares himself for double team by watching game tape. This allows him to see where his teammates are on the court from a different point of view. In most instances, it is either Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, or Rondo’s defender who is helping on D, creating opportunities for them to get open.
“I’ve just got to know where Kevin is, where Perk is, where Rondo’s going to be,” he said. “Rondo’s man always help, Perk’s man always helps, Kevin’s always flashing if he’s not setting a screen. When I come off a pin down, it happens so fast. So right before I come off a screen, I almost have to look and see what exactly they’re doing, and then I know I can throw it back and go, or Perk is rolling and he’s got a layup, Kevin has a jumpshot. So it’s just like a split-second decision.”