A Ray of Hope
After Celtics guard Ray Allen scored a game-high 24 points in Thursday's win over the Lakers, coach Doc Rivers jokingly acknowledged that the NBA trade deadline passing must have had an affect on the veteran sharpshooter, who had struggled throughout the 2009-10 season.
“I think we should threaten to trade him all the time and then pull him back because he was phenomenal [Thursday],” quipped Rivers after the Lakers game.
But as much as Allen downplayed the significance of no longer having to deal with the trade whispers, his performance suggests a great weight has been lifted from his shoulders.
Allen scored a team-high 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting with a trio of trifectas in Boston’s lopsided win Friday night.
Playing shorthanded in the aftermath of Thursday’s five-player trade that brought Nate Robinson to Boston (he’s not expected to join the team until it returns from this four-game western road trip after Sunday’s game in Denver), the 34-year-old Allen logged a team-high 39 minutes Friday, but unlike his performance against the Lakers, he didn’t fade late.
In fact, Allen scored 11 fourth-quarter points to quell any thoughts of a Portland comeback. For a Celtics team that has watched numerous double-digit leads evaporate in the second half this season, it meant a rare ability to rest many of their starters (all but Allen, anyhow), which was especially helpful on the second night of a back-to-back.
“[Allen is] just playing well,” said Rivers, who joked again about starting trade rumors about Allen if he continues to excel as he has. “He’s relaxed. I didn’t like the minutes he played tonight again, but with the lack of depth we have right now, one of the guards was going to play. It’s usually [Rajon] Rondo, but it was Ray tonight, but he was making shots and it was good for us.”
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Doc's Opinion: All coming together
Rivers enjoyed a lot of what he saw on the court Friday night, but especially another solid effort by his team in the defensive end.
“Ball movement was terrific, but defense, No. 1, was terrific," said Rivers. "We’ve talked about it since the break, we keep getting opportunities in the first and second quarters, and then we start walking the ball up and not moving the ball and I thought this was the first game that we maintained [ball movement] throughout the game. When you pass to each other that well, and you execute offensively, and your defense is what it’s been, you become a pretty good team.”
Boston shot 53.4 percent from the field (39 of 73 overall) with 27 total assists, while limiting Portland to 33.8 percent (22 of 65 overall) with only seven assists.
Opposing View: Not the best defense
Despite his team's offensive struggles, which included a 13-point second quarter that saw Boston blow the game wide open by opening an 18-point halftime advantage, Portland coach Nate McMillan wouldn't give Boston the nod as the best defensive team he's seen this season.
“No, I thought the Lakers, when they came in, a big team like that played well here," said McMillan. "For whatever reason, we are getting off to some poor starts here. I thought tonight we didn’t have our rhythm, but, defensively, is where it starts. They pretty much got what they wanted in that first quarter and pretty much throughout the game.”
Bench bounces back
Boston's bench produced a rare stinker against the Lakers Thursday night, but rebounded nicely Friday. Playing with only six reserves after Thursday's five-player swap that sent Eddie House, J.R. Giddens, and Bill Walker out of town, Boston's bench combined to connect on 13-of-28 attempts (respectable 46.4 percent) for 33 points with 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals, and a block.
Tony Allen, who wasn't even expected to play after suffering a right ankle strain Friday, logged 23 minutes and scored seven points, while registering a bench-best plus-15 in the plus/minus category.
“I think it was a number of guys [playing well on the bench]," said captain Paul Pierce. "Tony Allen with his defense, Marquis [Daniels], those guys really controlled the game and pretty much pushed the lead from where we did. Then in the fourth quarter, they closed the game and allowed us to rest. That’s big especially on a long road trip.”
* Rajon Rondo logged his 25th double-double of the season. He had seven assists in the first quarter alone, which was what all Portland players combined for over the entire game.
* The 20-point margin of defeat is Portland’s largest of the season and the team’s largest at home since a 120-98 loss to Golden State on April 18, 2007.
* Playing with a slight sprain in his right thumb, Pierce finished 3-of-9 shooting for nine points in 26 minutes. He was a game-time decision due to the injury.
* Kevin Garnett played one of his finest offensive games since suffering that hyperextension of his right knee in late December, connecting on 7-of-9 attempts, including a rare 3-pointer, for 16 total points in 22 minutes. He added seven rebounds and three blocks as his timing seems to be coming back now.
* Kendrick Perkins, Rasheed Wallace, and Rondo all picked up technical fouls. It's the second technical foul in as many nights for both Wallace and, more surprisingly, Rondo. Perkins got tagged as part of a double technical with Juwan Howard, when the players got tangled beneath the Boston basket.