I recently chronicled the atrocious three-point shooting slump of Rasheed Wallace. I wondered if he simply needed to shoot his way out to break this colder-than-ice stretch. After last night's 83-78 loss to the Orlando Magic, that method probably shouldn't be Wallace's first option. He shot eight three-pointers against the Magic last night and made...zero of them, good for a new season-low.
This slump is completely and utterly perplexing at this point because the majority of the threes 'Sheed took last night were good shots. They came within the flow of the offense and the majority of them were not hurried or forced, but for whatever reason they simply are not falling right now. It got to the point where he received the ball at the top of the key late in the game when the Celtics were making their comeback and he set up to shoot a three and I blurted out, "No!" I took that as a bad sign, personally.
I think we are all in the same weird place with Rasheed right now. On the one hand, I honestly have confidence in him every time he shoots from three-point nation. His career resume speaks for itself. He's been a solid and reliable three-point shooter for the majority of his career. It's arguably his claim to fame.
But on the other hand, while that strange sense of confidence is still there for me with Rasheed, at the same time, I honestly do not want him to take three-pointers right now. The stats back up this argument, as he's simply not making them. Period. This is such a strange slump. How can I still be so confident in him, but also cringe when he decides to take a three-pointer? I can't ever remember feeling this way about a player before. I'm officially lost on this one.
I suppose the sense of confidence still exists because deep down I know he's going to break out of this horrid stretch at some point. He just has to, right? I'll never find a stat to back this up, but to me it seems statistically impossible for Wallace to continue such pathetic three-point shooting for the duration of the season. Shouldn't the law of averages come into play sometime soon?
While 'Sheed's nightmare from distance last night was visibly noticeable, everything else he did was actually very impressive and his overall performance was one of the main reasons why the Celtics actually had a chance to win last night's game despite shooting a measly 34.5 percent from the field as a team.
Wallace gave Dwight Howard fits on the offensive side of the ball and really made him a non-factor in the fourth quarter. Despite the physicality Howard plays with, 'Sheed refused to back down and the two were locked in some sort of verbal dispute at the tail end of a timeout midway through the fourth. But the message was clear: Rasheed Wallace, age 35, wasn't going anywhere.
He played Howard straight up, he overplayed him at times and on back-to-back Orlando possessions at the 5:23 and 4:57 mark, Wallace tipped away passes intended for Howard on the block, which turned into extra possessions for Boston. The tip with 5:23 to go led to a Paul Pierce layup, which at the time cut Orlando's lead to 75-74. The second tip led to a missed three-pointer...from Rasheed Wallace. But the point is, Wallace's defense throughout the fourth quarter kept the Celtics within fighting distance of the Magic, which, given the overall performance of the team, was really all they could ask for.
On top of his stellar defense, Wallace had his finest rebounding performance of the season, as he hauled in a new season-high of 13 boards (his previous season-high was six), with five of those being of an offensive brand. 'Sheed really controlled the fourth quarter with his rebounds as well as any player could control a quarter with a stat other than points in a losing effort. Unfortunately, the boards didn't always directly translate to positive possessions for the Celtics. But again, Rasheed helped to initiate opportunities for the team's offense. The rest of the guys just could not cash in.
He did finish the night with nine points (4-16 shooting, though. Yikes.) and was most effective when he went to work in the paint. Clearly 'Sheed's preference is the perimeter, but when he manages to park himself in the paint, good things seem to happen for this team. Such was the case tonight as he scored critical baskets in the fourth with 9:28 remaining, 8:43 to go and finally a short baseline jumper off of a Pierce feed with 2:55 left. His final bucket made it 78-78 and it was the last time the Celtics would score on the evening.
So what do we do with 'Sheed? If the Celtics as an entire unit had just shot a little bit better in this one, Wallace probably would have been the hero - due to his work down low. Are we in need of some sort of compromise here? The threes might still be classified as 'good shots', but his tendency to miss them is just far too great right now. Perhaps 'Sheed needs to balance those threes with a few more attempts down low - at least for the time being. Can it really hurt that much?