While Eddie House's recent shooting slump has not been as dismal as Rasheed Wallace's has, it has certainly been one of the issues preventing this Celtics team from meeting its full potential. The man with the team's quickest trigger hasn't exactly been a marksman of late, but the past four games have at least allowed the thought to develop that Eddie House might be on his way back.
Before the Celtics outlasted the Golden State Warriors last Wednesday (a game in which House shot 4-10 from the field and 3-5 from three-point nation en route to 11 points), House was posting some rather gruesome lines including two consecutive 0-3 performances from the field, mixed in with a 2-7 showing, a 2-8 display and a 1-5 night. Mix those all together and you've got yourself one heck of a head-scratching shooter's slump.
But then Golden State came to town and Eddie kinda, sorta looked like the Eddie of old. Sometimes, in these situations the consistency won't always come back on at once. Sometimes it takes a game or two or three or even four. It's sort of like one of those movies where the protagonist slowly awakes from a coma that no one thought he would make it out of. The protagonist's eyes never just shoot open and it's all well and good again. First he usually stirs a bit, then the eyelids start to flicker, then the mouth might twitch and slowly the other characters believe this guy has a shot at coming back to them.
Well, believe it or not, Eddie's shot has resembled that protagonist awaking from that coma these past handful of games, and I for one am beginning to believe it's going to come back to us for good.
If Eddie's shot had a pulse, two weeks ago it would have been THISCLOSE to flatlining. But slowly, the tense time period between beeps has gotten shorter and shorter.
Sure, the numbers might not be overwhelming, especially seeing as Eddie followed up his Golden State performance with another putrid 1-7, three point showing against the Orlando Magic in one of the more important games of the season. But in the next game against the Knicks he posted 10 points on 3-7 shooting (2-6 from distance). Okay, so you could say Eddie's been up and down lately, but up and down is much better than straight down. If this were the coma scenario, the protagonist's eyelids would be starting to flicker.
And on Wednesday night, in a somewhat surprisingly competitive game against a depleted Philadelphia 76ers squad, the mouth started to twitch. Eddie finished the night with 13 points - his second highest scoring output of the season. He shot a respectable 4-9 from the field, a not so glamorous 1-5 from three-point nation, and a perfect 4-4 from the charity stripe. All in all, not a bad day's work, especially considering he was part of the very effective five-man unit that started the fourth quarter and turned a six-point Celtic deficit (85-79 at the start of the fourth) into a 10-point Celtic advantage (102-92 at the 5:39 mark of the final frame).
Eddie scored seven of his 13 points in the fourth quarter, made up of his sole three-pointer of the night with 11:15 remaining, a jump shot from the top of the key as the shot clock expired with 3:27 left and two very important free throws with 1.8 seconds left.
Eddie's been taking quality shots these past four games. On Wednesday night specifically, the four three-pointers he missed were good shots and were of the "in and out" or "right on the rim" brand. You know, the ones that you cringe at because they were so close to dropping. I'll take those shots from Eddie, because eventually more of them will drop and they all came within the flow of the offense. Eddie has not been forcing shots up in an attempt to shoot his way out of this rut. He's been extremely patient throughout this process and has allowed his shot to find him again, rather than the other way around. Kind of like how those two dogs and the cat from "Homeward Bound" made it back home, Eddie knew his shot would find its way back to him.
It cannot be a coincidence that Eddie has put together respectable back-to-back games with someone else bringing the ball over halfcourt. For a few games in the heart of his slump, Eddie was serving as the primary ball handler for the second unit, which spells certain doom for his offensive mojo. Eddie is a catch and shoot kind of guy and when those opportunities are stripped away from him and replaced by the burden of ball handling, he becomes a mute point in the Celtics' second unit offense.
His game thrives off of other people penetrating and finding him open on a wing or in the corner, which is why it was so utterly perplexing watching him battle the pressure of opposing point guards as he attempted to advance the ball up the court. It's obvious though that when Eddie is stuck up top dribbling, waiting to initiate the offense, he has absolutely no chance of making his way to the corner in order to wait for a crisp pass to come his way. And when you remove a scorer's primary scoring preference, his numbers are bound to take a hit.
But fortunately, we saw a fresh, yet effective change to the second unit against the Knicks on Sunday: Rajon Rondo. Rondo was the first starter subbed out of the game, only to re-inserted alongside House and co. throughout the first half of the second quarter. Rondo brought a fresh change to the second unit's look overall, but more importantly he allowed House to pick his spots and worry strictly about shooting.
A similar scenario took shape on Wednesday, only it was not Rondo coming to House's rescue, but the likes of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen instead. Throughout the majority of House's time on the court (with a few exceptions here and there) Pierce and Allen handled the point guard duties while House worked his defender and found open spots for shot attempts. Sure, not all of them fell Wednesday night, but as I said before, they were good shots within the flow of the offense.
Taking the ball handling pressure off of House is pivotal to this team. His catch and shoot mentality should not be wavered with, for it hurts his individual game, as well as the team's entire effort. There were not many bright spots throughout the Stephon Marbury experience, but if you think back, he and House actually played very well alongside one another because Marbury consistently slashed to the hoop and always looked for House spotting up in one of the corners. Eddie tends to thrive when someone else penetrates the lane with the intent of finding him open in the corner. And if the Celtics can continue to take that pressure off of Eddie, his shot will completely come back to life, just like the protagonist awakening from the coma.