Good Situational Work From One Green Reserve

A Daily Babble Production

On a postseason-opening day that featured a litany of problems for the Celtics, it wouldn't be hard to overlook one of the more pleasant parts of yesterday's game for supporters of the green: Tony Allen's defensive play, especially late in the game.

TA participated in just four defensive possessions during the fourth quarter and overtime of the Celtics' 105-103 loss to the Bulls.  But he did exactly what was asked of him: stop Ben Gordon.

In the three and a half minutes before Allen entered the game with 1:07 to play in the fourth quarter, the Bulls' shooting guard came alive on an otherwise rough shooting day.  He knocked down four of five shots from the field during that span and finished an and-one to post 10 of his 12 fourth-quarter points and half of his output for the afternoon.

In an effort to neutralize the dangerous bomber in red, Doc Rivers chose to go offense-defense for the final minute and change.  The Gordon-centric results were excellent.  Allen denied Gordon the ball on each of his first two trips down the floor after entering.  On the third, he forced him into a contested jumper that missed and then successfully denied him the ball again late in overtime.  On a couple of these occasions, Gordon's inability to get free of TA made him a complete non-factor to the play, and he resorted to clearing to the corner to try to let his teammates score in a 4-on-4 situation.

The Celtics' reserve didn't hold Gordon or commit a foul at any point.  He just slid his feet and insisted on staying between his man and the ball as much as he could. 

Of course, the rest of the Celtics' defense had its share of issues, especially with regard to point guard Derrick Rose.  But Allen took a hot scorer with a reputation as someone who can't be left open and effectively removed him from the Bulls' options at crunch time.  That's a job worthy of commendation.

The rest of the thought jumble from a stunning defeat:

  • Hats off to Derrick Rose.  Welcome to the playoffs, sir.  Great, great, great offensive game.  And to think I managed to not peg this guy as Rookie of the Year earlier this week.
  • A fine round of applause to Rajon Rondo for keeping his team in the game at the offensive end for much of the day.  Beyond several big baskets and the fact that he, like Rose, hit each of his free throws (albeit only four compared to Rose's 12), he didn't turn the ball over until the 2:41 mark of overtime on what was at least a catchable pass to Kendrick Perkins.  Tremendous offensive rebound to set up his mini-jump-hook over Joakim Noah to put the Celtics in the lead in the final minute.  Fine job at one end of the floor, Rajon.
  • During their various ravings about the point guard duel (which was without doubt quite compelling on both sides), ESPN's Dan Shulman and Jon Barry offered nary a word about the terrifically poor defense played by both players.  I realize that Rose and Rondo are both tough covers, and they both deserve credit for making several excellent plays to facilitate baskets.  But neither came anywhere close to doing enough in his efforts to keep his man in front of him.  My greater problem at this end came with Rondo, but that could be merely because of how heralded he has become as a tenacious defender (fair in many team-based and gambling-oriented regards) and the fact that as a Celts fan, guys in green making mistakes draws my ire more than guys in the other uniforms doing the same.  So we'll leave it here on this subject for now and see what game two brings.
  • I enjoyed Kendrick Perkins' two fortuitous baskets on late-clock flings from the foul line and the middle of the lane.
  • Here's to a better night from Ray Allen come Monday.  It almost goes without saying, but just in case: I had zero problem with him taking the last shot.  His body of work has indicated time and again over 15 years that for Ray, every shot is truly the next shot, not a nervous-wreck fling to compensate for the last shot.
  • The Celtics got Tyrus Thomas to take several shots that they wanted him to take from mid-range, where he shot less than 40 percent this season.  He hit several of them.  Credit earned.
  • Kirk Hinrich made a great play to tap the ball away from Paul Pierce at midcourt and set up a Thomas runner in transition in the final two minutes.
  • The Celtics did a putrid job defending in transition.
  • Leon Powe made a nice contribution with his eight-point, eight-rebound effort in just 17 minutes, and he abused Tim Thomas for a brief stretch in the second quarter.  I would be surprised if his minutes don't pick up as the series goes and he grows further removed from his injury.
  • Some up, some down for Paul Pierce.  For the regularity with which the Celtics successfully forced Derrick Rose to switch to him defensively at the foul line, the results were a bit lower than expected.  Bad timing for a missed free throw, of course, but it happens. 
  • Joakim Noah recovered from allowing a few early Perk baskets to play a fine all-around game.  Finished a couple of buckets around the rim, blocked shots inside and did good boardwork at both ends (17 rebounds, five offensive), though he did commit a dumb foul on Paul Pierce that could have cost his team the game.  Also, it hit me for the first time yesterday afternoon that he shot a higher percentage from the free throw line than Celtics' point guard did during the regular season.
  • Midseason acquisitions Unstoppable John Salmons and Brad Miller helped the Celts by doing plenty of missing (7-for-27 between them).  Several Celts helped the Bulls by doing the same.  No shortage of clanked open looks contributed to the two teams' combined 7-for-33 showing from the three-point line.
  • Good on the refs for correctly overturning the John Salmons traveling call as an inadvertent whistle.
  • Without being in the locker room or in the bench, I can't convince myself that I have any idea about how the issue of Kevin Garnett's location affects the team.  Except that the team is better when he is located on the court, of course.  As for this locker room-or-bench business, I've got no impetus to question whatever KG, the coaching staff, his teammates and any other parties involved in the choice decide.  Seems like a non-issue to me.
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