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Recap: Boston 100 - Memphis 96

The Celtics narrowly avoided a let down before hitting the road to Detroit for a much anticipated re-match against the top contender at The Palace tomorrow night.  The Celtics led by as much as 14 points in the fourth quarter with just over five minutes remaining and hung on to win 100-96.  Memphis did not go down without a fight, however, and closed to within 9 points and prompting Doc Rivers to reinsert Garnett and Pierce for the final three and a half minutes likely preferring to have kept them on the bench.  The Celtics may have been looking ahead to tomorrow night’s game, but even if so, no player or coach was going to say as much and put the kibosh on a barrage of re-worded questions to that effect before the game.  Afterwards, Doc said, "Maybe we did.  We looked tired in some ways to me too.  Tomorrow’s game, we might have been looking forward to it."

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The Celtics game plan all night was to attack the soft underbelly of the Grizzlies and despite early struggles Boston finished the game with a 20 point advantage in the paint (46-26).  Doc assessed his team’s efforts after the game, "We wanted to go down low as many times as we could and I still didn’t think we went down enough.  I wanted to run in transition to the post.  We got away from that a little bit and started jacking shots up from the outside and that’s how they stayed in the game."

Ray Allen struggled in the first quarter in this area shooting 0-6 from the field, many of which were at the rim but either deflected or refused to fall.  Ray came dangerously close to suffering only the second scoreless game of his career before sinking two free throws with 9 seconds left in the game and gave a usual assessment placing emphasis on team success, "Tonight it didn’t seem like a big deal coming down towards the end because I knew we won the game.  That’s the greater relief for me; when we win."

Doc added that he felt the game plan going into the game was not kind to Allen, "Ray struggled but it wasn’t a game for Ray in a lot of ways.  I didn’t call his number a whole bunch.  It was a game that I was determined it was going to be won down low.  Who wants to get in a shootout with Mike Miller?" 

Miller was hot in the first quarter scoring 7 of Memphis’ first 11 points and shot 4-4 from the field including a baseline drive for an easy lay-up that was more commonplace tonight against the Celtics than fans have become accustomed to seeing this season with the drastically overhauled defense.  Miller was 2-6 the remaining three quarters of play and Coach Iavaroni said afterwards that the Celtics were, "playing soft on the pick and rolls and (Miller) was turning the corner on them.  They obviously said, ‘let’s get the ball out of his hands.’"

Tony Allen was the story of the night however and while Boston struggled to execute the game plan in the first quarter with only 6 of their 22 points coming the paint Allen was the remedy.  It was all salmon and mashed potatoes for Allen as he feasted on the Grizzlies’ interior defense in the second quarter with a 6-8 shooting effort and 15 of his season-high 20 points on the night.  Before the game this writer made note of Tony’s marked improvement in play when receiving extended minutes and Tony responded, "My Man!  My Man, right there!  Give me some love.  I’m just glad you noticed."

Doc talked about Tony’s progress before the game stressing the importance of Tony to the team’s playoff hopes. "He has to be great by the end of the year for us.  With the knee and all that I do understand that and that’s going to take time but I have to do better.  I have to find a better way of keeping him involved.  He’s an energy player and it’s tough for energy players to play when they don’t have a lot of minutes, especially minutes in a row.  It’s been tough for him also because we keep screwing with him and putting him at the point and at the two.  I don’t think that’s going to change unfortunately, but that’s another thing that we coaches talk a about a lot.  At least try to figure out a way of getting him some continuity.  It’s very, very important for our success to get him confident and going."  Doc then reflected after the game on his strategy to help build Tony’s confidence, "It was great.  I decided before the game to put him in earlier and use him as a point to start.  That way he gets the ball in his hands.  I am just searching for ways to get him going and his confidence.  It seems like when he gets the ball in his hands he feels more aggressive than when he is playing off the ball early."

Tony Allen received much criticism for his foul on Chauncey Billups in the final seconds of an 87-85 loss to the Pistons at home on December 19th giving Detroit the win after a hard fought comeback.  Doc said after that game that he wished he had played Tony more minutes earlier in that game and took credit for putting Tony in a difficult position thrusting him into the defensive assignment at the end of the game on Billups.  It will be interesting to see how Tony Allen is utilized tomorrow night.


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