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Shooter Keeps Shooting

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Confidence.  Like that of so many others who perform at the top of their respective fields, Ray Allen's never seems to waver.

When the buzzer sounded to end regulation last night at the New Garden, the Celtics' shooting guard had knocked down four of his 15 field-goal attempts for the night.  That included a 2-for-9 performance from behind the three-point line.  Exactly zero of those made shots came in the fourth quarter.  Exactly zero came in the final ten and a half minutes of the third quarter.  He entered overtime having missed seven straight shots.

They were good looks at the basket, too.  Allen couldn't seem to find the bottom of the cup.  He kept getting just enough space to shoot, and the ball kept bouncing off the rim and hopping every which way.

Perhaps that's the part that amazes me the most about the type of performance Allen responded with in the two overtimes against the Charlotte Bobcats last night.  It goes beyond Allen's ability to come up with huge shots at the most critical times, which he managed to do on multiple occasions last night.  It's that he can do so while looking as though the many failures on those first 15 shots never even happened.

For so many of us, especially those participating in sports at much lower levels, confidence can be fleeting in nature.  Miss a shot, then another shot, then maybe one more, and suddenly it's easy to find oneself (intentionally or otherwise) shrinking away from the ball on offense.  Or over-passing and giving up open shots.  Or throwing one's own mechanics out of whack on one more rushed shot the next time around in a poor attempt to 'solve the problem.'

Ray Allen played last night just as he always does: as though none of that internal questioning ever occurred for a second.  It took 64 seconds of overtime for him to get the ball just inside the foul line, turn around in the lane and drop in a 14-footer.  The next time he shot the ball came with 12 seconds left and the Celtics down three.  Game on the line with everyone in the building knowing that he would be the one asked to shoot if the Celtics could get him the ball.  That's a fair deal of pressure even without a rough previous 48 minutes of basketball in the guy's head. 

But when Allen caught the ball from Rajon Rondo offset right of the type of the circles, he didn't show one iota of hesitation.  The man with so many big shots on his resume rose straight up on the catch and followed through on that smooth release at the apex of his jump just like always.  Absolutely nothing in his body language or his mechanics showed any indication that he wasn't having a particularly confidence-inducing night.  As the ball swished through the basket, he didn't seem the slightest bit surprised.

On his next two made threes - one to put the Celtics up by one midway through the second overtime and then the one that won the game with 2.1 seconds to play, which were sandwiched around an airball - nothing changed.  All the motion remained exactly the same.  No timidness.  No rush to get the ball out of his hands.  He somehow looked more relaxed than the 18.624 folks watching him from the stands.  Rise.  Snap.  Follow through.  Repeat.

When all was said and done, Allen had gone 4-for-5 to score 11 of the Celtics' 18 points over the two overtimes, including a 3-for-4 performance from behind the arc.  One of those treys forced a tie with 12 seconds left in the initial extra period, one offered the Celtics their first lead in the second overtime and one proved the winner of a 111-109 decision in one of the most bizarre games the Celtics have played all season.

It wasn't that Ray Allen regained his confidence as overtime wore on last night.  He never lost it in the first place.

We now turn to my torrent of additional ramblings from a dizzying 58 minutes of basketball that included plenty of intrigue as well as a good deal of ugliness from the Celts:

  • While Allen earns hero treatment for his clutch shooting, he made a terrible defensive play that could well have cost the Celts the game on the Bobcats' final possession.  The old basketball adage is that anytime there is enough time to make a pass after the ball is put in play, the inbounder is the most dangerous player on the court.  Considering this is Raja Bell's fifth straight season of at least 40 percent three-point shooting, the Celtics had to be wary of him giving the ball and then sprinting to the arc for a catch-and-shoot.  Bell inbounded to the left elbow from the left hash mark, and for some inexplicable reason, Allen dropped away from him down toward the ball after the pass was made.  This made it impossible for him to recover when Emeka Okafor slid over to set a screen as Bell cut to the top of the circle, got the ball back and launched a makeable shot with another Celtic belatedly flying at him in a last-ditch close-out effort.  While Allen did get screened, he still gets the blame because he was already dropping off his man, which makes no sense in that spot.  Good on CB member BrickJames for having the chutzpah to point this out after the game last night as well.  I probably couldn't have brought myself to do be the first to mention it in the immediate aftermath of the euphoria over Ray's shooting.
  • On the flip side, Ray made one of the coolest defensive plays I've seen in a while when he jumped up and caught Gerald Wallace's pass cleanly just a split-second after it left Crash's hand.  How often does a guy get a mid-air steal of a pass thrown by his own man?  Impressive.
  • As we've seen earlier this season, inattentiveness to detail came very close to rearing its ugly head once more in the form of the Celtics' newfound big three: poor foul shooting, turnovers and opponent offensive rebounding.  Good on the Celtics for making it to the line 19 more times than Charlotte did.  Not so good that they only went 18-for-26 for a cool 69.2 percent.  On the turnover side, the Celtics were lucky to finish only minus-7 after giving the rock away 25 times, which accounted for nearly a third of their possessions.  The Bobcats grabbed 20 offensive rebounds (leading to 22 second-chance points) while the Celtics pulled down 29 boards at the defensive end.  That's a team offensive rebound rate greater than 40 percent, which is downright criminal.  The good news is that thanks to the way this game ended, these issues get lumped into a bullet point in a gleeful recap rather than actually being the recap.  But it doesn't make them any less concerning.
  • One more note on the offensive rebounds allowed: With a one-point lead and less than two minutes to play in the first overtime, the Bobcats held possession of the ball for 85 consecutive seconds thanks to grabbing three offensive rebounds and winning a jump ball.  That's insane.  That the play ended with Boris Diaw hitting a jumper to put the 'Cats up three with less than 20 seconds to play didn't help matters.
  • Interesting to see Tony Allen get the DNP-CD in his first game back on the active list.  He went to the scorer's table once in the fourth quarter but sat back down after a couple of Celtics baskets.  Equally intriguing to see Bill Walker get some run (albeit limited) ahead of TA.  Too bad Walker made an atrocious defensive read early in the fourth quarter that led to D.J. Augustin banging a wide-open three.
  • Credit Augustin for draining all four of his triple attempts, including three in a span of 2:50 that overlapped the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarters.
  • Bemusing announcing sequence in the first half: Bosnian-born Vladimir Radmanovic doesn't hustle at all to get back as Paul Pierce finishes a fast break dunk.  Tommy wonders aloud, "Where's he from?  Russia?  Send him back."  Radmanovic hits a left corner three in Pierce's face at the other end.  "Well, maybe he can stay."  Just bizarre.
  • Loved Doc Rivers' play-calling down the stretch.  The Celtics got a very nice look at the end of regulation by using Paul Pierce as a decoy and having Rajon Rondo attack from the left side.  He put a bit too much on the shot, but it was no doubt makeable and a nice curveball to throw to the opposition in a tie game.  The Perk-to-Rondo outlet to midcourt that the Celtics used on an inbounds later looked solid as well.
  • Two huge, huge, huge, huh-yuge freebies for Rondo to tie the game with 27 seconds left in regulation.  Sam Cassell would be proud of the stones Raj showed.
  • The Bobcats shot seven foul shots in 58 minutes.  Yowza.
  • Not to be forgotten amidst the mesmerizing shooting display Ray put on in overtime, this team made a heckuva run just to get to the extra period.  Not only were the Celts down double-digits with five minutes to play, but they made up an eight-point deficit in the final two minutes of regulation.
  • Also not to be forgotten is Paul Pierce, who played a great offensive game, getting to the foul line, hitting mid-range jumpers and making all manner of difficult shots around the rim.  The Truth strikes again.
  • Eddie Money.  Again.  He's hitting 48.9 percent of his three-pointers since the calendar turned to 2009, hitting them at just the right times and adding to this team's swagger every time he steps on the floor.  Love him.
  • It was a tale of two Perks once more: On one hand, he infuriated me with his three offensive fouls.  One of those plays in particular went down as an illegal screen only because the NBA rulebook doesn't feature a rule specifically addressing the act of dump-trucking.  Which is what Perk did to Gerald Wallace, just bulling right into him under the ridiculous pseudo-auspices of setting a pick.  I'm not sure what was more ridiculous: Tommy Heinsohn alleging that this all happened because Perk was pushed by Emeka Okafor, or Perk throwing on his best Angry Perk Face and arguing this call with the officials.  That he combined for six field goals and assists but turned the ball over seven times also qualifies as rather disturbing.  But as frustrating as that was...
  • ...It's impossible not to love the way he dominated the interior at the defensive end, especially with his shot-blocking down the stretch.  Three of his five swats came in the final five minutes of regulation and beyond, and the Celtics gained immediate possession on two of the three.  On the last one, not only did Perk dispatch Boris Diaw's baby jumper, but he also chased the ball down himself on the baseline.  Great hustle, fantastic job blocking and altering shots.  Perk is a beast!

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