With Paul Pierce watching from the sidelines tonight, it was up to the Boston Celtics bench to step up in his absence. Tony Allen and Eddie House answered the call.
While neither players' numbers will jump out at you on the stat sheet, their energy and timeliness is what propelled this Celtics team to victory over the Miami Heat, 107-102.
"Eddie [House] was great," Rivers said. When Eddie makes shots and he can defend at all for us, it allows us to keep him on the floor."
Doc also notes how important Tony Allen is on this team on the defensive end.
"Well, we can say, ‘you guard him' every night" said Rivers. "And every team- there's not a team in the league that I can think of without a good 2 or 3 on their team. So every night you can say, ‘Tony, you guard this guy'. It helps our defense."
Dwayne Wade is one of the best players in the league, and he didn't have much trouble filling his stat sheet tonight- scoring 30 while dishing out 13 assists. But maybe the biggest play of the night occurred with 37 seconds to play in the game. Down by three points, Jermaine O'Neal set a pick on Tony Allen around the three-point line as Dwayne Wade made his way to the basket. Allen got around the pick and stole the ball from Wade as he started to drive into the paint. He was then fouled, and went to the line where he made both his free throws.
"I was fortunate enough to go under the pick and roll because it was higher than the three point line," Allen said. "I knew he was about to split so as soon as we was about to split I just reached my left hand out there and got the steal, hit the two free throws and that was the game."
"I needed that, I needed that confidence," Allen continued. "I was struggling offensively tonight but my bread and butter is defense and sticking with those guys."
The Celtics needed to address numerous issues with their play as of late, and tonight they did just that. The ball movement was evident throughout the game, as the Celtics had 29 assists on 37 field goals.
"There was a point in the game where I told Rondo, I said, ‘the ball is hopping right now,'" Ray Allen said after scoring a team-high 23 points and grabbing seven rebounds. "More than just the passing, we came down the floor we got in the offense quick then the ball just started going and you know they were trying to recover on every pass and everybody was making the right play so it was good to see."
"It was contagious," said Rajon Rondo who finished the night with 22 points and 14 assists. "It started when we first came out, first play of the game, you know we moved the ball. KG, you look up, he had about six at halftime. When guys are moving the ball, we are a great team, we are fun to watch."
Garnett did have six assists at halftime, which was already a season high for him, and ended the night with nine assists. He added 14 points and six rebounds to go with those assists. Most importantly, he feels good out there.
"I'm ok," Garnett said after the game, "I'm doing the small things, I'm trying to fulfill my role and what I have to do on this team, and that's play defense, be talkative, and bring a certain level..."
Another issue that needed to be addressed was rebounding, and especially offensive rebounding. The Celtics out-rebounded the Heat tonight 41-31, and 15-6 on the offensive glass. It was Tony Allen and Rajon Rondo leading the team in the offensive rebound category with four apiece.
"(Assistant Coach) Armond [Hill] showed a great edit of us rebounding last game, our guards," Rivers said. "So it's funny, they were all after the game, the guards led in rebounding today so they were giving it t the bigs and the bigs were saying they were the better passers. Which may have been true. But that was good."
Back on the same agenda
There was talk earlier today over comments published in the Boston Herald that Rajon Rondo made about players maybe having personal agendas and not having the right attitude on this team. That talk was squashed after the game when Garnett got a hold of the microphone.
"Let me say something, and I'm not speaking for [Rondo], but on this team we have a lot of strong personalities, and at the end of the day, we are all seeking, especially when we lose, I remember last year when we lost to Portland, lost three straight, I could just sense everybody within themselves was trying to do more than they should, or reverting back to being leaders on their team versus the way we have been doing it."
Garnett makes a valid point. Whenever a team loses, it isn't fun. There might be some things said between teammates here and there during hard stretches like the one the Celtics have recently been on, but in the grand scheme of things it probably doesn't amount to anything. The players have never shown that they don't believe in themselves or each other.
Asked whether or not he thought this team was good enough to win a championship, Rasheed Wallace said, "For sure. Definitely. If not then we wouldn't have embarked on this journey from the beginning. There would have been doubt in guys' minds from day one but it wasn't/ everyone feels as thought we're talented enough, we're good enough, we have the heart, soul, and desire to get that hardware."
Ray Allen feels the same way, and knows that while the team is capable of winning it all, no player should ever assume he will have another shot at a championship. In order to perform at your best, you need to act as though it is your last shot.
"Believe me, there is not a better group of guys that I think are capable right now," Allen said. "I'm not looking at our record, even though our record is not too shabby. We have guys here and we have a roster that can win it. I told Rondo earlier, I said, this could be his last shot. You have ten, twelve plus years left in the NBA, you make great money, but this could be yours."