Thursday, January 17, 2008
Sugar Ray Lives
As much of a dream as the Celtics season has been so far, that has not been the case for Ray Allen, the forgotten member of the new Big Three. Allen has battled through a pinched nerve in his neck and struggled to average 17 points per game (his career-low thus far) while also shooting a career-low from the floor.
One of the top shooters in the league for the last decade, Allen has been a shell of his former self for much of the season. Only time will tell if last night was a blip on the map for Ray or something to build off of. He scored a season-high 35 points as the Celtics defeated the Trailblazers, 100-90 at the Garden.
Allen had 26 points in the second half for the C's (31-6) as he helped Boston snap its two-game losing streak and also beat the hottest team in the NBA. Portland (23-15) came in having won 18 of its last 20 games.
When Boston needed it most, where its struggled the most lately-the fourth quarter-Allen was unstoppable. He hit two huge 3-pointers, a beautiful turnaround jumper and four free throws to put it on ice.
Kevin Garnett had 26 points, seven rebounds and three assists while Paul Pierce contributed 12 points, eight boards and five assists. Eddie House starting at point guard submitted 10 points, five boards and four assists as Rajon Rondo sat out the game. Kendrick Perkins had seven boards and three blocks.
Tied at 19 after the first quarter, Portland took a 45-43 lead into the half after Steve Blake hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. The youngest team in the NBA (without top pick Greg Oden), Portland has a nice collection of talent headlined by Brandon Roy (team-high 22 points and 6 assists). Jarrett Jack (17 points, 5 assists), Travis Outlaw (17 points, 7 rebounds) and LaMarcus Aldridge (16 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks) were the other standouts.
Boston played well in the second half, outscoring Portland 31-24 in the third and 26-21 in the final frame. Allen's threes in the fourth were both nuts. One was deflected by a Blazer, right to Allen who drilled it before the shot-clock ended. The next one was with under a minute left. You'd expect Boston to milk the clock since they were up four but Allen pulled up and drained a three, putting an exclamation point on his best game of the season. His previous high was 33 in the second game of the year (a win at Toronto).
Portland outshot Boston, 46.4%-43.6% but the Blazers turned it over 21 times which led to 23 Celtics points. The free throw line continued to be a black hole for the Celtics (25-38) but they compensated by getting there a ton. Portland was 17 of 24 from the charity stripe.
The Sixers come to Boston tomorrow night in what should be another win for the home team. When Danny Ainge traded for Ray Allen over the summer, last night was what he expected, not the single digit, invisible games that Allen has had lately. Hopefully last night is the start of something great for the classy veteran from UConn.