Notebook: Emerging Gomes Has C’s Rolling
Two things about Ryan Gomes' collegiate career might explain a lot about what's been transpiring in his professional career over the last few weeks.
First, Providence coach Time Welsh benched Gomes for the first seven games of his freshman season before finally giving him minutes in his first college game. He responded with 15 points and eight rebounds, and never sat out again. Secondly, Gomes is Providence College's all-time leading scorer.
So it should come as no surprise that when Doc Rivers finally decided to give him a chance to start for the Celtics, Gomes took the ball and ran with it. If things continue at this rate, he may never come back out of the Celtics' lineup either. One night after establishing his scoring career-high with 27 points and nine rebounds in the win against Washington, Gomes dropped 29 points and grabbed 11 boards, including five offensive rebounds, in the victory over Philadelphia at the Garden.
"He's been playing like a man and not like a rookie," said Paul Pierce, who sits just two lockers to the right of Gomes in the dressing room and loves to tease the rookie, especially while he's giving interviews.
Suddenly, the soft-spoken forward is being asked to talk to the press every night, before and after the game. He's probably answered the same question ("Where were you in the first half of the year?") about 10 times. He'll even be chatting on Celtics.com today, so fans can ask it again.
But here's what might be the most important thing you need to know about Gomes: The Celtics are 8-4 in the 12 games since Gomes became a starter.
"Ryan Gomes has been on an unbelievable roll," said Rivers, who noted that the Celtics ran only one play for him Wednesday night, and that he scored all of his points on hustle plays and ball rotation. "I don't think people think he can shoot so they keep leaving him open and then we swing the ball and get him on [isolation] in the post, he's so quick that he still gets what he wants. He's been playing terrific and it's been good to see."
Had injuries to Kendrick Perkins and Al Jefferson never happened, Gomes might still be on the bench. But he's made the most of his time in the lineup and has stuffed box scores since he got his first career start against the Portland Trailblazers on February 10. Gomes notched three straight double-doubles at the end of February, and has scored in double figures in 10 of his last 11 games.
While Rivers has been contending that he 'knew what we had' in Gomes all along, his instant impact has caught some teammates off guard. Wally Szczerbiak wasn't on the team while Gomes was riding the bench and the inactive list, but he is impressed that a rookie could understand so well where he needs to be on the floor at all times and anticipate the outcomes of plays before they happen.
And Raef LaFrentz, who jokes that Gomes is really 6'3", doesn't know how Gomes (6'7") has been able to put it all together so quickly but likes what he's seen despite never really seeing such impressive potential in practice earlier in the season. LaFrentz moved into the center position when Perkins injured his shoulder in early February, opening the four spot four Gomes, and the results have far exceeded expectations.
"To be honest, I couldn't see this in practice, but I knew Ryan Gomes knows how to play basketball," said LaFrentz. "He's cerebral, he knows what plays to make at certain times of the game. I don't know how many games he's played but he's dominated several of those games."
Pierce at Height of His Powers
A night after he drained a back-breaking buzzer beater to sink the Wizards in Washington D.C., Paul Pierce was at it again, dropping 30-plus points and leading the Celtics to a win with another standout performance. He notched his first triple-double of the season (and sixth of his career) in Wednesday night's win, complementing his 31 points with 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
Playing the best basketball of his career, Pierce has now scored 30 or more points in 13 of his last 14 games, something not even Larry Bird ever accomplished. And he doesn't have to take 25 shots every night to do it, either. In fact, throughout the stretch, he's taken more than 25 shots just twice: once in his 50 point game against LeBron James, and once in his only non-30 point outing (20), a loss to the Suns. Contrast that with Allen Iverson, who took 31 shots Wednesday night to score 31 points.
Pierce is all but unstoppable right now, and it's gotten to the point where it doesn't even phases his teammates, coaches or opponents anymore.
A 30-point night has become such a fixture that Rivers has to remind himself to talk about what Pierce is doing night after night. Rivers spent the opening minutes of his postgame address showering Gomes and Tony Allen with kudos, then changed the subject as if he'd momentarily forgotten about #34.
"The guy you take for granted, and I haven't mentioned, was Paul Pierce's triple double," said Rivers. "Big shots...making big free throws. He's doing it all for us."
As for the Sixers, they knew that their fourth quarter lead wasn't safe.
"Paul Pierce thrives in those situations," said Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks. "He looks forward to his team being down and taking big shots."
Injury Updates: West Hopes To Go Friday
Delonte West wanted to play Wednesday night against the Sixers. Cooler heads prevailed. He's set to get a look at shootaround on Friday to see how his groin responds and try to give it a go. West said before Wednesday's game that he'd been playing with the injury for "about a month."...Tony Allen appears to be slowly regaining his timing and athleticism as the games go by. He appears to be getting more lift on his jumps, and perhaps the most important sign that he's regaining his form: he had zero turnovers in just under 20 minutes of action Wednesday night. He says he's feeling better, and will continue to work with the training staff...Al Jefferson continues to play through pain in his sprained ankle, wincing visibly at times on the court. While he seems to have his timing back on his offensive moves in the post, the injury appears to be limiting him in rebounding action...Rivers gave the team the day off on Thursday. They will regroup for shootaround Friday morning before their game against the Bucks.