Will Shot Earn Allen All-Star Injury Replacement Bid?
Ray Allen hit two huge threes in the final minute of the game, including the gamewinner with 0.5 seconds to play that sent him running toward the Boston bench.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty
Cancel your vacation reservations, Ray. You may be headed for Phoenix after all.
Ray Allen got snubbed from the All-Star team when reserves were announced last Thursday. But after drilling two huge threes in the final 30 seconds of Tuesday's game in Philly, including the gamewinner that lifted the Celtics to their 12th straight victory, a 100-99 win over the Sixers, David Stern probably doesn't have a choice when it comes to replacing the injured Jameer Nelson in Phoenix next weekend.
Trailing 99-97, the Celtics needed a miracle with just 6.8 to play. But after taking the inbounds pass, Allen dished to Pierce, ran off a solid Glen Davis screen, found an empty spot in the left corner behind the arc, and knocked down the gamewinner with just 0.5 seconds to play.
"If they're gonna add somebody else, I think that shot cinched it," Rivers said of Allen's heroics and his chances at a ninth All-Star appearance.
While there's certainly no guarantee that Allen will actually get the nod, given the Celtics' NBA best 41-9 record, his 50% shooting from the field and reputation as one of the premier shooters in the game, let alone NBA history, Allen's the logical choice. And make no mistake, despite any plans Allen may have had to play golf or soak up the sun on a deserted island, he'd gladly head for the valley of the sun instead.
"No matter how many times you've been, it's always an honor to go," Allen, an eight-time All-Star, said of the possibility of getting an invite to the All-Star Game.
Allen was an injury replacement in last year's All-Star Game, and he nearly walked off with the game's MVP award after dropping a game-high 28 points including three straight threes down the stretch to help LeBron James (the eventual MVP) lead the East to a 134-128 win. And he's certainly deserving this year. He's arguably been the Celtics most consistent player through the season's first three months, and with the Celtics playing shorthanded tonight in Philly, Allen stepped up when the Celtics needed him most. Fighting the flu that's been going around the Celtics' locker room, Allen scored 23 points, but none were bigger than his last six that salvaged what was looking like a letdown game against the Sixers, who came into the contest at 23-23.
The Celtics jumped out to a 32-20 lead after the first period, but Sixers sub Reggie Evans came off the bench, and according to Allen and Rivers after the game, his energy sparked Philadelphia, and the Sixers used a 24-10 run to make it a game.
Allen tied the game at 97-97 when he took a feed from Pierce just behind the arc on the left elbow. He used a ballfake to find some room between himself and Evans, and once Evans turned his back, Allen reloaded and drained the three.
After an Andre Iguodala pull-up over Pierce gave the Sixers the lead with 6.8 to play, the Celtics called timeout, and Doc drew up a play that would put the ball in Pierce's hands, and give him the option to find Ray in the corner for the gamewinner if he didn't have a good look at a game-tying two for himself.
"You know what I was looking for was either Paul for two or Ray for three," Rivers said of his original play. "I told them, if Ray's open, we're going for the win. If not, Paul, get to your sweet spot and take the shot."
When the Sixers called the predictable 20-second timeout to plan their defense, Rivers started to draw up something different, but Rondo and Allen liked the original play and talked him out of it. As Rivers would later say, "Coaches think too much sometimes."
Despite Rivers' prowess at drawing up plays during timeouts, he's also open to letting his players take over the huddle, too. When the chips were down, Rivers' faith in his players allowed Allen to come up aces.
"He played big for us. He was searching for his shot earlier, but at the end, he came through for us. You've got to give a lot of credit to [Pierce] as well for trusting him," point guard Rajon Rondo said of Allen after the game.
"Ray made the shots, which were unbelievable. I think he's an All-Star. And Paul gave the passes up both times, and that's why our guys win games, because we play together," Rivers said. "They just believe they're going to win games, even when they're down. We've come back a ton this year in games that it looked like we were out of. If they hang around long enough, they just want one shot.
"I like that confidence."