Saturday was a day to forget. Monday was a night to remember.
For everyone out there who thought Ray Allen's 1-of-12 shooting performance in Game 1 was a sign of things to come, think again. The doubters have been silenced.
Allen erupted for 28 points in the second half and drilled the go-ahead three-pointer with 2.0 seconds remaining to send the Boston Celtics to an emotional 118-115 win and knot the series at one game apiece heading to Chicago.
While many around the arena had a "Here we go again" attitude during Allen's 1-of-4 shooting performance for two points in the first half, he was thinking otherwise. When the second half began, it was time for one of the all-time shooting strokes to return to form... and then some.
Allen's offensive explosion was everything the Celtics needed. He was in attack mode for the entire second half, sinking runners in the lane, catch-and-shoot jumpers from the perimeter and all of his six free throws.
But the shots that really mattered came from behind the three-point arc, where he drained six of his nine attempts, all of which came in the second half.
His fifth trey was a big one, coming with 25 seconds remaining in the game to give Boston a 115-113 lead. The importance of his sixth three is immeasurable.
Ben Gordon quickly erased the 115-113 lead with a Jordan-esque jumper from the free throw line over an air-tight double team from Allen and Glen Davis. Doc Rivers immediately called timeout with 12 seconds remaining and drew up what he hoped would be the winning play.
"It was designed for Ray," Rivers said, trying to explain his masterful piece of work. "You know, but we run it out of a different set. We disguised it. It didn't look the same. We never run it with Ray and Paul. We never run it with Rondo having the ball; it's usually a big having the ball."
This time, though, it was a guard handling the ball, and it was a beautiful thing to watch.
"Wow, it was a great play," Allen said of Rivers' creation. "I think, from the standpoint of Rondo had so many different options, he was going to have a shot, or make a play to the hole, Paul was coming off underneath the basket, and I think he was going to have Glen set the screen and go down. So we were going to get something."
Rondo, who had already carved up the Bulls' defense for 19 points and 15 assists, was the man who would decide what that something was. As he drove down the lane, naturally drawing other Chicago defenders, he leapt in the air and surveyed the floor. He spotted Allen, who was set and ready to fire from behind the three-point line, and kicked it out. Allen rose, fired and gave the Celtics a lead for the second time in 23 seconds with a no-doubter from downtown.
With that shot, the Bulls' gritty attempt at taking 2-0 lead back to Chicago was dramatically denied. The Bulls may have had 14 blocked shots on the evening, but this rejection by Boston was the one that meant the most.
The Celtics led for the majority of the first half and played within their game plan. Sunday afternoon in Waltham, Rivers and his players all agreed that ball movement, transition defense and defending the pick-and-roll with Derrick Rose were three areas that needed to be solidified. The halftime box score tells the story of how well that game plan was executed: 13 assists for Boston, six fast break points for Chicago, six points and two assists for Rose.
Rose picked up two quick fouls in the first 3:11 of the game and was quickly yanked to the bench. As he went to the sideline, so did Chicago's offense.
"Whenever you have to take Derrick out you are going to be affected," Vinny Del Negro said. "And Kirk, I was trying to ride (him) because of his defense and his experience out there. He did a good job for us, but we would have liked to get [Rose] some more minutes in the first half, but he picked up those [two] fouls there."
Del Negro didn't put his rookie point guard back into the game until the start of the second quarter, and by that time the Celtics had opened up a 35-29 lead and outrebounded the Bulls 20-7.
When the horn sounded for the second half, the Bulls came out with the same game plan they entered Game 1 with: run. And did they ever.
Over the final two quarters, Chicago racked up 15 fast break points and nine assists, compared to only six turnovers. The main culprit of that running was Gordon, who was making nearly every shot that left his hands.
He scored 12 points over the final 3:43 and had 25 in the second half to bring his total to 42 points. That stellar play allowed the Bulls to hold on to a five-point lead with less than 2:30 to play.
"I told you, he's one of the best clutch shooters," Rose said. "I don't know how he blocks everything out but he finds a way to hit those shots."
While he was on fire down the stretch, the Celtics still had their final run in them. Davis, who finished the night with a career-high 26 points and nine boards, and Rondo combined for eight points over the next 1:18 to give the C's a one-point lead with just over a minute remaining.
The final four baskets were traded back-and-forth between Gordon and Allen, with the final coming off the fingertips of No. 20 in white.
Gordon played an amazing game, but Allen made the extraordinary shot -- extraordinary enough to make Vinny Del Negro explain the shot in mere disbelief that it went in.
"He's off on one foot, fading away..." Del Negro said.
But that line was quickly followed up by, "Ray can hit those shots."