After rough start, Allen takes - and makes - big shots

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After rough start, Allen takes - and makes - big shots

BOSTON Call it the re-run that never gets old; at least not for Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

It's the fourth quarter, the score is close, the ball is in Ray Allen's hands and swish!

"Ray Allen for 3!!!!" is soon heard throughout the TD Garden.

For a player who has made a career out of delivering fourth quarter daggers, there was plenty of reason to believe that on Saturday night, it just wasn't going to happen.

But there was Allen, gimpy ankle and all, coming up with one of the biggest shots of the night as Boston held on for an 85-75 Game 7 victory over Philadelphia to advance to the Conference finals where they'll meet Miami.

After missing eight of his first nine shots, Allen hit his only two shots of the fourth quarter - both 3s - that could not have come at a better time.

"Ray, he never could get it going but he made a couple of big shots, obviously," Rivers said.

But that didn't stop the Celtics from looking for Allen on a 3-pointer that, when he made it, doubled the C's lead to 60-54 at the time.

"To have trust in Ray, after the way he was shooting the ball, to get it to him for him to make it says a lot about Ray and I think it says a lot about our team," Rivers said. "That we trust you for 48 minutes. And I thought that was huge."

Seeing Allen struggle so mightily wasn't that big of a deal. He's a shooter, and it's not unusual for them to go through stretches in which shots simply do not fall.

But making things worst for Allen was the fact that it was clear that the Sixers weren't nearly as worried about defending him on the perimeter as they were in the first four or five games of this series.

Well aware that Allen wasn't moving as well as he's used to because of a right ankle injury, the Sixers often had the defender on Allen to help off and help defend the post area. That led to a number of great shot opportunities that more often than not, Allen makes teams pay for giving to him.

"I had some great looks," Allen said. "Probably the best that I've seen so far in the postseason. I wish I had them back, but they go in when they count. It's almost like I need the fourth quarter I love to get to that point and focus in a little more."

Seeing Allen continue to fire one missed shot after another, did nothing but want Rivers to see Allen continue to fire away.

But there was a point in the second half where the foot soreness that Allen has been dealing with, was getting painfully worst for him.

Rivers knew something was wrong when Allen passed up not one, but two wide open shot attempts - something a scorer like Allen would never, ever do.

When Rivers took Allen out of the game, he went over to him and reminded that, "we're not going to have that (passing up shots).'"

That's when Allen told him about the soreness in his foot.

"He just said, 'my foot's killing me. I need a break. I'm good,'" Rivers recalled. "I told him again, I said, 'You don't ever pass up shots.' The biggest part was Rondo went over there and told him the same thing, which I thought was great for Ray to hear, confidence-wise. And then Kevin (Garnett) went over and told him. I thought that was big for him to hear."

But Allen, arguably the greatest shooter of this generation, may not be as explosive as he once was or have the kind of above-the-rim ability that he once possessed.

Still, he is Ray Allen, a shooter who rarely sees a shot that he doesn't want to take.

"Ray is the ultimate gun slinger," Rivers said. "I mean, really. That's what makes great players great. I was a basketball player one day. And I would've never taken that shot late in the game like Ray, after missing my first 15. A lot of guys you have to have a (courage) to do that, you really do. It was just impressive. And you felt like if he got a shot - I didn't know if he was going to make it, but I knew he was going to take it."

Said Allen: "My lift isn't where it needs to be. At certain times, it's almost like I'm guessing - which I don't like to do - so as I'm coming around, just trying to take all my momentum into the shot."

But when it comes to taking and on most nights, delivering big shots, few have come through as often as Ray Allen. And there's no guesswork involved with that.

Healthy or not, Allen is still an important part of the C's plan even if he's not shooting the ball well. In Saturday's Game 7 win, the Celtics were plus-19 with Allen in the game - the highest plusminus ratio of any player on the floor.

But Allen knows as well as anyone that for the C's to pull off one of the biggest upsets and get back to the NBA Finals, they'll need everyone - himself included - to do what he does best.

And that's making shots, which is the story of Allen's career, a story that the Celtics wouldn't mind being repeated a lot in the conference finals against Miami.

Crowder on Cousins' style: 'Step up to the test or you get run over'

Crowder on Cousins' style: 'Step up to the test or you get run over'

BOSTON – There was a point in the fourth quarter when Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins was fouled trying to score which brought about an automatic, intense and angry scowl from the all-star center. 

He raised his hand as he were going to strike back at the potential assailant. 

And then he saw the man was Jae Crowder. 

Cousins, who had a game-high 28 points, then went to the free throw line, incident-free. 

“I’m not one those other cats he be punking,” said Crowder with a grin.

That moment was one of many throughout Friday night’s game when Crowder made his presence felt when the game mattered most, and wasn’t afraid to mix it up with whoever stood between him and helping the Celtics win – even Cousins. 

But as Crowder explained following Boston’s 97-92 win, that moment was about two physical players who have developed an on-the-floor rapport that speaks to their intensity and desire to win at all costs. 

“He’s going to bring the game to you; his physicality,” said Crowder who had 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting. “He’s a very physical type of guy. If he senses you’re not physical at all, he’ll let you know. He’s a dog down there; he’s a bull. I love to go against a player like that. He’s going to give you his best shot each and every night. You either step up to the test or you get run over.” 

As soon as the two made eye contact, Crowder knew it was one of the many intimidation methods used by Cousins against opposing players. 

Crowder wasn’t having it. 

“That’s my guy; he’s my guy,” Crowder said of Cousins. “He plays a lot of tactics against a lot of other players. I’ve earned that respect with him. He knows I’m going to fight him just as hard as anybody else. We leave it on the court. He’s a good friend of mine. We’ve become friends, just playing ball, playing basketball the right way.”

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics make big plays down the stretch

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics make big plays down the stretch

BOSTON – When the fourth quarter rolled around on Friday night, the Boston Celtics found themselves in a down-to-the-wire fight with the Sacramento Kings. 

It was the kind of game that in the past has brought out the scrappy, get-it-done-somehow brand of basketball that has in many ways come to define the Celtics under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens. 

And it was on full display Friday night as the Celtics made all the big plays at both ends of the floor down the stretch to beat the Sacramento Kings, 97-92. 

After Sacramento cut Boston’s lead to 90-87, Al Horford drained a 3-pointer to make it a two-possession game again. 

Isaiah Thomas came up with a pair of free throws that turned out to be huge, because shortly after he made them the Kings got a 3-pointer from DeMarcus Cousins that made it a 95-92 game.

The Kings had a chance to tie the game late in the fourth when Horford was credited with his sixth block of the game, this time on DeMarcus Cousins.

Horford was immediately fouled and went to the free throw line where he sealed the victory by making a pair.

Those were the kind of plays we saw often last season being made by the Celtics who finished in a tie for the third-best record in the East. 

This year, not so much. 

“For the most part we got what we wanted (in the fourth quarter) and we got the stops we needed even,” Thomas said. 

Which is the kind of game Jae Crowder and the rest of the guys who have been here awhile, have grown accustomed to.

“We got back to being the aggressive team,” Crowder said. “We came out and imposed our will early; that helped. But if the game comes down to what it was tonight, we have to be the team that comes out on top. It was like a playoff game, real physical. We have to grit it out, grind it out.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Friday night’s game.

 

STARS

Al Horford

So this is what an ultra-aggressive Al Horford looks like? The four-time All-Star had a season-high 26 points which included knocking down four three-pointers to go with eight rebounds and six blocked shots – yes, six blocked shots.

DeMarcus Cousins

While his fiery temper hasn’t died down completely, his incredible offensive skills and brute strength is what folks are talking more about, finally. He led the Kings with a game-high 28 points to go with nine rebounds, three assists, a steal and four blocked shots.  

 

STUDS

Isaiah Thomas

His streak of being Boston’s outright scoring leader ended at 14 games, but he’s more than happy to take a back seat for one night if it means getting a victory. Horford led the charge on Friday night, but Thomas still chipped in with 20 points, seven assists and two steals. 

Matt Barnes

Although he missed eight of his 11 shots from the field, the 36-year-old Barnes was rewarded for his hustle and effort as he finished with a double-double of 12 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.

Jae Crowder

Boston needed tough plays to be made on Friday and Crowder was up the challenge all night. He finished with 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting to go with three rebounds, three assists and a steal. Good things happened when he was on the floor, evident by his game-high plus/minus of +15.

 

DUDS

Rudy Gay

He finished with 13 points on 6-for-14 shooting but the Kings needed more from their second-leading scorer who finished almost seven points below his 19.6 points per game average. That stands out on a night when the Kings lost by just five points.