Celtics Take a Ray of Hope to Detroit

By Stephen Alford
Updated: May 23, 2008

BOSTON— Despite losing their first home game in the playoffs, snapping a nine-game streak, Celtics Nation can at least take solace in the fact that it appears that Ray Allen has finally snapped out of his shooting slump.Before the start of Game Two, Sugar Ray was shooting 38% from the field in postseason play.

But “He Got Game” put his shooting woes behind him in Game Two by scoring 20 second half points, including a shot from way downtown with 5:00 remaining in the game, bringing Boston to within two points (88-86), and an even deeper shot with 10 seconds remaining in regulation, bringing Boston to within three (100-97). However, the Celtics made some mental mistakes in the fourth quarter, which allowed Detroit evened the series at one game apiece after defeating Boston 103-97.

The Celtics cannot afford to make the same mistakes in Detroit, or they may come back to Boston with their backs against the wall and facing elimination.

“Yeah, I’d much rather be sitting here saying, ‘I can’t make a shot, but we won the game.’ It definitely is a different feeling,” said Ray Allen after Game Two. “To have an impact is one thing, but to come away with the win, is much rather expected or wanted by me and everybody in this locker room.”

Momentum changed, and not in the favor of the Cs, when Sugar Ray was forced to go to the bench after picking up his fifth foul going for a fake by Rip Hamilton (25 points, 7-for-16 from the field, 10-for-12 from the charity stripe) with 3:09 remaining in the third quarter and Detroit clinging to a 66-64 advantage.

“It’s somewhat of a double-edged sword,” said Allen. “When you’re out there playing, you have no fouls, you say, maybe play a little more aggressive. Then when you get aggressive you end up getting in foul trouble and you have to sit on the bench and you can’t help.”

“So you’ve got to have a fine line between being aggressive, fouling, and letting your opponent know that you’re there. But, you can’t be too over-aggressive or you put them on the free throw line and they’re scoring points.”

The Celtics finally had a playoff game where the Big Three produced big numbers, as captain Paul Pierce led the Celts with 26 points on 9-for-16 from the field; Kevin Garnett added 24 points on 11-for-19 shooting, 13 rebounds, and two blocks; and Allen finished the game with 25 points on 9-for-16 shooting.

But the result of the game came down to Detroit keeping their poise and Boston not executing on defense down the stretch. “We were a step late and those guys knocked down shots,” said Pierce.

“Offensive rebounds really killed us late. We gave up some crucial offensive rebounds. I thought the difference in the game was just those little things.”

The offensive rebound that Pierce was referring to is the one that Tayshaun Prince (14 points, eight rebounds) grabbed with 3:04 remaining in the final frame and Boston down 92-90. Seconds later, Prince hurt the Celtics again by nailing a 21-footer and putting Detroit up by four (94-90).

“I thought we were a step slow in the rotations,” added Garnett. “I thought responsibility‑wise we slipped a couple of times….When it came down to hitting shots, they made their shots, we made ours, but at that point it was like running uphill in sand. Never could turn that corner.”

“I thought Ray had an excellent night,” Garnett continued. “I think confidence‑wise this is what he probably needed. I know Paul and myself kept encouraging him, so it was good to see him have a nice game tonight.”

“I thought he was aggressive.But when we needed stops, man, we just couldn’t get that one stop to get over the hump.”

Now that the series has moved to Detroit, Boston is going to need not only the Big Three, but they are also going to need someone else to step in and make a major contribution, much like what rookie Rodney Stuckey did in Game 2 when he scored 13 points in 17 minutes, outscoring the entire Celtics bench.

“All playoffs, he has grown up a lot in these playoffs,” said Detroit point guard Chauncey Billups, who finished the game with 19 points and seven assists. “As a rookie he is so mature and so poised out there tonight, he was awesome, he allowed me to sit on the bench a lot longer than usual.”

“Not only that but he was a problem. I’m sure he will be in their scouting report over there because he can make plays.”

“I’m never scared. I’m not nervous,” said Stuckey when asked about his Game 2 performance. “I’ve got Rip (Hamilton), Chaunce (Billups), Sheed (Rasheed Wallace), Tay (Tayshaun Prince) and all these guys behind me and Lindsey Hunter, and they keep me poised and confident every day.”

“Just being around them and them always being poised and confident gives me the extra energy and confidence that I need as a player and as an individual.”

“I don’t think their bench played that well outside of Stuckey, so that’s all right,” said Pierce. “We’re going to have guys that are going to step up at different times throughout the series, but it’s not a big concern for right now for us.”

“I thought Stuckey really gave us problems tonight. I think he was the X factor tonight in this game.”

Billups was a lot more aggressive in Game 2 than he was in Game 1, but he seemed to aggravate his hamstring injury on Thursday. However, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo and the rest of the Celtics backcourt did not smell blood in the water.

Billups said that he was all good after the game. Regardless, the one thing that Rondo will need to do in Game 3 is be more aggressive and take advantage of the possibility that Billups may have reinjured himself.

Despite finishing Game 2 with a near triple-double (10 points, nine rebounds, eight assists), Rondo was only 2-for-9 from the field and was tentative shooting open jumpers.

Celtics Nation has a Ray of hope that He Got Game will be able to bring his shooting touch with him when the Celtics face the Pistons in Detroit for Game 3 tonight.

The Cs are also looking to snap their winless-on-the-road playoff streak, which has now stretched to six games. “Well this is a test for us”, said Allen.

“We talked about all the things that happened in the first two rounds and now we’re in a situation where we can’t move on without winning on the road and everybody in the locker room has to know that, and the focus has to go up another notch.”

When asked about going back to Detroit for Game 3, Billups remarked, “We’ll see what happens, but this point in the season when you get a big win, it is one game at a time, it is one game at a time, so we put all our effort and energy into Saturday night, and we’ll talk after that.”