Wallace: Big-boy effort
Rasheed Wallace was quick to get to the point.
“To be here in the playoffs, this is why I came here,’’ the power forward/center said last night after the Celtics dumped the Cavaliers from the playoffs with an 94-85 victory in Game 6 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals. Wallace came off the bench to score 13 points — including a crucial 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, a power pairing with Paul Pierce’s trey that combined to squelch a Cleveland comeback as Boston eliminated LeBron James’s team, four games to two.
“I didn’t come here for the regular season,’’ said Wallace, a Philadelphia native who proudly wore a Flyers cap postgame.
There were times during the season when Celtics fans didn’t know exactly what Wallace had come to Boston for; his play was lackluster, his points didn’t pile up.
After a dismal 111-91 loss to the Grizzlies March 10, Wallace dismissed concerns about the team’s ability to win, as well as doubts about his shortcomings. (He averaged only 9 points per game in the regular season and shot 28 percent from the 3-point line.)
“This team has been there, no matter where we’re coming from,’’ Wallace said that night. “Mike [Finley] from San Antonio, me from Detroit. The guys here have won it already. Once the big-boy shots come, we’ll be ready.’’
But last night, before a loud, unbowed crowd at TD Garden, Wallace was everything he boasted he could be. Wallace made good on his boasts, shooting 4 for 8 from the floor and 2 for 4 from behind the arc to help power the Celtics’ big-boy effort. He added a 3-for-4 effort from the foul line.
James pushed his team hard, and knocked down consecutive 3-pointers with two minutes gone in the fourth quarter to bring the Cavaliers within 78-74.
“When he did that, I know a couple of people in the stands were going, ‘Oh, here they come,’ ’’ said Wallace. “But we had to shut it down.’’
Rajon Rondo’s steal and driving layup broke up the Cavs’ run and Pierce’s 25-foot trey, followed by Wallace’s 23-footer, restored the Celtics’ lead to 86-74, 12 points of satisfying distance.
“There was still too much time left,’’ said Wallace. “They were trying to make a run and they were cutting into our [lead]. So it was real crucial that my three and Paul’s three went in.’’
“You knew it was coming at some point with LeBron,’’ said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “And when he made the back-to-back threes I just told our guys, I thought we got away from what we were doing.
“I thought we had a bunch of guys who really wanted to win the game so bad that they started, for that three- or four-minute stretch, trying to do it on their own.
“And that’s what the timeout was about: to remind them that we can’t do that.’’
If Wallace can continue to perform the role he played last night as the Celtics move on to the Eastern Conference finals against the Magic, playing a big boy’s game, he will win back the Boston fans, despite his allegiance to the Flyers.
“It’s not over yet,’’ he said. “We’ve got to win eight more times.’’