They’ve seen this play many times
Allen, Pierce work their magic again
They’ve run the play so many times, in so many situations.
“Sometimes the shot goes in, sometimes it doesn’t,’’ said Celtics guard Ray Allen.
Sometimes Paul Pierce keeps it for himself, the way he did against the Knicks in December. He got a screen from Kevin Garnett, shifted his way to his sweet spot, and hit a winner over Amar’e Stoudemire.
Sometimes Pierce will look for the dish. That’s how it worked out last night when he swung the ball to Allen, who drilled a 3-pointer from 24 feet out with 11.6 seconds left to seal the Celtics’ 87-85 win over the Knicks in Game 1.
“There are so many different options off that play that we went to and we knew exactly what to expect,’’ Allen said. “We don’t predetermine. It’s a play that has so many options and tonight I was just the option.’’
Allen ended the regular season without any rhythm. There were nights like March 19 in New Orleans when he’d knock down 7 of 13 shots and score 20 points. Then, there were nights like the one a week later against Charlotte when he’d miss 7 of 9 and the Celtics would lose.
“You guys have been asking me for a couple of weeks about me shooting the ball and I said rhythm,’’ Allen said. “It’s all about rhythm.’’
He scored a team-high 24 points last night, drilling 9 of his 15 shots, and 3 of his 5 3-pointers.
“He was just aggressive all game,’’ said coach Doc Rivers. “He did it right away, that was nice.’’
Disruptive force Pierce struggled shooting the ball, but defensively he spent most of the night wrestling with Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony, trying to disrupt two of the Knicks’ key pieces.
Billups missed 8 of his 11 shots. Anthony finished 5 of 18 from the floor, missing 10 of his 11 second-half shots, but he didn’t want to give Pierce’s defense too much credit for it.
“I don’t think he did anything out of the ordinary or special tonight as far as defending me,’’ Anthony said. “I think the Celtics were themselves, they load up the paint. Every time I caught it, they loaded the side up, they shifted the court.’’
Pierce drew an offensive foul on Anthony with 21 seconds left, which gave the Celtics the ball and set up Allen’s winning shot.
“The Paul and Melo matchup is an interesting one,’’ Garnett said. “They’re both going at it hard. I think at the end of the day they’re going to cancel each other out. We’re just encouraging Paul to play him. They’re both going to bump. They’re both going to knock heads and hopefully at the end of the day, we’ll win that matchup.’’
Rivers experiments Rivers experimented with a couple of lineups and got mixed results.
Late in the first quarter, he put Pierce on the floor with Rajon Rondo, Glen Davis, Jeff Green, and Delonte West. At the start of the fourth quarter, he went with Green, Allen, West, Davis, and Rondo.
“I don’t know, I mean, it was no advantage tonight,’’ Rivers said. “But having said that, I thought that little stretch where Kevin [Garnett] got to rest and Paul got to rest with Delonte on the floor, Baby on the floor, and Jeff Green on the floor, that’s when we cut the lead.’’
The Knicks’ bench outscored the Celtics’ reserves, 23-8. Davis struggled, going 1 of 8 from the floor. Rivers called West “passive’’. But the bright spot was that in the fourth quarter, the Celtics were down just 2 when Rivers decided to put his starters back on the floor.
“So our bench in the first half didn’t have one of their best games,’’ Rivers said. “In the second half, I thought what they did was get stops. They didn’t score a lot but they got stops and cut the lead. That’s what we needed them to do. They’ll be better.’’
Will Shaq get back? Though it’s doubtful, center Shaquille O’Neal hasn’t been ruled out of tomorrow night’s game. He will test his strained right calf/inflamed Achilles’ again in practice today.
“I don’t know what we’ll do on the floor, but we’ll do a little bit and then we’ll see from there,’’ Rivers said. “Basically it’s day-to-day and we’ll just see.’’
O’Neal, who played just 37 games in the regular season, sat out last night after failing tests in Saturday’s practice. He tried to run, but couldn’t do it without feeling pain in his right leg.
“It’s going to be tough because it’s one practice,’’ Rivers said. “But there’s a chance.’’
Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said he prepared as if O’Neal was going to miss Game 1.
“We kind of assumed he wasn’t going to play,’’ D’Antoni said. “But I’m sure we’ll see him before it’s over.’’
Krstic still adapting It was assumed that once either Jermaine O’Neal or Shaquille O’Neal returned to the lineup, Nenad Krstic would go to the bench, and for someone who’s started most of the time in a seven-year career, Krstic said it will be an adjustment.
“For the first time in my career, I’m coming off the bench,’’ Krstic said. “It’s different.’’
Krstic started 20 of the 24 games he played after joining the Celtics at the trade deadline. He worked with Garnett on the defensive schemes and said he was starting to develop a comfort level when he was put in the backup role.
“It’s always tough,’’ said Krstic, who played five minutes and grabbed two rebounds. “I was feeling comfortable with the starting unit then all of a sudden I’m with the second unit. And if you put just one new guy [on the floor], it’s tough. But when you put in four other new guys who I didn’t really play a lot with them, it takes some time to adjust.’’
Krstic is playing with bone bruises in both knees.
“It’s nothing really serious, but I can’t really say I’m 100 percent,’’ he said. “But in this part of the year, not a lot of guys are 100 percent.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.