Ray Allen talks about so many options in the Celtics’ offense. A defense might be able to stop one, perhaps it can game plan for two, but if the Celtics keep going through the progressions there will be an option the defense either hasn’t prioritized or simply can’t contain.
Then the Celtics beat them over the head with it.
At the beginning of the season, it was Paul Pierce with his big quarters in comebacks against the Raptors and Hawks. Then it was Ray Allen as he led the C’s in scoring seven out of nine games. Then it was Kevin Garnett powering the comeback in the fourth quarter on Dec. 17 in Atlanta. Even Kendrick Perkins had his chance on Dec. 19 with a career-high 25 points in a 126-108 victory over the Bulls. Finally, it was Rajon Rondo’s turn as he scored 18 points on 9-for-9 shooting in the third quarter of Sunday’s 124-105 triumph over New York.
With the starters shooting over 65 percent in two straight games last weekend and the team dishing out 73 assists in that span, it seems the offense is now so balanced with the first unit on the court it is almost indefensible.
“I don’t know what it is, really,” said Rondo, who had 15 assists and took only three shots on Dec. 19, then knocked down 12-of-14 shots last Sunday. “We just play well as a team. When we have 40 assists that speaks volumes about our team and how far we’ve come. Guys don’t always get open by themselves. It’s the bigs setting picks, myself, Ray, Eddie House breaking down the defense with knocking down open looks. We’re playing very unselfishly.”
They followed up the Dec. 19 passing clinic with 15 assists on 18 baskets in the first quarter last Sunday. Eventually, the dime pace slowed down as Rondo took the ball to the basket time after time in the third quarter as the Knicks refused to collapse and leave open the chance of Garnett, Pierce, and Allen being wide open for a dish, or Perkins being left alone for a dunk.
“The crazy thing about it is that we don’t know, we just know somebody is going to come up big,” Perkins said. “That’s the good thing about our team. We move the ball and whoever’s night it is we’re going to milk it.”
Rondo subscribes to coach Doc Rivers’ philosophy that if something works, you keep going to it until the opponent adjusts.
“It just develops over the course of the game,” the point guard said. “It doesn’t matter who it is. It’s just who has it going. You hope all of them have it going. Anybody can be the guy on a different night.”
Throughout most of their franchise-record winning streak, the Celtics’ offense has been nearly unstoppable.
“It’s about our focus,” Rondo said. “People can beat us, but we figure we’re really unbeatable if we play the way we played [last weekend].”
Though the bench hasn’t exactly been a strength of late, the play of Leon Powe early in the fourth quarters was a factor in Boston pulling away for two relatively easy victories in a row over the weekend. Specifically, Powe has been a terror on the offensive glass, where he browbeat the Bulls and Knicks with six rebounds over two games.
“I know if somebody gets an offensive rebound on me, I’m mad as heck,” said Powe. “You don’t want that to happen to you because you played good defense for 24 seconds, the shot goes up, and then they get a rebound and put-back and score in less than a second.
“That makes a coach mad, that makes a player mad. Any time I get a chance to do that to someone else, it’s fun for me and for my team.
“I try to time it and see how my defender is playing me,” he said. “If he has his head turned, I try to get quick, inside position. That way, I give myself some options to go left or right. You don’t want to get stuck on one side.
“They say to crash [the offensive boards], but we still have to get back and help the guards out. If it comes off in my area, I will try to maybe get a hand on it. I’ll try once. If I can’t get it, don’t stab at it and play with the ball. If I can’t get it, then get back on defense.”
Scott Souza covers the Celtics for OT and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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This week's OT cover
OT beat writersMaureen Mullen brings you Red Sox information and insights.
Tom Wilcox covers the Patriots.
Scott Souza is all over the Celtics.
Danny Picard is on the ice with the Bruins.
Mike McDonald takes a look at the humorous side of Boston sports