|Ray Allen, who had 33 points (many from long distance), takes Andrea Bargnani (left) to the hoop for 2 in the paint. (MIKE CASSESE/REUTERS)|
TORONTO - It's a dream of Tom Thibodeau's to be an NBA head coach one day. But if the first-year Celtics assistant never gets the opportunity, he always will have yesterday's victory on an NBA sideline to smile about.
With Celtics coach Doc Rivers having left for his hometown of Chicago after the death of his father, Thibodeau coached Boston to a wild 98-95 overtime win over the Raptors at the
"It's different," said Thibodeau of his NBA coaching debut. "Obviously, when you're an assistant, you're making suggestions and, when you're the head coach, you're making final decisions and when there are a lot of final decisions to be made, some work out well and some don't . . . but it's coming at you fast."
Two free throws from Eddie House gave the Celtics a 95-92 lead with 7.1 seconds left in OT. After the Raptors called a timeout immediately afterward, House walked over to the scorer's table by Boston's bench and said, "I shoot 91 percent from the line. I don't miss."
The Raptors returned with guard T.J. Ford, who had 29 points and two 3-pointers at that time, throwing the ball in with Paul Pierce guarding him. After passing the ball to Andrea Bargnani, Ford got the ball back just across the free throw line. Celtics forward Kevin Garnett stayed with Bargnani instead of switching to Ford, and, wide open, he nailed a 3-pointer with 4.4 seconds left to tie the game at 95.
"Those guys on the other end know we don't fear nobody," Ford said.
Those guys on the Raptors' end should have feared the sharp-shooting Allen.
Thibodeau drew up a play in which Allen was to run across the baseline and rub off a Garnett pick in hopes of an open shot. There were other options, but Allen was the one Pierce had his eye on when the play began.
It worked to perfection as the 6-foot-11-inch, 220-pound Garnett laid out the Raptors' 6-6, 215-pound Anthony Parker on a baseline screen. Allen kept running to the 3-point line so Pierce could see him clearly. Pierce then tossed the ball in the corner to Allen, who nailed the winning trey. The Raptors didn't get a chance to get a tying 3-pointer off.
"That is exactly how we drew it up," said Allen, who finished with game highs of 33 points and seven 3-pointers. "A lot has been said about this team and what's going to happen at the end of games and who is going to take that shot. It is a joy to be out there offensively and for the coach to be able to draw up a play and there are three options.
"Paul had a shot if he threw it in and stepped back in. He caught me wide open and KG set a great pick. But if I wasn't open, KG was under the basket. It was a great play."
Said Raptors coach Sam Mitchell: "We knew it was coming. [Parker] just got picked off. Ray hit a good shot. They have a good team."
Garnett picked up his fifth foul with Boston ahead, 66-56, with 10:23 left in the fourth quarter and went to the bench. With 5:40 left, Garnett was still on the bench, and he looked up at the scoreboard and saw that Boston was ahead just 70-67. With the score the same, Garnett re-entered with 4:53 remaining.
Toronto's Jason Kapono's jumper tied the game at 72 with 3:23 left. But James Posey (11 points), in his Celtics debut, nailed two straight 3-pointers to give Boston a 78-74 lead with 2:24 remaining. But Ford's driving lay-in tied it at 78 with 27 seconds left in regulation. Pierce, who had 13 points on 4-of-17 shooting, missed a 20-foot jumper with 3.9 seconds left.
"They were making a lot of shots," said Garnett, who had 23 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals. "[They're] very good at shooting the ball from the outside."
Rivers has said he would prefer Allen, Pierce, and Garnett to play fewer than 40 minutes. The star trio more than exceeded that on this day.
Allen played 49 minutes 10 seconds, not far shy of his career-high of 54 minutes. Garnett played 43:38, 20:51 in the first half. Pierce played 45:34.
"I'm not fatigued," Allen said. "I tell people, 'Playing basketball for me, this is my job.' And I do everything I can to keep my body where it needs to be. If I had to play again [today], I'd be ready. This is our job. You just got to take care of your body accordingly, because there are going to be nights like this."