Other than Garnett, it was off-target Three for Celtics
WALTHAM - One of the reasons Kevin Garnett is a Celtic today is because too often during his 12 seasons with the Timberwolves, the All-Star forward was his team's lone option. Garnett may have experienced a Minnesota flashback Tuesday night during the Celtics' 76-72 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
While Garnett brought his "A" game offensively, scoring a game-high 28 points and beating Joe Smith for the decisive basket with 21.4 seconds left, the other two Celtics All-Stars, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, combined for 4 points - all belonging to Pierce - on a ghastly 2 for 18 from the field.
An anomaly? You'd have to think so, especially since it marked only the second time in Allen's 12-year career he went scoreless, but it also illustrated a disturbing trend that has emerged recently for Boston during the postseason - the Big Three has been more like the Big One (Garnett). While Garnett's playoff scoring average of 21.9 points is up 3.1 points from the regular season, both Pierce (16.3 vs. 19.6) and Allen (14.1 vs. 17.4) have experienced a drop-off in production.
Garnett, who has not scored fewer than 16 points during the playoffs and has Boston's lone 30-point effort (32 against the Hawks in Game 3 in Atlanta), is clearly good enough to carry a team, but what made the Celtics so good during the regular season was that he didn't have to.
"The good thing is that KG is capable of that," said Pierce after practice yesterday. "He did it for years in Minnesota, but hopefully me and Ray can take a load off his shoulders a little bit. We won't make it as stressful on the big guy as we did [Tuesday] night."
Pierce said the Celtics-Cavaliers series, which continues with Game 2 tonight at TD Banknorth Garden, could be one where you'd have to "run through a brick wall" to score 100 points, but he also admitted that as good as Boston's defense was in Game 1, its offense was equally poor. His word for it was "terrible."
Pierce and Allen were confident they'll play better offensively tonight. Allen, who was working on his shot after practice, shrugged off his 0-fer, pointing out that he took only four shots.
"I honestly don't look at it like anything more than I shot the ball four times," said Allen. "That's probably one of my lowest field goal attempts in years. I figure I can put up four shots within a minute's time. Only shooting four in a game is rare for me, so I don't look at it more than just the attempts. Even if you miss 10 in a row in a game, then you make the next six or seven and you're on your way to a good night. Just as a shooter, that's sometimes what you get."
Allen certainly wasn't ready to evoke the s-word, as in slump, but over his last two playoff games he is a combined 3 of 16 for 7 points. He had 7 points on 3-for-12 shooting in Game 7 against Atlanta. Going back to Game 6 of that series, he has made just two of his last 16 3-point attempts.
One potential remedy for the athletic Allen could be to take the ball to the rim more.
"I always want to be more aggressive," said Allen. "I think within this offense I have to find my opportunities, being aggressive in transition. I think a lot of what we did, we took ourselves out of our offense, but definitely I will be [more aggressive] and trying to attack my man more when I have the ball.
"It was hard [Tuesday] night because there weren't a lot of opportunities. I didn't want to get into the mode of trying to force it. I think what we did do, when we forced we committed some turnovers. I will be more aggressive, though."
Coach Doc Rivers also seemed unconcerned about Allen and Pierce, expressing confidence in them and Boston's offense.
"Paul got a lot of touches. Ray has to stay focused, and we have to get him more touches and better rhythm," said Rivers. "But we're not going to go create a new offense. Our offense has been very good all year. I think it will be good [tonight]."
Allen said it's great to be in a situation where he doesn't feel like he must score in order for his team to have a chance to win.
But there is a reason Garnett, Pierce, and Allen are known as the Big Three, not KG and Co., because they're all capable of carrying a team, if need be. That's why Allen said that he and Pierce have nothing to prove tonight.
"I don't look at it that way," Allen said. "For myself and Paul, we've been around for a decade-plus. We just want to get the win, regardless of what happens."
Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.