I would wager that almost no one would have imagined that headline during the preseason.
But the Boston Celtics have had anything but a consistent year.
In fact, in an article I wrote from August 15th for Celticsblog.com, a mere 17% said the Celtics should play him. The rest were equally divided between waiving him, and keeping him for insurance at 41% each. It looks like that insurance policy is paying off.
Tony Allen was being peddled around the league in various deals like an ugly cousin you can’t find a date for. No one bought. Tony had been injured. Recovering from off season (June 3rd) ankle and leg surgery, he didn’t play again until Dec 8th, 20 games into the season.
Such a headline became even more improbable after the acquisition of Marquis Daniels. And yet more remote with the recent addition of Nate Robinson and Michael Finley.
Like the ugly duckling, this bird has quickly grown into something much better looking. Tony is taking to the air again with confidence of late, playing harassing defense, and teaming up with Rajon Rondo on fast break baskets that look like a great comedy team delivering one liners that kill, except they are killing the opposition with strong finishes.
Tony is finishing at the rim at 66.7%. That is among the tops in the league and more in line with a devastating big man finisher than a 6’4″ slashing swing man.
But it is simply his defense that is making the difference, says Doc Rivers recently to Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald.…
“He just plays hard – he’s our best defensive player,” Rivers said of Allen. “He’s just bought in completely to the team and the way the team plays. He’s no longer trying to score – he understands that scoring just happens. He’s trying to be the best defensive player on our team and he’s figured out that’s how he’s going to play. He gives our team energy.”
I guess he was insurance… as in ‘life’ insurance. He gives a team life that desperately needs it.
It is a surprise move, in that, until the last two games, Tony sat a lot while Doc evaluated Nate Robinson and Michael Finley, the Celtics two late season acquisitions.
Finley has made enough of an impression as a steadying, unflappable ‘on court’ influence, as well as impressing with his shooting to earn some regular minutes.
Nate Robinson has experienced problems adapting. He is shooting just 2 for 14 over his last 5 games and doesn’t add much in other facets of the game. He is out for the moment. That is, he is out of the rotation, but could get minutes if Tony or Rajon are in foul trouble, or if Tony or possibly Ray Allen are having a bad game.
In fact, Doc is keeping the bench players’ rotation situation fluid, as is his usual MO. Starting five is locked in stone. Bench roles are based on match ups, game situations, and individual performance. Doc Rivers explains that Daniels and Robinson are outside the rotation heading into the playoffs in the Boston Herald.…
“Right now they are, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be back in it,” Rivers said.
“They’ll have their day, too. They’ll play in the playoffs. There’ll be games when you’re going to need them. That’s how this team is built. We’ll use who we need to use in that given game to win that game.”
Marquis Daniels was injured early in the year, returning on February 7th after missing 28 straight games with a thumb injury. While a solid player in many unheralded facets of the game, he simply was not making enough impact on the games. You were hoping that there would be at least a few games where Marquis’ contribution would be of the ‘game changing’ variety or at least more impacting than he has been.
For example, Tony Allen just had a 5 steal game. That is impactful. Marquis has not had more than 2 in a game all year. He did that exactly once. In fact, Tony’s 7 steals in the last two games equals the total of Daniels last 16 games and are a quarter of Marquis’ yearly total.
Not that steals are the main key stat to be making a judgment by. But it is revealing nonetheless.
Marquis Having Trouble Scoring
While scoring isn’t a big part of either player’s role, Tony seems to be able to contribute more there lately as well. He hasn’t scored less than 6 points in his last 5 games regardless of minutes played. Daniels has scored as many as 4 points only once in his last 5 games.
More important, Marquis has recently gone scoreless twice in almost 13 and 20 minutes.Not that long ago, in the beginning of March, Marquis had only 2 points in 4 out of 6 games while averaging over 19 minutes in those games. Even for a non-scorer, that is too little for any team to withstand.
Another surprise in a surprising year.
Right now, the Celtics’ record stands at 48-28 with 6 games left in the regular season. Not bad by most standards, but this team was ‘reloaded’ to pick up where it left off after Kevin Garnett got injured and missed last season’s playoffs.
The Celtics won the title in ’08 with a 66 win regular season. But, in a foreshadowing of the future, even with this eager, talented team, they failed to demonstrate a killer instinct in the playoffs. They went 7, 7, 6, and 6 games in consecutive series. They took a whopping 108 games to gain the NBA title.
Last season they surprised most by following up that championship season with a gutty, season long performance. First with a hurting Garnett and finally without him. They won 62 games and you could see the effort being put out, even if not the same team approach all the time.
They played a marathon series with the Bulls, They were up 3-2 and were winning the 6th game against the Magic before crumbling in the second half. They were spent and the real Celtics didn’t show up for game 7.
Big expectations were hoped for in the preseason. Obviously they haven’t played out. Injuries and slow recoveries are the main culprit.
A perplexing Rasheed Wallace, inconsistent defense, struggling offense, slower than expected Garnett recovery, and Paul Pierce’s lingering injury have contributed to this season’s surprises.
Tony Allen as a significant contributor to the Celtics’ playoff hopes? Why not? It fits right in with this season.