Monday, April 18, 2011

Ray Allen Delivers to Lift Ageless Celtics into Usual Form

It was precisely the way to silence the critics after deriding and ridiculing the Boston Three Party, put aside all the whispers that the Boston Celtics are too old and undermined and vindicate to the world that they are still superior in the Eastern Conference, even if the Miami Heat are stronger, the Orlando Magic are mightier and the Bulls are defensive-driven.


He couldn't miss in desperation, not to mention that he claims to be the best shooter in existence. Long after the Celtics calmed down and reduced nerves in the most dazzling ending for a sentimental night on Causeway Street, a night when they cheered outside of the TD Garden in Boston, Ray Allen capped an 87-85 win in Game 1 of the first round in the playoffs by hitting a game-winning three-point shot with 12 seconds left.

If he's still considered the sharpest shooter in the NBA, he surely advertised it when the stakes were greater than ever before and while the raucous crowd in the stands witnessed a miraculous comeback that capped a thrilling outcome. Whether the Celtics are doomed because of the stiff competitiveness and difficult task ahead, by now, Kevin Garnett believes "ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!!!" This was for all the people who've underestimated and ignored Allen, the NBA's career three-point leader all-time, every time he attempts a lengthy shot from beyond the arc to bury a three.

Without him, the Celtics wouldn't have survived what was almost a near-casualty by nearly dropping the decisive game of the series against the Knicks. If so, the Celtics would've been derided as the oldest and exhausted franchise in the NBA --described as a sluggish, weak-minded franchise with nothing left in the tank. Seems there is plenty left in the tank, without the team physicians needing to beckon for a wheelchair to escort an injured player to the locker room because of wobbly or ailing knees.

However, with enough evidence in so many ways, Allen never panicked and signaled for the ball as time dwindled, pleading for the ball to transcend in a striking portent. The amazing spectacle happened all so inexplicably when the Celtics rallied back by Allen's clutch performance that sealed the deal. This was Allen telling the critics to hush, on a night he schooled the Knicks, alarmed and sent the crowd into an intense celebration as if the Celtics had raised another banner into the rafters. When the buzzer sounded in favor of the Celtics, jubilating and dancing on the floor together thrilled, Allen spiked the ball and received prolonged hugs from his harmonized teammates.

Take that world.

It certainly was an uninspired loss for the Knicks, particularly once Carmelo Anthony bricked a shot on the last chance to win it for New York. Along with all the scintillating plays in the first half, such as a perfectly executed alley-ooped that Garnett threw down on a hurling inbounds pass from Rajon Rondo or relief on a timely offensive foul on Anthony, the Celtics finally prevailed in the second half.

The calendar reads April, a month when Boston dismiss frailties to find its swagger and plays with an earnest body language, dripping sweat from their moist foreheads, breathing rapidly with signs of fatigue. And with greater weaknesses for the Knicks, aside from having two bona fide superstars to form one of the prolific tandems in the NBA, is their inexperience, youth and lack of size advantage. The Celtics, the defending Eastern Conference champions, are a team that never vanish in the final seconds and never disappear until it is over.

By his own explanation, he rescued the Celtics and looked very explosive, ready to attack the rim and deliver threes. It's too often, such as on this night when he salvaged a victory for the Celtics, that he hits his proverbial three-pointer and delights Boston fans. It's too often, nailing compelling jump shots from downtown and coming out on top as a hero in critical situations, that he's been stifled in fulfilling his role as an impacted megastar but also a marksman in the art of shooting.

The much-publicized shot came on a Sunday night, after the Celtics were muffled in deepening their style of play and having a foundation to produce on an incremental level -- bolstered the Celtics and once again rejuvenated the franchise that embodies precedence and prestige. The unexpected lift came from the more potent, talented sharpshooter Allen, fueled by a wave of momentum and, sometimes, manages to greatly cultivate certainty and faith that revokes the tension and turbulence.


Throughout his superb career, known as a three-point specialist, he has expanded the Celtics' domino effect with his mental capacity and emotions without the risk of early playoff collapses, crazed anxiety or mental deficiencies in hitting shots that could create countless meltdowns for Boston. As it seems, he has been a part of limitless playoff moments -- many of those highlighted moments coming from behind the arc -- Allen puts aside obstacles the Celtics once endured and leads Boston past the Knicks, which they quickly returned to normalcy and became a dynamic force in the postseason.

In a hurried reversal, he has built a reputation, heightening his proficiency in stepping behind the arc, quickly releasing and hitting the three, a trend he has culturally followed honestly for years in the NBA. This trend is, in principle, a classic point in time for Allen, another highlight reel in the near future and it ended in an astronomical fashion. Much like Allen in general, he'll be recognized as the star player in the aftermath of dropping in the biggest shot of the game.

And indeed he was inside the Celtics family room, where Allen stood and waited outside, greeted by many families and friends and gladly expressed gratitude for the kindhearted acknowledgement. And of all his efforts on behalf of the Celtics, he led Boston with 24 points and his veteran teammate Paul Pierce poured in 18 and aggressively hindered, bullied and pestered Anthony, particularly on his missed three-pointer as time expired to end regulation.

He rarely misses out on a brilliant opportunity in the final seconds and routinely knocks in a bucket to shift the dynamics of the game, a clutch performer with no conscience mainly because Allen is combative, experienced and poised down the stretch after being a hero in crucial moments plenty of times before. The longer the Knicks continue to play in this series, the longer the masses will talk and ponder about New York missing a great opportunity when the Bockers led for most of the second half and maintained an 85-82 advantage in the final minute.

But now, the Knicks are engulfed in a minor controversy for dropping near-convincing steal in Game 1 of the first round, for stumbling mightily in the second half and for giving the game to the Celtics in a late comeback, overwhelmed with corybantic circumstances and seen as a team that deteriorated and never had an answer for Boston's experience, tenaciousness and toughness.

There is, nonetheless, life in Beantown even without Shaquille O'Neal in the lineup or without the defensive force Kendrick Perkins, a muscular and potent center with strength and size for successively grabbing rebounds and clogging the middle courtesy of his physique and fierce presence in the paint. Suddenly, the Celtics awakened with much firepower and urgency. The events in Boston suddenly, with a basketball franchise surrounded traditionally by plenty of mystique and noteworthy history by owning 17 championships more than any organization in the NBA -- rehabilitating from a downfall when apparently the shamrocks were stolen and the leprechaun was kidnapped -- was Allen slamming the ball onto the hardwood and Garnett viciously grabbing the microphone and screaming, "BEANTOWN!!"

He didn't hesitate to launch a prayer that eventually turned into the game-winner, even vividly after Game 1 almost was an absolute downer for the Celtics, sleeping on the emergence of a genuine tandem in the NBA which has produced a ripple-effect in New York and reinstalled ascendancy and life for the Knicks. For the Knicks, considering that New York is back in playoff contention but still aren't championship-caliber, everything went extremely wrong in the second half and Anthony looked erratic in his Knicks postseason debut, finishing an awful 5 for 18 in shooting and 1 for 11 after halftime to settle for 15 points.

The night for Anthony, irritated over his lack of consistency from the look on his disconcerted face, was a testament to disadvantages, undesirable and reckless diagrams for plays late with the lack of thoughtful minds in prudent coaching. Mike D'Antoni, a mentor for many of his players as the Knicks head coach, was definitely out coached by Doc Rivers, Celtics head coach who is solid in making adjustments and designing a practical layout that instilled certitude and created stupendous plays.

Even if Amar'e Stoudemire delivered efficiently and proved to be the primary star of the Knicks, scoring 28 points and collecting 11 rebounds, the Celtics are a heavy task. This was a postseason game in the series where the Knicks unraveled defensively, softened rapidly in the end and weakened when Garnett tripped Toney Douglas, allowing Allen to find space and nail the game-winning three-point shot. This season, for the Celtics, it was unpredictable and questionable, and now, it's presumably feasible that Boston can advance out of the East if the big three play with tenacity and dominates physically.

Their rivals, the Knicks, whined afterwards disgusted with the undone calls by officials. With Allen carrying the Celtics and Garnett ratifying his inspirational leadership with an emphatic dunk in a descent performance to arouse curiosity -- from a dramatic dunk to an amusing three-pointer -- the Celtics were robust and can persist in a grueling, tiring series against a franchise of youth and raw talent.

Although the Celtics are aging, in stiffer playoffs where the competitiveness has risen to the highest level while Boston can still play effectively and out duel the opposing teams based on their experience and finesse, they still lulled the doubters of depreciating the Celtics strength, vigor and readiness to contend. The Celtics, which prepares mentally and physically to fight in the playoffs surviving in the end because of its prowess and fitness, are rightly so competitors.

It is fair to postulate, of all teams, that Boston is the team to beat in the East, although Miami assembled the superteam, an NBA all-time trio with Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, although the Orlando Magic are delivering touches to Dwight Howard frequently and although the Bulls are the league-leading team in defense with an MVP candidate in arguably the most well-rounded point guard Derrick Rose.

The Celtics, along with Allen as their game-changing performer, knows this won't be an easy series and somehow handled skepticism that creeped in the players' minds following the transformation within the roster this season. This after losing Perkins in one of the dumbest trades by the Celtics, who were sluggish and outplayed against Chicago and Miami, inadequate in competing with the growth by a pair of franchises in the equalized Eastern Conference. In all, it was an ideal ending for the Celtics as the Knicks blew a monumental opportunity.

In all, the Celtics are ageless.