As far as I'm concerned, there are 3 things about which we should be very encouraged after last night's game. (4 if you count me busting out proper grammar for the opening sentence. Hooked on Phonics worked for me)
He filled the stat sheet in 39 minutes. 18 points on 8 of 14 shooting, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals. He looked in aggressive but in control. He played with no hint of worry about his injured thumb. He, in short, did everything we wanted Tony Allen to do all year. As impressive as Paul Pierce was last night, I think the story of the game was Tony Allen playing as well as he did. If THIS is the Tony Allen we'll have for the playoffs, then the second unit is going to kill other teams. Think about Stephon Marbury's recent improvement, Eddie House's deadly shooting and Big Baby's marked improvement. Now add last night's Tony Allen to that mix. That's one hell of a second unit. And we haven't even talked about Leon Powe… whose return last night was also very encouraging.
The first round
Briefly piggy-backing on Chuck's post-game analysis… I think it's clear that the Celtics without Ray and KG are still probably a 6 seed in the playoffs. And let me stop the people who will feel the urge to comment right there… I'm very well aware of the Hawks series last year. But this year is much different. The 76'ers are not the Hawks. The Celtics are not last year's Celtics. The 76'ers were playing for something last night: playoff position and to send a message. They accomplished neither in front of their home crowd.
I'm going to keep marching on as one of the few people around this town that isn't developing an ulcer over KG's knee. It's not that I don't understand why some people are worried, I'm just focusing on what Danny Ainge said yesterday.
“When Kevin plays is his decision,” Ainge said yesterday. “But I think Kevin (right knee) plays once the playoffs start. Ultimately, it’s just his decision. Could Kevin play right now?. Absolutely. But the question is whether it is in his best interests. I don’t think there’s anyone out there who feels he can’t play. It’s just a hot topic right now…
“Nothing is worse,” Ainge said. “It’s just a matter of identifying the best opportunity for his return. Every two or three days we have this discussion.
“It hasn’t taken a turn for the worse, but we want to give him the best chance once the playoffs start.”
I'm not sure how much of it is spin and how much of it is fact. I think the Celtics are well aware that KG has only so many minutes left in that knee this year, so there's no point in playing him more than they have to.
So with that, I full expect KG to be back on Saturday. I expect him to start and play hard. But I also expect him to sit after about 6 minutes… and maybe not come back until midway through the 2nd quarter (and only after sufficient warmup… maybe on the Brian Scalabrine memorial stationary bike on the sideline). The C's will probably look to pull KG from the game once they have a lead they feel can be sustained by the rest of the team. I think they'll use that same approach for the first round… maybe increasing his minutes a little in each game. Then they'll have him as fresh as possible for that assumed 2nd round matchup against Orlando… which is bad news for Orlando because that will allow the C's to play Dwight Howard straight up again. That's been a winning formula for the C's.
So kick back and relax everyone. The season ends tonight. The REAL season begins on Saturday. And there's plenty of encouraging news out there.
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