Allen, Pierce Turn Back Clock in Game 1
And the time was right, again.
While much will be made of the way the Boston Celtics physically smothered the Orlando Magic Sunday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, 92-88, it took a big offensive game -- against an equally good defense -- by Allen and Pierce to make it complete.
Allen and Pierce have combined to score almost 41,000 points in their Hall of Fame careers, so scoring another 47 together Sunday didn't seem like such a big deal.
Yet it was, stealing the home-court advantage from the heavily-favored Magic, just like they stole it from the heavily-favored Cavaliers in Game 5 of the semifinal round. They combined for 46 in Cleveland that day.
Big game, big guys.
Allen, 34, and Pierce, 32, may have turned over the on-court leadership role of the Celtics to younger point guard Rajon Rondo, but they still seem to rise up at the most important times.
Allen had a game-high 25 points. Pierce had 22. And both made it seem relatively easy to score in a game that was otherwise a defensive tussle.
The Magic led the league this season in defensive field-goal percentage. They held their first two playoff opponents to just 40 percent shooting from the field. Yet neither Allen, nor Pierce, had much trouble getting and making good shots Sunday.
Allen hit eight of his 16 shots and all seven of his free throws. Pierce made six of his eight shots and eight of his 10 free throws. It's called dialed in.
For Allen, it wasn't all the catch-and-shoot scores that he normally makes so cleanly. He was driving to the basket -- he had two shots blocked -- but he found what was working, like he has throughout his career.
"There are a lot of things I believe I can do, and a lot of things I will do,'' Allen said. "A lot of times, I just keep it to myself, and just quietly work on them. Today, it was just the plays that I had. I knew they were trying to force me away from my shot. I just had to make an adjustment.''
While Boston's other three starters combined to make only 10 of 40 shots, Allen and Pierce were there from start to finish.
It was Pierce who opened the game with a 3-pointer that gave the Celtics the lead they never lost. And it was Allen who finished the first period with a driving layup, setting the tone for the rest of the game.
Pierce had 13 points in the third quarter, thwarting a potential Magic comeback that never really arrived. The Celtics dominated this game a lot more than the final, four-point margin would indicate.
Pierce was incredibly efficient, getting nine rebounds, five assists and two steals, while scoring 22 on only eight shots. That's experience at its finest.
"I know I got only eight shots, and I could have been a little more aggressive,'' Pierce said. "But we're a defensive team. That's who we are. The key for me is staying aggressive (offensively). I had more turnovers in the second quarter than I had shots. That upset me. I came out pretty well in the third.''
Allen and Pierce were the only two Celtics who scored in the last 6:43 when they hung on for the win. Allen hit a jumper for the 85-71 lead. He hit a 3-pointer for the 88-75 lead. And when the Magic rallied and closed to within three in the closing minute, it was Pierce and Allen who each made a pair of free throws to seal the win.
"They both did it because the offense was running well. They got good screens all night from the bigs,'' Rondo said. "And they hit shots. That's what they do.''
It's what the Magic failed to do. They shot horribly in the first half when they missed all nine of their 3-point attempts. The Magic set an NBA record this season for most 3-point baskets, but they hit only six -- their fewest in the playoffs -- on Sunday.
The Celtics got past the Cavaliers even though Pierce averaged only 13.5 points. That probably won't work in a series against the Magic, who are much more diversified offensively.
The big games Sunday by Allen and Pierce are unlikely to be repeated every night in this series. Neither is able to do it every night anymore, but they do it when it's really needed.
"Offensively today, we moved the ball and did everything we pretty much wanted to do,'' said teammate Kevin Garnett. "You can't ask for anything more. Paul is going to have a better series than he had against Cleveland, and we're going to need it.''