In re-watching Ray Allen's game-clinching overtime dunk Friday night against the Bulls, it becomes obvious how much of a nightmare the Celtics can be to defend, even when Rajon Rondo isn't the primary ball-handler. But of all the things that stand out on the play, it might be Glen Davis' role that is easiest to overlook, but might have also been most vital to the play's success.
When Pierce takes the handoff and drives to the right side, Davis sets a backside screen aimed at freeing Allen for a potential 3-point shot (like the one he had drilled a short time before). But when Allen notices Taj Gibson shuffling towards the opposite side of the paint to help on a potential Pierce drive, he keenly continues his looping path towards the basket with defender Kyle Korver chasing, while coming off of Davis' pick.
Luol Deng gets help from Derrick Rose, forcing Pierce to stop his drive and, with four red shirts in the neighborhood, it's clear Pierce's best option is to try to find Allen cutting, but Gibson is initially blocking the passing lane. That is until Davis steps up at the opposite elbow, forcing Gibson to shuffle back that way to prevent a jump shot (like the 12-footer that Davis canned earlier in the overtime session). When Gibson commits, that gives Pierce just enough room to throw a perfect bounce pass (one that might make point guard Rajon Rondo blush) to hit Allen in the circle for the emphatic one-handed jam.
Baby's potential to hit that free-throw-line jumper helped the play succeed (as did Joakim Noah's inability to leave Kevin Garnett on the perimeter). Boston's lead ballooned to 108-103 with 79 seconds to go, essentially sealing the win (even if that didn't come until Garnett's pick-pocket of Noah a short time later). It's easy to see why the Celtics have leaned heavy on that lineup that features the four stalwart starters and Baby.
Keep reading for postgame commentary (and video) from the key participants:
--RAY ALLEN: "I dunk every 65 to 70 games. It's situational. As I've gotten older, I've learned to be more efficient with my body and getting to the hole when I can. Sometimes you gotta dunk it... The way the play went, there was nobody on the backside. I knew once I got the ball, I had to do something with it and I had to make the ball go down. I didn't want to get it blocked and I didn't know where Korver was."
--DOC RIVERS: “I didn’t know he could jump. I mean, I was shocked. My goodness. First of all, it was great execution. I mean, going into overtime, we just told them, ‘Run our stuff and run it all the way through.’ And that was terrific. Ray sets the pick and gets the flair and then curls. And they were top-blocking, so either Ray was going to get a layup or the big was going to get a jump shot. It was a great pass; I think Paul was supposed to throw it, so I think he threw it -- and it was great. So, offensively, down the stretch and in overtime, the execution was close to flawless. And they made some tough shots. The Korver 3 was a big shot for them before overtime. So it was a heck of a game. Whenever Chicago and Boston get together something crazy happens. It’s just been good games."
--PAUL PIERCE: "The play was for me to come off the pick-and-roll, pull the pick, and find Ray on the fade. When I turned around on the fade, [Korver] went over the top and Ray just kept going on the backdoor. That left the whole left side open and we got him the ball. He did a great job of finishing. [Allen] was really the catalyst in overtime, he hit that big 3, and the big dunk really sparked us. Then, defensively, he did a good job of slowing down Korver, stopping him from hitting any more big shots."