If I Could be Like Ray

1200587031While we can all agree that there is no such beast as a must-win NBA game in January, there are some that are way more important than others. Last night’s win for the Celtics over the Blazers was just such an animal.

To review: The C’s had dropped two in a row and three of four. They were playing a young, hungry, and much-improved Portland team. And they were once again without point guard Rajon Rondo. This was not a game the Celtics could afford to run with the Blazers. This was going to have to be ugly, grind it out, possession by possession basketball.

And it was, until Ray Allen blew the whole thing out of the water with an inspired fourth-quarter performance.

There is something about Allen that is aesthetically pleasing. There is no wasted motion in his jump shot. If he gets a split second he will get his shot off, and if he has any more than that second to get set, it’s practically a lay-up.

Years ago when Gatorade ran those If I Could be Like Mike commercials, they struck a chord because every kid in America actually wanted to be Michael Jordan, the way kids in the 50’s probably wanted to be Superman. Of course, that was all a fantasy. No mater how many sugary sports drinks you consume, you will never be able to dunk from the free throw line.

But everyone can shoot a jump shot. If you work at it, you might even be able to shoot a decent percentage, sans a 6-foot-6 defender jumping in your face, naturally. That’s the appeal of Ray Allen. He possesses a skill that everyone can actually attempt, but he does it such a high level, it’s like an amateur saxophonist appreciating Charlie Parker.

Allen’s acquisition has been somewhat overlooked in Kevin Garnett mania, but don’t forget one thing: No Allen, no KG. The Allen trade made Garnett re-examine the Celtics situation, and dumping Wally Szczerbiak probably didn’t hurt either.

On the floor, Allen makes the offense flow. He is not the low-post threat Garnett is, nor does he does possess Paul Pierce’s intricate set of moves. Allen is rarely the first option when either of GPA (in Sports Illustrated’s Jack McCallum’s phraseology) is on the floor with him, but his presence is enough to keep defenses honest, and thus not automatically double KG and Pierce.

That’s not to say that Allen is more important than the others. He is not the defender that Garnett is, obviously, and he is not the all-around talent that Pierce is either. Ray Allen is just damn good and we sincerely wish we could knock down jumpers like he can.