Philadelphia 76ers fans like myself hoped that the Boston Celtics would lose more of their legendary stars after last season. Instead, the only superstar that the Celtics lost in the summer was Ray Allen, which suggested Boston was really lucky – even if Allen was joining the Miami Heat. However, although Boston is only without Allen, his loss is being felt already.
While the Celtics started 1-2 and were lucky to get their first win over the Washington Wizards on Nov. 3, Allen has already fit right into Miami. In fact, he made a big splash on Nov. 3, as his four-point play with seconds left allowed the Heat to survive the Denver Nuggets.
Allen’s first two home games in Miami have been spectacular, as he got 19 points off the bench against his old Celtics on Oct. 30, then beat the Nuggets on a night where LeBron James and Dwayne Wade couldn’t carry the Heat for once. Having a future Hall of Famer like Allen has already paid dividends, even though the Heat are loaded enough.
But despite their star-packed lineup – and despite Allen having to come off the bench – the Heat are still in need of someone else to be the hero once in a while. James, Wade and Chris Bosh can’t always do everything, even though they can on most nights. Yet when one, two or even three of the Miami ‘Big Three’ is not at their best, the Heat have a rather nice safety net in Allen to hit a big shot or two.
The Celtics are now seeing what life is like without Allen as a safety net, and it is far less pretty so far. He couldn’t help them get past Miami, and not having him gave Boston one less scoring option on a cold night against the Milwaukee Bucks on Nov. 2. Then in Washington the next night, Paul Pierce had to do much of the work to help the Celtics survive, despite how the Wizards were ice cold in the first and last minutes of the game.
The Heat are proving that a team can never have too many options – and the Celtics are proving that losing just one option isn’t that easy to get over, especially when it’s Allen. Maybe over time, Boston will find a way to plug the hole that Allen left behind. And perhaps Miami won’t need Allen too much when/if it starts steamrolling over the entire NBA.
Yet for this opening week, the Celtics have learned that losing Allen was a bigger deal than they expected – and that the Heat are now even further ahead of them with him after all. This could help the likes of the Sixers, Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks close the gap in the Atlantic Division, should the Celtics not adjust fast enough.
However, with Allen on the Heat, the Celtics and the rest of the East – if not the NBA – have to do much more adjusting than that to keep pace.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan – who has become quite familiar with the rival Celtics in that time.
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