One is arguably the best jump shooter in the NBA, one of the best pure shooters in history, and one of the top five guys you want with the ball in his hand and an open look with the clock ready to expire. He’s an NBA champion, a roundball legend, and a primary component for an NBA title contender.
The other is a bench player commonly forgotten among one of the league’s deepest teams. He is remembered best for his college exploits, yet another white Duke player who played well enough to make the league but will never be considered top-tier. A good player, not a great player, just another cog in a contender’s machine.
But J.J. Redick could have a huge impact on this series.
Redick is averaging fewer minutes these playoffs than he did last year, mostly thanks to a deeper Orlando rotation and more minutes for star Vince Carter. But his production is up, and Redick has shown enough this season to be counted on when called upon by Stan Van Gundy. And if SVG is drawing anything on this series from last year’s Eastern Semifinals, he’ll call upon Redick to stop Ray Allen.
In the Celtics’ wins last year, Ray Allen was a huge factor. And in their losses in that series, his struggles were also a factor. When SVG brought Redick in, we assumed it was to provide more shooters on the floor, not as a defensive adjustment. Imagine our surprise when Redick came in and clamped down on Ray Allen, deleting all the space he worked hard to create for catch and shoot opportunities.
The Celtics use Allen off multiple screens, often popping him to the wing for catch-and-shoot, relying on his perfect form and release. It’s a dagger that often comes just when an opponent thinks they’ve covered all angles. The problem is getting through the screens is incredibly difficult. Getting past the absurd number of moving screens the Celtics use (this is not a criticism, if you can get away with it, you should, but let’s be honest. Glen Davis does more stutter steps than K$sha), the Celtics have huge bodies who know how to screen, and often clamp Allen’s defender between two closing screens, one on each side.
Redick showed an absurd amount of toughness we didn’t know he had in him, fighting through those screens to run off the three. It doesn’t take much to interrupt a shooter on catch and shoot. He’s not focused on his defender, the objective is speed in order to negate the effect of the defender. Which means if you can get there, you have a good possibility of forcing him to reset or miss the shot.
Redick is younger, and hasn’t logged as many minutes as his Magic counterparts, which means that when Van Gundy sends him in on a suicide mission to shut down Allen, Redick can respond better physically. Throw in his coachable nature and you’ve got a machine primed to close out Allen. Take away Allen and the Celtics’ offensive game is halved due to how much space Allen provides on the floor.
Vince Carter, on the other hand, has quite a few miles on him, and tends to suffer minor injuries often. He responds to those minor injuries as if he has been shot with a crossbow laced with poison, covered in fire. Forcing Carter to run through Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, and Glen Davis screens is an easy way to make sure Carter comes up gimpy at some point in this series.
SVG has had a major advantage over his coaching counterparts in his willingness to use deeper players on the bench to exploit specific matchups. Allen may be healthier than he was last year. Redick may not have the success he did. But if Allen starts to get hot, SVG needs to turn to the former Dukester for some instant defense. It’s not like he’s losing anything in terms of three point shooting with him in.
It only takes a half second for Ray Allen to set you on fire. Redick can be the half second closer that douses the flame.