Remembering Ray Allen’s 2009 playoff series against the Bulls


Remembering Ray Allen’s 2009 playoff series against the Bulls

The 2009 playoff series between the Bulls and Celtics will go down as one of the most compelling of the last decade. The seven-game series featured the Rookie of the Year in Derrick Rose, future Hall of Famers in Ray Allen and Paul Pierce (Kevin Garnett missed the series with a knee injury), budding stars in Rajon Rondo and Joakim Noah, and, of course, Brian Scalibrine.

The series included seven overtime periods in four different games, five games were decided by three points or less, and the teams alternated wins from Games 3 to 7.

A major part of the ridiculousness that occurred from April 18 to May 2 was Allen, who officially announced his retirement on Tuesday. The 18-year veteran made 10 All-Star appearances, won two championships and is a lock for the Hall of Fame in 2019. He played against the Bulls 60 times, the most of any opponent, and twice more in the postseason.

And that playoff series is what Bulls fans will remember most about the best sharpshooter of his generation. Consider that Allen averaged 23.4 points on 45 percent shooting in the series. Those numbers alone would have been impressive. But also consider that Allen had a dreadful Game 1, scoring just four points on 1-for-12 shooting while missing all six of his 3-point attempts.

In the final six games of the series, Allen averaged nearly 27 points per game on 50 percent shooting, while making 52 percent of his 52 3-point attempts. His true shooting percentage in those six games was a blistering 68.4 percent – last year Steph Curry’s true shooting percentage was 66.9 percent, to put that statistic in reference.

Here’s a look at Allen’s performance in those final six games, and how he helped the Celtics pull off one of the most thrilling first-round playoff series wins in NBA history.

Game 2 (30 points, 6-10 3FG, 5 assists): Allen’s struggles appeared to be continuing early in Game 2, as he missed four of his first five shots early into the third quarter. But he caught fire in that third quarter, scoring 16 points on 4-for-6 shooting and hitting all six of his free throws.

In the fourth quarter he connected on all four of his shots from deep. The first gave the Celtics a two-point lead with 8:07 to play. His second pulled the Celtics within one with 6:09 left. His third put the Celtics up two, 115-113, with 25 seconds remaining. And after Ben Gordon his a mid-range jumper to tie the game, it was Allen’s triple from the right wing over Joakim Noah with 2 seconds left that gave the Celtics the win and evened the series.

Game 3 (18 points, 6-12 FG, 3-4 3FG): It was another slow start for Allen back in Chicago. He started 1-for-5 with a turnover, but he was on the floor in the second quarter when the Celtics reeled off a 23-8 to close the half. He hit the final two triples of the period, effectively putting away the game. In the only real blowout of the series, Allen added eight more points in the third quarter and sat much of the fourth quarter.

Game 4 (28 points, 8-17 FG, 7-8 FT): When the series really turned up, so did Allen. He had nine points in a back-and-forth first half, then proceeded to miss his first four shots of the second half. But he was dominant down the stretch. His third triple of the fourth quarter with 9.8 seconds left sent the game to overtime.

He then scored six points in overtime, including two free throws with 9 seconds left to give the Celtics a 110-107 lead. Ben Gordon then hit a triple to send the game into a second overtime. Allen missed all three attempts in the second overtime, where John Salmons and Joakim Noah combined for nine of the Bulls’ 10 points that evened the series once again.

Game 5 (10 points, 2-4 3FG): Allen was hardly a one-man show in Boston, and it showed in Game 5. He struggled most of the evening, but still left his mark midway through the fourth quarter. With the Celtics trailing by 10, Allen was part of a 9-0 run – he found Rondo for a layup and then connected on a triple – that pulled the Celtics back within one, 83-82. Allen fouled out shortly after that run and watched from the sidelines as the Celtics stole the win on a Paul Pierce 19-footer with 3 seconds left.

Game 6 (51 points, 18-32 FG, 9-18 3FG, 59 minutes): So how would Allen respond from that dud? With arguably the best game of his life, of course. Allen scored 29 points in the first half, one more than the rest of his team did before halftime. He fizzled to start the second half, going just 1-for-6 with a pair of turnovers in the third quarter as the Bulls, looking to force a Game 7, took a seven-point lead into the final quarter.

But the fun was just getting started. Allen scored eight points on three makes during a 13-2 run early in the fourth that tied the game at 91 apiece. His jumper with 1:49 left gave the C’s a five-point lead before Brad Miller heroics sent the game to overtime. Allen missed his only attempt in the first overtime, then started 0-for-2 in the second overtime. Then Allen went back to work.

With the C’s down three, Allen’s foot was on the line on a long jumper over Joakim Noah, meaning Boston still trailed by one, 116-115, with 20 seconds left. After a pair of Miller free throws the Celtics had one last chance to push the game to a third overtime. Out of a timeout, Allen used a Pierce screen to free himself on the left wing, and his pull-up triple over Kirk Hinrich was good to tie the game at 118 apiece.

Allen made his only attempt in the third overtime, but the Bulls pushed ahead on Noah’s memorable strip of Pierce and fast-break dunk. That sent things to a Game 7 back in Boston, but Allen’s historic performance remains one of the best in recent memory. He played 59 of a possible 63 minutes.

Game 7 (23 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists): In the decisive game of the series, Allen was inefficient much of the evening. He scored nine points in the first half and shot just 6-for-14 in the game. But he grabbed a series-best seven rebounds and scored seven of the Celtics’ final 13 points to help them maintain the lead and get out of the first round with the win.

The Celtics bowed out to the Magic in seven games in the next round. Allen struggled for much of that series, averaging just 13.1 points on 34 percent shooting. He also made just eight of his 42 3-point attempts, including a 2-for-17 stretch in Games 3, 4 and 5. But as Jesus Shuttlesworth hangs up his kicks, Bulls fans will remember the fun (and anguish) he provided in the series before that.

Bulls Bracket Madness: The best individual seasons in franchise history


Bulls Bracket Madness: The best individual seasons in franchise history

We're trying to figure out the best season in Bulls franchise history, and we want your help in deciding.

Because the Bulls tout the greatest player in basketball history, who could have made up this list by himself, we're giving Michael Jordan his own side of the bracket. But the other side of the bracket is also filled with some pretty memorable and remarkable campaigns.

So read up on each matchup and then have your voice heard by voting on our Twitter page here. Check out the entire bracket in the graphic above.

The Jordan Region

No. 1 Michael Jordan (1995-96) vs. No. 8 Michael Jordan (1990-91)

No. 1 Michael Jordan (1995-96): Jordan was on a mission in his first full season back from retirement. He led the Bulls to a then-record 72 wins with a regular-season MVP award, All-Star MVP and romp through the NBA playoffs, where the Bulls went 15-3 en route to their fourth NBA title. Jordan won his eighth straight scoring title at 30.4 points a game, with nine games where he put up 40 or more. He saved his best for Detroit, scoring 53 with 11 rebounds and six steals in early March. To prove Jordan was getting better as he aged, he shot a career-high 43 percent from 3-point range at age 33.

No. 2 Michael Jordan (1990-91): 1990-91: Jordan's second MVP came with his first NBA title, as he was at the peak of his powers physically combined with the ultimate team success, with the Bulls finally getting past Detroit before defeating the Lakers in the Finals. He shot a career-high 54 percent from the field while averaging 31.5 points, six rebounds and 5.5 assists as he began to fully embrace the triangle offense in Phil Jackson's second season. Jordan had 57 games where he shot better than 50 percent from the field, and was among the league leaders in steals at 2.7 per game while earning his fourth straight All-Defensive First Team honor.

No. 1 Derrick Rose (2010-11) vs. No. 2 Scottie Pippen (1993-94)

No. 1 Derrick Rose (2010-11): Where to begin? The youngest MVP in league history took the league by storm, averaging 25.0 points and 7.7 assists while leading the Bulls to a league-best 62 wins. Rose had been named an All-Star the previous season but took his game to new heights in Year 3, appearing in 81 games, making 128 3-pointers (after making a combined 32 his first two seasons) while helping the Bulls rank first in defensive efficiency under first year head coach Tom Thibodeau. Rose and the Bulls lost in five games to LeBron James and the Miami Heat, with Rose shooting a paltry 35 percent on 24 attempts per game. But his historic season will always go down as one of the franchise’s best, and the only non-Jordan MVP.

No. 2 Scottie Pippen (1993-94): Yeah, well what would Scottie be without MJ? We found out that answer in 1993-94, when Pippen took the reins of the franchise as Jordan rode the Birmingham bus as a minor-league baseball player. Pippen responded with a sensational season, averaging 22.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists. He averaged 2.9 steals, shot 49 percent from the field and became a 3-point threat for the first time in his career. He was named First Team All-NBA and All-NBA Defensive First Team, and finished third to Hakeem and The Admiral in MVP voting. He averaged 22.8/8.3/4.6 in the postseason but ultimately proved it was easier to win in the spring with MJ by his side. Still, this individual season was one of the franchise’s best, if not the best. Hardware isn’t everything.

NBA Draft Tracker: Kentucky PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander


NBA Draft Tracker: Kentucky PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

For most of the college basketball season, John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats ranked among the nation’s biggest underachievers. Calipari had perfected the one-and-done route in Lexington, recruiting classes full of McDonald’s All-Americans every year, making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, and then sending those talented freshmen off to the NBA. Matter of fact, Coach Cal’s ability to get players ready to play professionally is the foundation of his recruiting success.

However, this season the tried and true formula ran into a bit of a speed bump. Injuries and inconsistency led to double digit losses for the Wildcats during the regular season, and an uncertain tournament outlook. That’s when freshman point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander emerged as the leader of this young team, and sparked Kentucky to a Southeastern Conference tournament championship.

Gilgeous-Alexander has been even better in the NCAA Tournament, scoring 19 points with 8 rebounds and 7 assists in the Wildcats’ opening round win over Davidson, then coming back with 27 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in a victory over Buffalo.

At 6-6, Gilgeous-Alexander has the ability to shoot and pass over smaller defenders, while also possessing the quickness that is so crucial at the point guard position. Yes, he is very thin at 180 pounds, but has the frame to put on weight once he’s introduced to an NBA strength training program.

Gilgeous-Alexander has been Kentucky’s most efficient player throughout the season, shooting 49% from the field and nearly 42% from the 3 point line. He has the quickness and ball-handling ability to break down defenses and get in the paint for easy scores or assists. As the season progressed, Gilgeous-Alexander took on the role of go-to scorer late in games, sparking Kentucky’s runs in the S.E.C. AND NCAA tournaments.

So, by now I’m sure you’re asking, where does he fit with the Bulls? 3 weeks ago I was hoping Gilgeous-Alexander might be available in the 16-22 range where the Bulls might be able to get him with the Pelicans’ 1st round pick acquired in the Niko Mirotic trade. Unfortunately, his outstanding post-season play has him rocketing into the late lottery in the most recent mock drafts, and he could move up even higher if Kentucky advances to the Final 4.

The Bulls are happy with Kris Dunn as their starting point guard, and both Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne are under contract for next season. But if somehow the Pelicans fall out of the playoff field in the West (which seems very unlikely right now), adding an athletic combo guard like Gilgeous-Alexander would be an outstanding pick at 13 or 14.

So, when you’re watching Kentucky play in the NCAA Tournament, keep an eye on the tall, skinny guard wearing #22 and try to project just how good he might be on the professional level.