The other day I said that Doc’s top seven rotational players were set for the playoffs, the five starters plus Posey and House. Everyone else would be played “situationally,” based on match-ups and foul trouble. We’ve only played one game, but it looks like I may have been all wet, at least as far as House being included in the core rotation and Cassell being excluded.
House played 5 minutes in a 23-point romp over the Hawks on Sunday, while Cassell played 16 minutes. It also appeared that Cassell was responsible for getting the second unit on the same page, and maintaining leads when the starters needed a breather or were in foul trouble.
On the one hand, this doesn’t surprise me. Doc and Danny acquired Cassell for this very purpose. On the other hand, House seemed like an all too integral piece of the puzzle to be marginalized this late in the game.
The key player in the equation, however, may be Tony Allen. Allen played nine minutes on Sunday, including his normal rotational minutes in the second quarter. With possible match-ups looming against the Cavs, Pistons, and Lakers on the horizon, T.Allen could be seeing some guaranteed minutes as the Celtics need extra defenders to guard King James, Kobe, and Detroit’s wings.
I don’t think we’ve heard the last from Eddie House in the 2008 NBA Playoffs. I’m confident that number 50, when called on, will continue to respond with both holsters. But the mantra this season has been defense. On this front, giving Tony Allen the nod over House makes some sense.
As for questions that may linger about Sam's aging shooting skills, let's revisit a moment from early in his Celtic career:
When Cassell first checked into the game with 3:36 to go in the first, his team was down 11. By early in the second, they were down 22, and it was an 18-point game when the 38-year old took over. He scored 12 points in less than six minutes, helping Boston cut the lead to 10 at halftime. He made Rivers comfortable enough to leave him in the entire second quarter.
With the Celtics down seven and less than four minutes to go in the game, Paul Pierce drove and found Cassell open for a long two to keep it close. And with less than a minute to go and Boston down one, another Pierce drive created (via Kevin Garnett) an open three for Cassell from the left wing. Cassell didn't hesitate, knocking down the jumper to give his team the lead for good.
In just his fourth game with his new team, he had hit the game-winner against the defending champs in their building.
"Late in the game," Pierce said, "that's what he does. He knocked down a big shot. And that's what you can expect out of him."