Commentary

House call is answered

Celtics guard helps fill breach with Pierce sidelined

Updated: February 4, 2010, 2:47 AM ET
By Peter May | Special to ESPNBoston.com

The topic prior to Wednesday night's game with the Miami Heat was rebounding, a rather sore spot all season for the Boston Celtics. But in this instance, it was about the rebounding of the Celtics' guards. The team video crew had spliced together a short segment showing the Boston guards rebounding the way they should. One guard was missing in the piece: Eddie House.

"Hey, wait a minute! I'm offended," he said in apparent mock seriousness.

"We tried to get you in there," responded coach Doc Rivers. "We just couldn't find one."

Thus, when House collected the first of his season-high matching four rebounds against the Heat, the Boston bench erupted in celebration. House isn't in the game to get rebounds. We all know that. He's basically a gun for hire, but, Rivers noted, when House rebounds and defends with a modicum of tenacity the coach feels comfortable keeping House out on the floor.

And with Paul Pierce unable to go against Miami because of a sprained left foot, House's contributions were critical. "We needed him out there because with Paul out," Rivers said, "we needed him to make shots. And to see him make them was most welcome."

House hit 5 of 9 shots (2 of 4 from 3-point land), playing 24 minutes in Boston's 107-102 victory over the Heat. It was his longest stint since Jan. 2 (the other game in which he snagged four rebounds). His 16 points represented his third highest output of the season, trailing only a 22-point effort against the Bulls on Oct. 30 and a 19-pointer against the Suns on Dec. 30.

That's the kind of game the Celtics expect more of from House, who undeniably has not been having his best season as a shooter. (And that's pretty much why he's here.) He's shooting 39.5 percent from the field, the lowest in his three years in Boston. Ditto for three-point percentage (37 percent) and points per game (7.1).

But he was the old Eddie against Miami. He scored seven unanswered points in the second quarter, snapping a 29-29 tie and giving the Celtics a lead they didn't relinquish until the third quarter (and then, only briefly). But his two biggest baskets came in the fourth quarter, after Miami had scored eight unanswered points to pull to within 88-86.

First came a huge 3-pointer off a feed from Rajon Rondo with 4:41 to play. (Rivers had wanted to substitute Tony Allen for House prior to the shot, but, after the 3, the coach called Allen back to the bench.) Then, after Ray Allen stole the ball from Dwyane Wade, he hit a breaking away House for a layup. House showed his savvy on the play, going with a reverse layup to avoid having the shot blocked. The Heat never got closer than two points the rest of the way.

If you're an opposing coach watching House coming off screens and firing away, you usually worry. If you're Erik Spoelstra, the coach of the Heat, you have a personal history with House that guarantees you're going to worry. Spoelstra was a Heat video guy/scout when House began his NBA career under Pat Riley in Miami in 2000. Riley rarely played House that year (50 games, 544 minutes), which prompted his daughter to bring signs to the Heat games reading, "Free Eddie House."

Spoelstra remembered getting a call one hot summer day from House, asking to meet him in the gym so he could shag balls. House wanted to get off 2,000 shots.

"My one vivid memory of Eddie is calling me up that day and then getting those 2,000 shots off," Spoelstra said. "I thought he was kidding at first. He was so determined. He practiced them from all angles, at different speeds, everything. That shot he has is not by accident. He put a lot of time into it."

Miami and Boston are not only the bookends of House's career, they also represent the only two NBA cities where he has spent more than one season. There were three seasons with the Heat and this is season No. 3 in Boston. In between, there were stops in Los Angeles (Clippers), Sacramento, Milwaukee, Charlotte, Phoenix and New Jersey.

That tells you two things: that players like Eddie House will always find a home, and that, for whatever reason, coaches and management always seem to find ways not to keep guys like Eddie House around. He's already had some memorable moments in Boston (Game 4 against the Lakers in the 2008 Finals comes to mind) and he is fighting through a shooting slump to make his mark this season.

Eddie House in a shooting slump? The numbers say so. But he was a veritable Moses Malone on the glass against the Heat, which no doubt will lead to a starring role in the next tape edit.

Peter May is a contributor to ESPN.com.

Peter May

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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