- Chris Forsberg, Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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After Celtics guard Ray Allen scored a game-high 24 points in Thursday's win over the Lakers, coach Doc Rivers jokingly acknowledged that the NBA trade deadline passing must have had an effect on the veteran sharpshooter, who had struggled throughout the 2009-10 season.
"I think we should threaten to trade him all the time and then pull him back because he was phenomenal [Thursday]," quipped Rivers after the Lakers game.
But as much as Allen downplayed the significance of no longer having to deal with the trade whispers, his performance suggests a great weight has been lifted from his shoulders.
Allen scored a team-high 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting with a trio of trifectas in Boston's lopsided 96-76 triumph over the Trail Blazers on Friday night at the Rose Garden.
With the Celtics short-handed in the aftermath of Thursday's five-player trade that brought Nate Robinson to Boston (he's not expected to join the team until it returns from this four-game Western road trip after Sunday's game in Denver), the 34-year-old Allen logged a team-high 39 minutes Friday. But unlike in his performance against the Lakers, he didn't fade late.
In fact, Allen scored 11 fourth-quarter points to quell any thoughts of a Portland comeback. For a Celtics team that has watched numerous double-digit leads evaporate in the second half this season, it meant a rare ability to rest many of their starters (all but Allen, anyhow), which was especially helpful on the second night of a back-to-back.
"[Allen is] just playing well," said Rivers, who joked again about starting trade rumors about Allen if he continues to excel as he has. "We didn't watch his minutes, but we knew with a lack of depth one of the guards was going to play. It's usually [point guard Rajon] Rondo, but [Allen was] making shots and that was good for us."
Allen played so well that Rivers simply couldn't take him off the court. He finished with five assists and three rebounds while logging a game-best plus-19 in the plus/minus category.
What's more, Allen has been solid defensively as Boston as a whole has upped its intensity. It was Allen who was swarming Lakers guard Derek Fisher on the final shot attempt in Thursday's narrow win.
While talking about the team, Allen might as well have been talking about his own re-emergence.
"It looks like we're starting to surface," Allen said. "We're coming back to the reality of who we think we are, the team we started the season as. Every night is a new challenge -- you never just show up, and that's one thing that we always have to remember."
After Thursday's game, Allen downplayed the significance of the deadline passing, saying he never let it affect his play. For a player who had been shooting just 42.5 percent from the field in February (including a dismal 28.6 percent from behind the arc), his performance suggested it most certainly did affect him on the court.
Over the past two games, Allen has connected on 19 of 29 attempts overall (65.5 percent), including 7 of 13 from beyond the arc (53.8 percent).
He can say it's because of Boston's better ball movement on offense -- and that's certainly true -- but clearly Allen is performing better right now because of his lack of movement during trade season.
And if Allen continues to play like this, it's obvious why president of basketball operations Danny Ainge kept him. Because as coveted as Allen's expiring $19.7 million contract might have been to teams eager to throw their hat in the upcoming free-agent bonanza, Boston simply couldn't have gotten a player in return as valuable as Allen has been the past two games.
Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
Re-emerging Ray Allen is clearly relieved to stay with the Celtics.