Ray Allen proves nothing stops him
Celtics' hot hand goes from having sore knee to leading Boston to a win
BOSTON -- Ray Allen doesn't like the notion of ruling himself out for a game too far in advance. But he admitted Friday to picking out one of his finer-looking suits before heading to the arena because the thought crossed his mind that, for the first time this season, he might be wearing business attire on the Boston Celtics' bench.
After sitting out Thursday's practice with a sore right knee, Allen said it wasn't until he went through his pregame routine that he was confident he'd be able to lace up his high tops against the Golden State Warriors. But not only did he dress, Allen hit seven of his first eight shots, pouring in 20 first-half points to pace Boston to a sizable lead it clung to while emerging with a 107-103 triumph at the TD Garden.
Allen finished with a team-high 27 points (matched by Paul Pierce, who, ironically, erupted for 20 second-half points in a symmetrical effort) on 9-of-13 shooting (5 of 8 beyond the arc) with three rebounds (including a key offensive carom late in the game) and three assists over 39 minutes.
"That's why I have this suit on -- because I thought I was going to be sitting on the bench," Allen said. "I thought there might be a chance, but I came down here [early], as usual, ready to play.
"It's hard from one day to the next to say, 'I'm not going to play tomorrow.' You've got to get in there and really put your body to the test and really try to get it better. I got treatment, iced, and by the time I got down here and I shot, I felt better."
To the less informed, a protective white sleeve over Allen's right knee was the only indication of any ailment Friday. He scored the game's first points after being fouled following a steal 33 seconds in. He erupted for eight more points over a span of 2:23, making all three shots he took in the first quarter.
Allen didn't slow down in the second frame. Thrust back onto the floor when reserve guard Von Wafer strained his right calf, Allen assisted on a Jeff Green dunk just seconds later, then made his next four shots to double his first-half point total.
His first miss didn't come until there was 1:19 remaining in the first half, when a 13-foot jumper found iron.
"[Allen] shoots the ball pretty well most days," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "He's just an amazing shooter, he really is. And what's more amazing is how many times he's wide-open. It's just remarkable, when you think about it. The Reggie Millers -- I've been on teams where, before the game, the coach is like 'Do not give this guy an open shot,' and you turn around and he's standing there all by himself. It's just amazing how they find the open spots."
It's a familiar refrain for the NBA's all-time 3-point king. But time after time, he found himself alone Friday night and admitted he wondered what the people back in Oakland were thinking about all that space he had in which to operate.
"I think I'm the one guy that you look up and ask yourself, 'How did he get so wide-open in the corner?'" Allen said. "I think that everybody is thinking that -- everybody in the Bay Area was thinking that early in the game. You don't really look at Paul [Pierce] and he's wide-open, and Jeff [Green] was wide-open several times; Nenad [Krstic] was open a couple times; or when [Rajon] Rondo gets to the basket. I think that's the result of all the guys on the floor and the plays that we run. You just make sure you run, make a sharp cut, stay spaced, and if a team has to double, you know that someone has to be open.
"The defensive end is really where it starts because when we get stops like that and we force them to miss, and then I'm gone. I don't even wait, I just get to the corner. They've got to get to the paint, and Rondo, he knows where I'm at, so I just have to make sure that I'm ready."
Allen was ready. Sore knee be damned, he was downright unconscious for the first 24 minutes. He didn't exactly cool in the second half; instead, he simply deferred to Pierce, who took advantage of a defense so leery of Allen that Pierce was able to attack the basket, getting to the line seven times in the third quarter alone (Pierce finished with 9-of-14 shooting, while making all eight of his attempts at the charity stripe).
Golden State coach Keith Smart admitted that his team, not exactly the most defensively sound to begin with, sort of had to pick its poison when Boston pushed the pace.
"One, you've got a point guard [Rondo] who's looking downhill first," Smart said. "But he knows he has Ray or Paul trailing somewhere and he understands where to go on the floor. Because you have to make a decision: You're either going to give up the layup, which is going to be a score, or you've got to help on Ray."
Despite that quiet second half, offensively, Allen might have made the biggest play of the game for Boston. Nursing a two-point lead with 14 seconds to go, Garnett misfired on a 19-foot jumper. The rebound shot hard off the back of the iron and Allen swooped in from the corner to snare the rebound in the lane.
Golden State was forced to foul, and Allen made both freebies to essentially seal the win.
"That was the best part of the game," Allen said of the offensive rebound that led to the key points. "I'm just watching the ball, trying to get into the defense. I'm glad I'm able to do things like that for my team; knowing I can get in there and it's not just about shooting the ball, but helping the team."
Allen played so well, Rivers might suggest taking another day off Saturday. But the routinized Allen scoffed at the notion (scoffing again when it was suggested that Rivers told him to go to the driving range Thursday; in reality, he was at the practice facility getting treatment on the knee).
It's going to take a lot more than a sore knee to keep Allen off the court, regardless of whether it's a practice or a game.
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.