- Peter May, Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- Who knew Ray Allen was going to go Eyjafjallajokull? (That's the air travel-wrecking volcano in Iceland, but it also might be a loose translation of what Miami coach Erik Spoelstra was muttering to his assistants in the second half of Game 2 Tuesday night.)
Allen was dropping them from anywhere and everywhere, an explosion we haven't seen from him in awhile. We certainly know he has it in him. In all likelihood, he will become the most productive 3-point shooter in league history sometime next season. Allen dropped 51 points on the Bulls last year in the playoffs. He was arguably the Celtics' most consistent player this season after the All-Star Game.
But he was a nonfactor in Game 1 of the Celtics-Heat playoff series, managing just 8 points on 2-of-9 shooting, bothered by an inconvenient, rhythm-distracting bloody nose. He then went shot-less in the first quarter of Game 2, content to observe the Celtics' Smashmouth Game Plan being exercised to near-perfection by big men Glen Davis and Kendrick Perkins.
But Doc Rivers knew something had to change. "We had to get Ray some shots," he told anyone who would listen.
Allen's thoughts at that point? "I'm 100 percent. I haven't missed," he said.
Allen did get some shots in the second quarter, but the third quarter was the game-changing eruption. Celtics' fans were treated to vintage Allen, except that vintage in this case is the here and now for the still sweet-shooting 34-year-old. He took eight shots and made six of them. Six of the eight shots were 3-pointers and five of those found the mark. He had 17 points in the quarter, 12 (four 3-pointers) coming in a span of 2 minutes, 49 seconds.
By the time Allen was through, so were the Heat. The fifth Allen trey of the quarter pushed the lead to a stunning 33 points with 14 minutes left -- and the Celtics had more than survived the absence of Kevin Garnett, not to mention the annoying ramblings of Quentin Richardson. They won easily, 106-77, and lead the series 2-0.
It's games like this that drive home the value of Allen, whose contract is up at the end of the season. It's games like this that made Celtics vice president Danny Ainge think long and hard about moving Allen at the trading deadline, eventually concluding that it was better to keep him. It's games like this that remind the Heat and everyone else out there that there is always a potential eruption on the horizon from No. 20.
"He went 0-for-4 [from 3-point territory] in the first game, so we couldn't expect him to come out and shoot like that again," said the Heat's Udonis Haslem. "He's too good of a shooter."
It was just another day at the office for Allen. He shrugged off a performance like this as if he were swatting away a gnat. In his mind, he feels like he should shoot like this all the time, especially with all the preparation he puts in. To him, it's virtue rewarded.
"Most of the shots I took I worked on, so it's not like I wouldn't normally make them," he said matter-of-factly. "The ones I took when they weren't on me is because they went to a zone and kind of left me." (Kind of? He had his own personal launching pad in the left corner, so much so that TNT analyst Reggie Miller wondered if the area shouldn't be called the Ray Allen Corner.)
Said Paul Pierce, who has been in a few of those special zones himself: "He really opened up the game. At one point, it was so great, being a spectator, just watching Ray knock down shots, watching Glen roll to the basket, getting and-1s. It was like, 'I don't know what to think.'"
Neither did anyone for Miami.
Allen ended up with 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field (7-of-9 on 3s), and he spent a lot of his 33 minutes on the floor harassing Dwyane Wade, who scored 29 on five more shots (11-of-18). This is not a tit-for-tat thing; Miami relies on Wade much more than the Celtics rely on Allen. But Allen is nonetheless conscious of the importance of Wade to the Heat and doesn't want to be prominently featured in the next Dwyane Wade highlight reel.
"He's the guy I'm guarding. I don't want him to score a lot of points," Allen said. "You do have a personal vendetta, or agenda, to try and stop your man. But it can be hard."
Wade has pretty much been it for Miami, which explains the Heat's current predicament. The Celtics had Pierce, Garnett and Tony Allen in Game 1. They turned to Davis, Perkins and Ray Allen in Game 2.
Davis will rightly get the credit for being the difference-maker in this one, setting the tone from the outset. But Old Reliable (Allen would prefer the emphasis be on the "reliable") once again delivered a performance that serves as a reminder to one and all: Dismiss him, ignore him, marginalize him at your own peril. He can -- and will -- make you pay.
Longtime Celtics reporter Peter May is a contributor to ESPNBoston.com.
8dEthan Sherwood Strauss