After rough start, Allen takes - and makes - big shots

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After rough start, Allen takes - and makes - big shots

BOSTON Call it the re-run that never gets old; at least not for Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

It's the fourth quarter, the score is close, the ball is in Ray Allen's hands and swish!

"Ray Allen for 3!!!!" is soon heard throughout the TD Garden.

For a player who has made a career out of delivering fourth quarter daggers, there was plenty of reason to believe that on Saturday night, it just wasn't going to happen.

But there was Allen, gimpy ankle and all, coming up with one of the biggest shots of the night as Boston held on for an 85-75 Game 7 victory over Philadelphia to advance to the Conference finals where they'll meet Miami.

After missing eight of his first nine shots, Allen hit his only two shots of the fourth quarter - both 3s - that could not have come at a better time.

"Ray, he never could get it going but he made a couple of big shots, obviously," Rivers said.

But that didn't stop the Celtics from looking for Allen on a 3-pointer that, when he made it, doubled the C's lead to 60-54 at the time.

"To have trust in Ray, after the way he was shooting the ball, to get it to him for him to make it says a lot about Ray and I think it says a lot about our team," Rivers said. "That we trust you for 48 minutes. And I thought that was huge."

Seeing Allen struggle so mightily wasn't that big of a deal. He's a shooter, and it's not unusual for them to go through stretches in which shots simply do not fall.

But making things worst for Allen was the fact that it was clear that the Sixers weren't nearly as worried about defending him on the perimeter as they were in the first four or five games of this series.

Well aware that Allen wasn't moving as well as he's used to because of a right ankle injury, the Sixers often had the defender on Allen to help off and help defend the post area. That led to a number of great shot opportunities that more often than not, Allen makes teams pay for giving to him.

"I had some great looks," Allen said. "Probably the best that I've seen so far in the postseason. I wish I had them back, but they go in when they count. It's almost like I need the fourth quarter I love to get to that point and focus in a little more."

Seeing Allen continue to fire one missed shot after another, did nothing but want Rivers to see Allen continue to fire away.

But there was a point in the second half where the foot soreness that Allen has been dealing with, was getting painfully worst for him.

Rivers knew something was wrong when Allen passed up not one, but two wide open shot attempts - something a scorer like Allen would never, ever do.

When Rivers took Allen out of the game, he went over to him and reminded that, "we're not going to have that (passing up shots).'"

That's when Allen told him about the soreness in his foot.

"He just said, 'my foot's killing me. I need a break. I'm good,'" Rivers recalled. "I told him again, I said, 'You don't ever pass up shots.' The biggest part was Rondo went over there and told him the same thing, which I thought was great for Ray to hear, confidence-wise. And then Kevin (Garnett) went over and told him. I thought that was big for him to hear."

But Allen, arguably the greatest shooter of this generation, may not be as explosive as he once was or have the kind of above-the-rim ability that he once possessed.

Still, he is Ray Allen, a shooter who rarely sees a shot that he doesn't want to take.

"Ray is the ultimate gun slinger," Rivers said. "I mean, really. That's what makes great players great. I was a basketball player one day. And I would've never taken that shot late in the game like Ray, after missing my first 15. A lot of guys you have to have a (courage) to do that, you really do. It was just impressive. And you felt like if he got a shot - I didn't know if he was going to make it, but I knew he was going to take it."

Said Allen: "My lift isn't where it needs to be. At certain times, it's almost like I'm guessing - which I don't like to do - so as I'm coming around, just trying to take all my momentum into the shot."

But when it comes to taking and on most nights, delivering big shots, few have come through as often as Ray Allen. And there's no guesswork involved with that.

Healthy or not, Allen is still an important part of the C's plan even if he's not shooting the ball well. In Saturday's Game 7 win, the Celtics were plus-19 with Allen in the game - the highest plusminus ratio of any player on the floor.

But Allen knows as well as anyone that for the C's to pull off one of the biggest upsets and get back to the NBA Finals, they'll need everyone - himself included - to do what he does best.

And that's making shots, which is the story of Allen's career, a story that the Celtics wouldn't mind being repeated a lot in the conference finals against Miami.