CLEVELAND Ray Allen is the greatest 3-point shooter in NBA history. But that's not why Allen has been among the league's top players for the bulk of his career.
Yes, the 3-point shot is indeed Allen's weapon of choice. But he can hurt teams in other ways as well, which he proved time and time again Tuesday night in Boston's 93-90 win over Cleveland.
Allen had 12 points, which included a couple of 3-pointers. He also racked up a season-high eight assists - something the Cavaliers probably didn't bank on having to deal with.
Coach Doc Rivers spoke with Allen before the game and told him that the shots he's used to taking probably wouldn't be there.
"Tonight is going to be your 'pass night,' " Rivers recalled telling Allen. "Kudos to Ray; he just kept moving the ball."
And more often than not, it was to a teammate open for a lay-up, dunk or a jumper.
With Rajon Rondo (wrist) still out, most of the play-making duties fell upon the shoulders of Paul Pierce. On Tuesday, that load was a bit more evenly distributed.
"Ray really helps out in that department, so all the pressure (to facilitate the offense) isn't on me," said Pierce, who had 20 points and six assists. "I can really focus in on scoring the ball a little more. I don't mind it, but it takes pressure off me, having that kind of player out there."
Most teams, and with good reason, worry most about Allen's 3-point shooting. But for guys like Pierce and Kevin Garnett, who used to compete against him for years, they understand that Allen is more than just a spot-up, 3-point shooter.
"We probably need Ray to make more plays, because he can," Garnett said. "He's been on teams where he led teams, and he's had to facilitate and then also be the man to hit big shots. So he knows how to do that. We have a lot of confidence in him doing that."
Still, that won't stop teams from trying to lock in on Allen's shooting prowess as the key to limiting his effectiveness.
And while Allen has shown at times that he still has the ability to break defenses down and make plays off the dribble, Allen - like most of the veterans on this Celtics team - understands that he has a clear role with this team.
"Systematically, what we do on a daily basis, it's just not there," Allen said. "As much as my aggressiveness, my aggressive nature is always going to still be present, I have to pick and choose those moments when I can (be more of a facilitator). For the most part, for this offense, my best attribute is to create space so these guys can operate and I can pull the defense out a little more.
Allen added, "It's not always about shooting the 3. It's getting to your mid-range game . . . I can get to the hoop. I try to focus on that more than just being a spot-up shooter because getting around, it just adds so much more of a dimension to what we do offensively."