Allen fights ankle pain, inconsistency vs. Sixers

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Allen fights ankle pain, inconsistency vs. Sixers

WALTHAM Ray Allen was the first Boston Celtics player to address the media on Sunday.

For a change, the bulk of questions Allen faced had nothing to do with his right ankle injury that has at times limited him during this playoff series.

While Allen still has some pain and soreness associated with the injury, he's managing to fight through the pain and do what he can to help the Celtics win.

"I don't make any excuses for it," Allen said. "If I'm out there on the floor, I have to give 100 percent effort for it if I can. "

Allen's impact, like the Celtics play as a whole in this second round series with Philadelphia, has been up and down.

His scoring is down in this series primarily because the Sixers have made limiting his touches a priority.

Even if the ball isn't finding its way into his hands for shot attempts, the C's must still get the ball to him as part of one of their strengths -- good ball movement.

Because of his shooting prowess throughout his career, Sixers coach Doug Collins has made limiting Allen's touches one of Philadelphia's top priorities.

"Ray Allen, he's a threat to throw up 20 points any time," Collins said. "When he's on the floor, you have to space him differently. He takes away some of your help because you have to shade him a little bit more than you do somebody else."

Regardless of whether he's healthy or not, the Celtics must do a better job in terms of their play offensively, especially when they hit stretches in which the offense is clearly out of whack.

"When we get in those situations, we have to settle ourselves in," Allen said. "Offensively, we have to execute, we have to find the second, third option. We have to find the ball. It's just poise down the stretch."

Having that poise for most games is a lot easier with a healthy Allen on the floor.

As far as the questions about his gimpy ankle, it's now at a point where it's no longer a key talking point.

"It's nothing I talk about," Allen said. "If I can't do it, I won't play."

Highlights: Boston Celtics 112, Miami Heat 108

Highlights: Boston Celtics 112, Miami Heat 108

Highlights as the Boston Celtics are able to hold off the Miami Heat and get the win 112-108 at the TD Garden.

Win vs. Heat puts Celtics in virtual tie with Cavs for first place in East

Win vs. Heat puts Celtics in virtual tie with Cavs for first place in East

BOSTON – Location, location, location.

The Boston Celtics are seemingly where they want to be following their 112-108 win Sunday night over Miami, a victory that put the Celtics (48-26, .649 winning percentage) in a virtual tie with defending NBA champ Cleveland (47-25, .652).

But position means very little without purposeful play, something the Celtics are gradually doing more of than not.

And because of that, they find themselves one strong finish to the season away from going into the playoffs with the top overall record in the East for the first time since 2008 – the year they brought home Banner 17.

While few anticipate the Celtics will advance to the NBA Finals, they have at least positioned themselves to have a shot at making a good run during the postseason if they can secure home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The last time the top overall top seed in the East failed to make it past the first round was in 2012 when the Chicago Bulls were eliminated by the eighth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers, a series that was marred by injuries to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah that created a much smoother pathway for the upstart Sixers to move on to the second round where they were defeated by Boston in seven games.

And while the players have tried to downplay the significance of landing the top seed in the East, there’s no question it’s something that they know all too well is within their reach.

Cleveland has a much tougher schedule to close out the season, one that includes a matchup at San Antonio on Monday night, a Spurs team that’s fighting for the top spot out West as well with Golden State.

The Celtics players have talked often about wanting to be in the best position possible going into the playoffs.

Having the top seed?

Yup.

That’ll do it.

And while Celtics players were aware of where the team was in relation to Cleveland, being tied for the top spot with the Cavs isn’t something that Boston is getting too giddy about right now.

“We hear it, but that wasn’t our focus (against Miami),” said Boston’s Marcus Smart. “Our focus was to come in, get another game, keep that momentum going before we start the playoffs.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said not a word was spoken in the locker room after Sunday’s win about the team now being in a virtual tie with the Cavs.

“I think – I talked about this earlier – obviously the guys, because they get … most of them to be honest, because they’re asked so much, some of them obviously have already said they watch it pretty closely,” Stevens said. “But I’ve tried to say, ‘Hey, it’s about playing as well as we can …”

That and location, location, location.