C's look for win vs. Heat despite sideshow atmosphere

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C's look for win vs. Heat despite sideshow atmosphere

BOSTON The long-awaited return of Ray Allen to the TD Garden to face his former team isn't going to have quite the sizzle that many anticipated when the schedules came out in the summer.

Allen's first game against his former team is just one of the many story lines in what would be a big game regardless of whether he joined forces with the C's biggest nemesis.

If not for a game-for-the-ages performance by LeBron James on this same TD Garden in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Heat would not be defending NBA champions and potentially, Allen might not be a member of the Heat.

More important to the Celtics than Allen's return, is their return to actually winning a game - something they have failed to do in their last six games which is something that never happened during Allen's five seasons with Boston.

Adding to the C's misery is they come into Sunday's game off what was one of the biggest collapses in franchise history, blowing a 27-point lead to the Atlanta Hawks who rallied for a 123-111 double overtime win Friday night.

As the Celtics (20-23) continue to try and fight their way through what has been a difficult and trying season, Allen's return and how the fans will treat him is the farthest thing from the mind of most of the C's right now.

"We're just trying to win games right now," C's guard Avery Bradley told CSNNE.com. "That's the only thing we're thinking about right now."

Maybe so, but that doesn't take away from the sideshow atmosphere that will surely engulf the TD Garden courtesy of Allen's decision to take his talents to South Beach rather than re-sign with Boston for significantly more money.

"I don't want it to distract these guys from everybody doing their job and being ready to play," Allen told reporters in Miami.

Allen's departure and the many elements that played a role in it, speaks volumes about how quickly things changed for him shortly after the C's won it all in 2008.

From that point on, Allen was the subject of trade rumors and was very close to being dealt to the Memphis Grizzlies for O.J. Mayo shortly before last year's trading deadline.

Always being on the trading block, coupled with an evolving role on the court that he did not feel comfortable with, made the decision to join forces with an arch-rival easier.

Allen lost his starting job to an up-and-coming Avery Bradley last season, begrudgingly becoming the team's sixth man.

And when the offseason came around, the Celtics didn't waste much time in signing then-free agent Jason Terry which was seen by many as a replacement for Allen who was an unrestricted free agent. The C's did offer Allen a multi-year deal for significantly more money than the Heat, but the Terry signing most likely meant fewer minutes for Allen if he did decide to re-sign with the Celtics.

Those were just some of the factors that eventually led to him signing with the Heat, a decision that has worked out quite well for both Allen and the Heat.

Miami, the reigning NBA champions, have the best record in the Eastern Conference with Allen playing a key part in that success.

He has appeared in 39 games (all coming off the bench) for Miami this season, averaging 11.4 points while playing 25.5 minutes per game.

There's no telling how Allen will handle his return emotionally, or what kind of reception he'll get from the Celtics fans who Allen knows all too well can be an unforgiving bunch when they feel betrayed - a sentiment many around New England felt when Allen joined the Miami Heat.

'It's an interesting concept because I've always gotten a warm welcome (in Boston)," Allen told reporters in Miami. "Even before I started playing there. I just want to win. Everything else will take care of itself."

As was the case at the start of the season, the Celtics have had little to say on Allen's departure.

Kevin Garnett said he didn't reach out to Allen this summer because he lost his phone number. And in their first meeting at the start of the season in Miami, Allen made his way towards the Celtics bench only for chilly non-greeting, greeting from Garnett who at the time looked away.

There's no telling what level of interaction there will be among the Celtics players and Allen Sunday afternoon.

But like most games involving these two, it will be worth watching for sure.

And Allen's return is just another storyline to pay attention to.

"There's a lot of stories, but you can throw records out the window when we play Boston," said Miami's Dwyane Wade. "It's significant because we have Ray Allen and it's his first time back, but we're going on the road and we want to play well and it's a tough place to play."

Celtics-Cavs Game 4 preview: C's expect an aggressive LeBron

Celtics-Cavs Game 4 preview: C's expect an aggressive LeBron

CLEVELAND -- Marcus Smart made shots, Jonas Jerebko (10 points) outscored the entire Cleveland second unit by himself, and Kevin Love’s hot hand in the first half cooled off considerably in the second.

It was on so many levels the perfect storm for the Boston Celtics in Game 3 which ended with Avery Bradley getting a friendly bounce or two – OK, it was four bounces to be exact – that would be the difference in Boston’s 111-108 Game 3 win, which cut Cleveland’s lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1.

But that perfect storm is now a thing of the past, which is why the Celtics are battening down the hatches for Hurricane James – LeBron James – in Game 4.

James scored just 11 points in Game 3 on 4-for-13 shooting.

Certainly, Boston’s defense had a role in James’ struggles.

But after looking to be a facilitator at the start of the game, James never flipped the switch to become a terminator.

So, as his teammates struggled with their shots in the second half, James didn’t ratchet up his aggression level to get buckets and in doing so, was just what the Celtics needed to get a much-needed victory.

Had Boston lost Game 3, this series being over would have been a mere formality with no team in NBA history has ever rallied from a 3-0 series deficit to advance to the next round of play.

But the Celtics are very much alive and well with a chance to even up the series at 2-2 with a victory tonight.

If they are to somehow find a way to beat the Cavs on their home floor a second straight game, it’ll most likely come after fending off a strong surge from James.

This season, James has been an offensive power following games in which he has scored less than 20 points in a game.

In the following game after he scores less than 20 points, James has averaged 27.8 points.

And his record in those games during the regular season was 10-3.

“He’s going to be aggressive,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “LeBron James understands how to play the game and he understands what his team needs from him. He’s most likely going to be a lot more aggressive. It’s our job to make sure we defend him as best we can; take other guys out of the game.”

Like Tristan Thompson who had 18 points but only took four shots (he made 3) to get it, as most of his scoring came from the free throw line after getting fouled.

“He had 12 free throws or something like that? He’s playing well for them,” Bradley said. ‘We have to try and limit him to less rebounds. It’s going to be hard. If we’re able to do that and guard the 3, I like our chances.”

Boston’s Al Horford anticipates seeing not just James but the entire Cavs roster try to be more aggressive at the start.

And that means as good as they did in Game 3, they’ll have to be even better tonight.

“On the defensive end, we feel there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement,” Horford told CSN. “We just have to come out and play.”

In Game 3, Boston fell behind by as many as 21 points but for the most part stayed within arm’s reach of the Cavaliers which was a major improvement over Games 1 and 2 in Boston.

And as the Celtics continued to climb back into Game 3, James’ lack of impact plays remained a mystery.

And while there are some who are quick to put Sunday’s loss on James, not surprisingly his coach sees things differently.

“We're all to blame,” said Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue on Monday. “We lost; it happens. For a guy who played great for five straight months, he's got to have a bad game sooner or later. He's human. He didn't shoot the ball well. It wasn't his ordinary game. But Kevin (Love) and Kyrie (Irving) had it going early and they played well, so it kind of got him out of rhythm a little bit in that first half. That's no excuse. Like I said, they played well, but we've just got to play better, be more physical.”

After reviewing the video from Game 3, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was once again impressed with James for the most part making the right basketball play most of the game.

“When you've got guys that are all on fire the way they are, the right basketball play is to find them,” Stevens said. “He just made it over and over.

Stevens added, “The guy is a tremendous basketball player. He makes the right play over and over, and he thinks the game, he sees the game. He's a really good defender. He can read situations. So, I thought he was pretty darned good. But like I said (following Game 3), I'm not going to be critical of the best player in the world.”

Indeed, Stevens has far more important things to worry about, like bracing his players for the impending storm known to all as LeBron James.