Questions, concerns loom regarding Celtics' Allen heading into Game 2


Questions, concerns loom regarding Celtics' Allen heading into Game 2

MIAMI Whenever a player of Ray Allen's stature is in the midst of a shooting slump, deciding to go with what you see and what you feel can be difficult.

Allen's track record as one of the greatest clutch shooters ever has been well documented and respected. But that respect for his past has to be weighed against his present-day struggles in just about every facet of play.

It is the kind of dilemma that Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers grappled with in Bostons Game 7 win over Philadelphia in the second round of the playoffs.

Allen was having a horrific night shooting the ball, but came up with a pair of 3's in the fourth quarter to help the Celtics advance to the Eastern Conference finals.

Rivers finds himself once again having to deal with that same push-and-pull feeling involving Allen.

It has made an already daunting challenge - making the necessary adjustments to beat the Miami Heat - even tougher.

Allen is coming off yet another lackluster game shooting the ball, tallying just six points on 1-for-7 shooting from the field in Boston's Game 1 loss to Miami.

In the playoffs, he's averaging 9.6 points while shooting 26.8 percent on 3's and 60 percent on free throws - all playoff lows.

At this point, Rivers is considering all options when it comes to how to handle Allen - including the possibility of sitting him for a game to give his injured right ankle some added time to heal.

That, Rivers told, has been a common refrain for the C's ever since Allen suffered the injury earlier this year.

When asked about whether sitting Allen was indeed something he would consider, Rivers told, "We always are. We ask (the team's medical officials) every day. We get the answer, and then we move on."

That is exactly what Allen wants to do, although moving period, is kind of big deal these days for Allen.

Tuesday was an off-day for the Celtics, a time when Allen would be out somewhere running or doing some kind of cardio work.

For Allen, Tuesday was about relaxing his body - that right ankle, specifically - to further ensure that he'll be able to play in Boston's Game 2 matchup on Wednesday.

Allen said "it's hard" not being able to condition his body on off-days like he's accustomed to, but added, "in my predicament, I'm only going to do myself further damage (by working out on off days)."

Paul Pierce is in his fifth season calling Allen a teammate, and has seen him go through stretches where he just couldn't miss, and others where he was more clank that clutch with his shot.

Seeing him struggle like he is now, knowing that his injured ankle has a lot to do with those problems, is a tough thing for Pierce and the rest of the Celtics to accept.

"He's really being a soldier, just being out there and playing," Pierce said. "A lot of players wouldn't even be out there, going through what he's going through. We're thankful just to have his presence out there. When you see Ray miss open threes or free throws, you know he's not himself. He's dealing with a tough injury. We respect him for coming out there helping us. Even though his shot's not falling, he's still a presence out there. You have to pay attention to him."

You can count Miami's Shane Battier among those who has marveled at Allen's longevity as far as being in great shape and arguably the greatest shooter of this generation.

But that respect and reverence takes a back seat to Miami's quest to move past the Celtics and into the NBA Finals for the second year in a row.

"There's no honor amongst thieves," quipped Battier. "There's none. We treat Ray Allen as if he's the Ray Allen of '95 to now. He's one of the greatest shooters of all time. You let a guy like that get comfortable, you let him get open looks, and he is going to burn you. You don't care. I don't care what his physical condition is. He has the sweetest jump shot this side of the Mississippi. We're on guard; we're on guard."

Allen is dealing with some pretty painful bone spurs in his right foot, an injury that Heat big man Udonis Haslem has dealt with in the past. An MRI on his left ankle in 2008 revealed a bone spur in his right ankle. Shortly after that, Haslem underwent season-ending surgery.

So for him, to see Allen unable to move about how he's used to isn't all that surprising.

"I can tell he's a little banged up," Haslem told "I understand what playing with those, are. It's difficult to be yourself."

Both Allen and the Celtics agree that he will not be himself at any point during the playoffs.

The goal right now is for Allen to simply be able to contribute in some capacity, whether it's knocking down shots, creating shot opportunities for his teammates or even as a defender.

Because as long as he's on the floor unable to play at a level close to what the C's have come to expect, Boston will have problems - lots of them - in winning this series.

The domino effect of a banged-up Allen is felt in so many areas.

Because Kevin Garnett has been such a dominant low-post force in the postseason, not having Allen's ability to space the floor will allow the Heat to collapse more often on Garnett in the post, and not worry as much about Allen hurting them from the perimeter.

"He got a bunch of wideopen shots (in Game 1), and with him its just balance," Rivers said."When you have a bad foot, ankle or anything, your balance is off and you can see it on Ray."

That lack of balance isn't likely to improve much, if at all, in this series.

"The ball is going left a lot," Rivers said of Allen's woeful shooting in the playoffs."He's one of the greatest shooters of all time."

He certainly hasn't been in the playoffs this year, which has been tough both for him and the Celtics. Complicating matters more is the C's are even more dependent on him to have an impact with Avery Bradleys season ending last week after he had season-ending left shoulder surgery.

"Im just trying to find my balance the best way I know how," said Allen. "I feel good, but I dont have a great rhythm right now. Its hard to say.I know I dont have good timing right now.My shot feels fine. Its just timing, getting shots up and taking it day by day.I do feel restrictions, but thats why we have a great team here."

But it is a great team that has had a great deal of injuries to overcome all season, Allen's included.

Rivers has done a masterful job all season of figuring out when upside of an injured player stepping on to the floor, isn't great enough to help the C's be successful.

Based on what Allen has done and the limitations he seemingly has, it appears as though Rivers may be coming to a crossroads of sorts as to how to use Allen.

Now that teams no longer tilt as much towards him defensively, the value that he brought in terms of spacing the floor when he's in the game, isn't nearly as great. And with his limitations defensively, Boston has to become more of a help-side defensive team than they were with Bradley in the starting lineup.

But unlike the switch made to put Bradley in the starting lineup and Allen coming off the bench, Boston doesn't have anyone currently on the bench who has performed in such a way that you might consider them thrusting them into the starting lineup as a means of giving Allen a chance to play better.

Mickael Pietrus has had spurts of high-energy, effective play, but not nearly enough to make anyone feel comfortable with him starting games providing a boost.

Ditto for Keyon Dooling who has had very few stretches of strong play this season.

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

The only decision Rivers seems convinced about now when it comes to Allen, is that he will stick with him going into Game 2.

"Ray is Ray, and we'll keep rolling him out there and see what we can get," Rivers said. "If he can't give it to us, we'll go with someone else. But right now, I think you have to give Ray a fighting chance every time."

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