Without Allen, Celtics fall off the pace
In the Celtics' locker room, there is an action shot of every player above his locker. Over Tony Allen's locker is a picture of the guard in full fight, knees bent, preparing for a thundering dunk.
That pose, or something close to it, also will likely serve as Allen's last official action shot of the 2006-07 season. Last night Allen was doing what he loves, going in for a dunk, when he missed not only the jam but the landing, coming down awkwardly, injuring his left knee. He had to be carried off, and the Celtics speculated that he tore his anterior cruciate ligament.
You can imagine, then, that there was little taste or interest afterward in the actual game, which, for the record, the Celtics lost, 97-84, to the Indiana Pacers. Losing at home no longer constitutes news for this bunch; they are 4-12 since the arrival of team dancers. Someone getting hurt no longer constitutes news as well; Wally Szczerbiak was a surprise late scratch and Brian Scalabrine hurt his right knee during the game. Scalabrine is believed to have suffered a less serious injury than Allen, although coach Doc Rivers had no definitive word on either in-game injury.
But when the team's most dynamic player -- in the absence of the other, injured players -- apparently blows out his left knee after the whistle has blown, that is news of the most distressing kind. It simply didn't have to happen. Allen was going in for a crowd-pleaser, well after the whistle, and instead of attracting oohs and aahs, he landed in a sickening, writhing hump in front of principal owner Wyc Grousbeck.
"I saw him going in for the dunk and I said to myself, 'No, Tony; no, Tony; don't do it, Tony,' " said the Celtics' Leon Powe. "I don't know how bad it is, but I've had two of them [ACLs], and it's no fun."
Added Indiana coach Rick Carlisle, "It's a shame because it happened after the whistle had blown."
Rivers said, "He probably could have just stopped. But what can you do? I knew it right away. I tore my ACL the exact same way."
The injury deflated everything and almost everyone. There were still 15 minutes left, but the Celtics sleepwalked through much of them. Indiana led by 5 when Allen went down, by 14 after three, and by 18 early in the fourth.
"[Allen] was playing really well, keeping them in the game, and when he got hurt, it kind of slowed them down," said the Pacers' Stephen Jackson. "It killed their momentum and they didn't have a go-to guy." Allen still ended up with a team-high 19 points.
After getting carried off, Allen was taken to New England Baptist for tests, as was Scalabrine. They joined a list of wounded that included Paul Pierce, Theo Ratliff, Delonte West, and Szczerbiak. Rivers ended the game with only nine available players, which is all he will likely have at practice today.
"This is just terrible," Rivers said of Allen's injury. "I think he's our emotional leader, gives us great spirit. As a coaching staff, we have really got to put our heads together and try to figure out a way to play without all these guys. We're going to have to slow the game down to a complete crawl to have a chance to win. We can't run. That's my first impulse."
What was left of the Celtics did stage a gutsy rally. A fab five of Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Powe, Ryan Gomes, and Kendrick Perkins somehow managed to hold the Pacers scoreless for more than seven minutes while putting up 14 consecutive points. Boston was within 84-80 with 4:27 to play, and what was left of the crowd was on its feet.
But then Danny Granger buried a 3-pointer to start a game-determining, 13-0 run. Jermaine O'Neal (23 points, 15 rebounds, 3 blocks) scored 5 in the run.
"O'Neal took the game over down the stretch," Rivers said. "That's what he does."
But results, records, and statistics seemed pointless after this one. Did anyone notice or care that Al Harrington, Indiana's No. 2 scorer, went 1 for 10? Or that Jamaal Tinsely had 17 points and 13 assists? Or that Green had 14 points? Or that Telfair had 15 points and seven assists? Or that the Celtics shot 71 percent in the first quarter? Or that the Celtics turned it over 22 times and allowed 18 second-chance points? Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. And nope.
"I've never seen anything like this," said Rivers, who probably looks back at his time in Orlando with Grant Hill as the good old days. "Up until this game, I thought, 'We can get through some of this.' But this one [Allen] is a tough one. I wish I had some words of wisdom right now."
Prior to last night's events, Rivers might have been thinking, "Happy Birthday, Tony." Yup. Allen turns 25 today.
Peter May can be reached at P_May@globe.com.