Tony Allen, who turns 23 today, wasn't planning to do anything special for his birthday, but he gave the 13,731 on hand last night at the FleetCenter a gift, a 16-point effort that sparked the Celtics to a 119-101 victory over the discombobulated Orlando Magic.
Allen entered the game, along with the rest of the Celtics' young guns, with two minutes to play in the first quarter and the home team leading by 6. The first-round draft pick from Oklahoma State spent nine minutes on the court and seemed to cover every parquet square.
He knocked down a 22-foot jumper and fed Marcus Banks for a 3-pointer. He stole a pass and dished off to Kendrick Perkins for a dunk. And he finished off a fast break with a nifty layup to make it 46-28, and the game was never in doubt after that.
Allen is quickly developing into a key player as well as a crowd favorite. In all, he played 20 minutes of spectacular basketball last night.
"Tony Allen is coming along like gangbusters," said coach Doc Rivers. "His energy is infectious. I mean, he's talented. He can make plays that maybe no one in the room can make."
Allen said he doesn't care what the Celtics want him to do, as long as he gets the opportunity to play.
"I'll chase offensive rebounds, pass the Gatorade or towels around," he said. "Whatever I have to do to get out there on the court."
Rivers isn't surprised with the improvement of his rookie guard.
"Not at all," said the coach. "I just think he is -- and I've said it before -- he is so athletically gifted. It's his focus, to me, that has been what's keeping him back.
"He had this coming in the door, in my opinion. I'd love to take credit but I really believe it. I think it's his focus: When he keeps focus he's really, really good. And he's been locked in lately, and that's big for us."
"That's one of the biggest keys I need to work on -- being focused in practice, in a game, just being more alert," he said.
Allen had 14 points against at Chicago last Saturday and was part of a surge that brought the Celtics back into the game, though they eventually lost.
"I am getting more comfortable out there," said Allen. "I want to be a force to be reckoned with and I'm going to do whatever it takes out there."
The 6-foot-4-inch guard enjoys being a member of the second team, which also includes Al Jefferson, Perkins, and Banks.
"This was a team effort," said Allen. "We practice that all the time, going against the veterans. Just hanging together off the court, and it carries over to on the court."
Allen said the most difficult adjustment from the college game involves more than just speed, size, and skill. It is emotional, too.
"Me being a superstar at Oklahoma State and coming here being a role player, I think that's hard for all the rookies," he said. "We come in here and we've just got to do whatever we can to get on the floor."
Maybe that's what the Celtics need. Hungry rookies to press the veterans.