THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Allen needs a reappearing act - and fast

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / May 17, 2008

CLEVELAND - Clad in a towel, Ray Allen stared at the scoresheet following the Celtics' 74-69 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers last night at Quicken Loans Arena. Maybe he figured if he stared at the sheet long enough, the disappointing numbers would disappear - both the final score and his 9 points.

Disappear, that's what a lot of people think Allen has done in this series, and in the playoffs. His lack of production, the Celtics' inconsistent play on the road, and some classic home cooking from the officials contributed to the need for a Game 7 tomorrow at TD Banknorth Garden to decide who will play the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals.

Nobody is more frustrated than Allen, who is shooting 34.5 percent from the field in the first six games of this series and has made just 4 of 22 3-pointers, including an 0-for-3 effort last night.

"It's frustrating because I know I can help," said Allen.

Allen, who is averaging just 10.2 points in this series, said he just has to work through his offensive woes. But even he acknowledges that at this point he's out of answers as to how he can break through.

"I have no idea," Allen said.

One answer might be to get Allen, one of the game's great shooting guards, more shots. Although he might be the third option among the Big Three, he's a proven scorer during his career, and as every shooter knows, the only way to break out of a slump is to keep shooting.

Earlier in the series, when Allen had a span of six consecutive quarters without a point, he said he felt like he was in an argument with the basketball. Last night, he said he didn't think that argument had resumed.

"No, I got to shoot the ball," he said. "I got to get the ball back in my hands. I got to shoot the ball. It's not shooting the ball very sporadically. It's developing a rhythm. It's not something where if I shoot the ball once every four or five minutes it's hard to develop a rhythm that way."

Of the shots Allen did make last night, not one came from outside of a foot. After scoring his first point on a free throw following a technical foul for a defensive three-second call on Cleveland, Allen nearly missed a breakaway dunk before awkwardly laying the ball up with 5:18 left in the first quarter.

His next hoop came with 9:02 left in the third quarter and snapped a 24-2 Cleveland run. It was Boston's first field goal in more than nine minutes. Allen's other hoop came when he converted a fast-break layup off a feed from Rajon Rondo that cut Cleveland's lead to 9 (65-56) with 7:23 left.

Making matters worse for Allen, Wally Szczerbiak, one of the players the Celtics traded to acquire Allen from Seattle on draft day, drilled a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, further highlighting Allen's woes.

Coach Doc Rivers said the Celtics can reach the promised land without Allen, but he knows it will be easier with him. Rivers still believes Allen has a big game in him.

"He needs one night," said Rivers. "It might be [tomorrow], you just never know. I believe in Ray 100 percent. He had some great looks . . . He's going to make them. He's going to make them eventually."

The Celtics don't have time for eventually. It's now or never for both Allen and Boston.

"I always count on myself. I know what I can do," said Allen.

Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at cgasper@globe.com.

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