|Celtics coach Doc Rivers anticipates a grueling Eastern Conference finals. "Detroit's a great defensive team," he said. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)|
WALTHAM - After averaging just 9.3 points a game and hitting just 32.8 percent of his field goal attempts in the seven-game series against the Cavaliers, Ray Allen went back to work yesterday at the Celtics' Healthpoint facility.
Matched up against Sam Cassell in a game of one-on-one between veteran guards, Allen worked on his perimeter shooting in hopes of extricating himself from his slump tonight for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Pistons.
Allen, who was third on the team in scoring (17.4 ppg) during the regular season, was held to 4 points in Sunday's clincher, on 1-for-6 shooting in 30 minutes.
"I think, personally, it's been tougher than anything I've ever seen," Allen said. "Just looking back on the times we've played Cleveland throughout the year and in the series, I just think they did everything they could to try and take away anything I had.
"They made it tough for me to create any type of rhythm. So kudos to their game plan - they made it tough on a lot of us. We're fortunate Paul [ Pierce] had the game he had for us to come through."
Allen is expecting much of the same from the Pistons.
"They have put me in a situation where I have to become somewhat of a playmaker as much as a scorer," he said, "but I would like to be involved more, just trying to create that rhythm in my offense through the flow of the game."
Asked about Allen by reporters in Detroit yesterday, Pistons coach Flip Saunders said, "It's a long season and he's a little bit older, but as long as he's got a ball in his hands, he's capable of shooting the basketball. He can go out and get a game where he's going to get six out of seven threes. So that's why you can't say, 'Well, I'm just not going to guard him.' "
Responding to suggestions that he had to shoot his way out of his slump, Allen said, "Well, I got to get rhythm. I got to establish getting the ball and shooting the ball. If you shoot the ball four times in a game, you're not going to get any rhythm."
So he worked yesterday on establishing that rhythm, but made it clear he was not going to do it by himself.
"As easy as it'd be for me to get the ball and carve out some space and get a shot up, that's not what we want on offense as a team," he said. "So I rely on my teammates."
Rajon Rondo, in particular.
"With Rajon, he's the point guard and I think he has to become more aware of just getting me more easier looks," said Allen. "The whole team does."
Asked how he planned to get Allen going, Rondo said, "I think easy baskets. Ray's fine, I'm sure. He just wants to make plays for his teammates and get his shot going."
Yesterday, though, Allen turned to Cassell for assistance.
"Sam has always helped me," Allen said. "We've always been a great tandem. Even when he's on the bench, just some of the things he sees out there, he's going to make sure he puts them in Rondo's ear and even myself. He knows how to get scoring opportunities off of me and for me.
"He's more efficient than most guys I've played with in my career."
Cassell didn't think Allen was experiencing a mental block.
"Not at all," he said. "It's not at all mental. It's just him getting reps. He's the ultimate pro, so he knows how to handle it."
"Honestly, I don't worry about it," Allen said. "I just step into the game and do what I know I'm capable of doing. I know I'm going to miss shots. It's just important to have the shots and continue to be aggressive out there on the floor."
Match gameAmong the more interesting matchups in this series will be Allen and Rip Hamilton, whom Allen hosted during Hamilton's recruiting visit to the University of Connecticut in Storrs.
"He's a great shooter," Hamilton said. "So you can't sleep on him at any point of time during the game. You have to try and challenge every shot that he shoots."
As for Allen's plans?
"There's a point where, as much as he's running off screens, he's getting help to get free. So our bigs have to make sure they hit him when he comes off, too. As much as he's running and I'm getting hit, when I'm running, he's got to get hit the same."
Change of pacePierce smirked when asked how guarding LeBron James for seven grueling games helped him prepare for a matchup against the slender, 6-foot-9-inch Tayshaun Prince. "Nothing against Tayshaun Prince, but LeBron is much more to handle than Tayshaun," Pierce said. "I think with Detroit, they emphasize more team basketball, so he doesn't put as much pressure on you every time down the court as LeBron does, where he wears you down physically throughout the course of the game." . . . If you thought Cleveland-Boston was a defensive tractor pull, you may not have seen anything yet. Boston and Detroit ranked among the league's top tier in several defensive categories: points per game (Detroit 1, Boston 2); field goal percentage (Boston 1, Detroit 3); 3-point field goal percentage (Boston 1, Detroit 2); defensive rebounds per game (Boston 2, Detroit 4); and overall rebounds per game (Boston 2, Detroit 3). Asked if it could be ugly, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, "It could be, and if it is, we're fine with that. Detroit's a great defensive team. That's what they've hung their hat on when they won the title - defense and playing the right way. They still do that. So, yeah, it could be." . . . The Celtics have received numerous reports of counterfeit playoff tickets being sold by unauthorized outlets. The only tickets whose authenticity can be guaranteed are those purchased through Celtics.com, Ticketmaster.com, over the phone at 800-4-NBA-TIX, in person at the TD Banknorth Box Office, or any Ticketmaster outlet.
Marc J. Spears of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.