Routine, though not commonplace
The routine doesn't change much. That is the nature of a routine.
Ray Allen will shoot in an empty gym. Got to make 10 threes from this spot. Got to make five midrange jumpers from this spot. In between, go to the line and make five.
It goes back to when he was an 8-year-old kid in England. Allen's parents were ballers and when they gave up the floor to little Ray, he'd pledge to make five straight lefty layups, then five straight righty layups. They couldn't leave 'til he did it.
"Sometimes I had trouble doing it and people would walk by and see me crying out there, trying to do it," he remembered.
There's no crying in basketball anymore. The only guy moved to tears at the Garden yesterday was Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, watching his sorry team's matador defense against the scalding Celtics. John McCain and Sarah Palin would have been mortified. Carlisle's team was an insult to Mavericks everywhere.
Allen scored 23 in Boston's 124-100 decimation of Dallas. He was one of three Celtics with 23 points. He made 9 of 13 floor shots, hitting 4 of 5 from beyond the arc. The Celtics led, 38-23, after one and 74-47 at intermission. It was the kind of game that made you wish Johnny Most was around to describe the action. Johnny would have launched into his dogwhistle voice several times in this one. The Celtics displayed magical ball movement, building a 35-point lead, while Mavericks owner Mark Cuban balled his fists behind the bench. The nationally televised game was a warning shot fired across NBA America. Greg Kite would have gotten some quality minutes in this baby.
If there was ever a fear that the Celtics are going away, there can be no doubt now that they are back. They have won eight straight and they are annihilating the opposition. Games are performance art more than competition. This is the way it was in the early 1960s when the Green had Hall of Famers coming off the bench.
The best Celtic shooter in those days was Sam Jones. Now it's Ray Allen. He's shooting over 50 percent from the floor, over 40 percent from international waters, and over 90 percent from the line. Thursday he should be named to the All-Star team for the ninth time in his career. He scored 28 points in 19 minutes of last year's classic in New Orleans.
"Ray's been phenomenal for us this year," said Paul Pierce. "Usually when we win big it's because he's shooting the ball the way he is, as you saw tonight."
Allen was good for the Celtics last year, but he's better now. Another year removed from double ankle surgery, he's got more explosiveness when he goes to the basket. He's more comfortable with his teammates and the Garden.
Allen made 8 of 9 from the floor and had 20 at the half yesterday. The Mavs couldn't do anything. Dirk Nowitzki - the guy Cedric Maxwell says is better than Larry Bird - was on his way to a 4-for-17 afternoon. No one from Dallas played any defense.
When Doc Rivers gave Allen and Co. some well-deserved rest in the second half, Eddie House picked up the long-range game for Ray.
Remember those country fair booths where you'd pay a dollar for three shots with a chance to win a big stuffed animal for your girlfriend? House was that guy yesterday. He hit 7 of 11 3-pointers, scoring 23 in 28 minutes. He'd have won a lot of big teddy bears at the Marshfield Fair.
House can fill it up, but nobody looks better shooting a basketball than Ray Allen. Recently, 190 NBA players were asked to name the best pure shooter they've ever seen. Twenty-six percent voted for Allen. Reggie Miller was second with 15 percent while Larry Bird and Jason Kapono tied for third with 10 percent each.
Allen was unaware of the poll, which was published in the Jan. 26 issue of Sports Illustrated.
"That's a great honor," he said.
He was not one of the players polled. He said his favorite shooter ever is Dell Curry, with Miller second, and Dale Ellis third. House went with Curry.
Me? I'm going with Ray Allen. He can even help fix others' shots. Last year, he noticed a hitch in the shot of Glen Davis - "it looked like Charles Barkley's golf swing" - and he helped Big Baby smooth things out.
Allen's routine must have something to do with his success.
While you were reading the Sunday papers in bed (do people still do that?) Allen already was shooting jumpers in the empty Garden. ABC's cameras captured him on the parquet floor at 9:45 a.m., more than three hours before tipoff. Trust me when I tell you the Garden is meat locker cold when it's empty in January. Even the Celtic Dancers had to bundle up for yesterday's matinee.
"It's always cold in here," Allen said, smiling. "Today I was thinking about wearing two sleeves."
Ah, yes, the sleeve. Allen started wearing it when he was in a horrific slump during the Detroit series last spring. He wears the sleeve on just his left arm - sort of like Michael Jackson without the creepiness.
"Rip Hamilton grew his fingernails long and he was scratching me," explained Allen. "I needed the sleeve to shield me from those nails. And I've stayed with it."
No sense changing now. It's part of the routine.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.