It was an hour before the opening tip of last night's game against the Sacramento Kings, and assistant coach Armond Hill was in the Celtics' locker room listing the team's objectives on a dry eraser board. With green marker in hand, Hill wrote "Set the Pace" at the top of the list.
In his return from an 11-game stint on the injured list with a strained right ankle, Tony Allen seemed to take that message to heart.
So what was he hoping to accomplish in his first game back since he suffered his injury in the first half of a 100-88 loss at New York Jan. 4?
"Oh, I just hope that I'm not doing anything that's detrimental to the team," Allen said. "Because they're doing so good."
When he heard the word "detrimental," center Patrick O'Bryant, whose locker is adjacent to Allen's, spun around in his swivel lounge chair and shot a look of disbelief at his teammate.
"Oh, he liked that word. He liked that word," Allen said, laughing.
"Spell it," O'Bryant replied.
Allen didn't respond to the challenge, because he wasn't about to prepare to test his vocabulary in a spelling bee. This was all about basketball and getting his ankle to respond to the rigors of an NBA game.
His play was the opposite of detrimental as he scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 23:22, going 5 for 5 from the field, in the 119-100 rout.
Allen entered the game after Paul Pierce was called for a charging foul and technical late in the first quarter and increased his career total to 2,005 points. He crossed the 2,000 plateau on a driving layup with 8:08 left in the first half.
"We needed it with Paul out," coach Doc Rivers said of Allen's play. "I just told him to tell me if he gets tired. Tony's like, 'Hey, I never play, I'm going to stay out here.' It was great to see him back. I thought in the first half he kept it simple. In the second half, he started trying to do a little too much, and you turn it over. We need him to play like that first half all the time."
Allen had been optimistic after participating in Tuesday's practice and last night's shootaround.
"I felt good," he reported. "I tried to attack the basket and I shot when I was open. I just kept it simple. I didn't try to do too much. I did all that in practice. When I did shoot around in pregame warm-up, I felt good and had a good stretch."
Asked what it was like sitting and watching the Celtics run off eight consecutive wins, Allen said, "It was exciting. I mean, I saw the guys doing a lot of good things. I see the upside of our team for the long run, as long as everyone can stay healthy."
Scalabrine started five times in place of Kendrick Perkins during the Celtics' eight-game winning streak and had been playing a prominent role off the bench after Perkins returned from a shoulder injury. Scalabrine played 15 minutes as a reserve against the Mavericks, taking a Nowitzki elbow to the jaw and being charged with a foul in the first half.
"I believe this was a byproduct of the other one," Rivers said. "Which means he shouldn't have been on the floor to begin with. If it's 50-50, we should say no. Players are so competitive. The last thing they want to do is sit down and give the coach a chance to sit them out."
Rivers noted diagnoses of football concussions are likely "light-years ahead of us."
"And in football, you have a week to recover," Rivers said.
Rivers said Scalabrine absorbed contact Tuesday, then "took two steps and fell" before being treated by trainer Ed Lacerte.
"I went down and tensed up but I don't remember what happened," Scalabrine said. "I was going up for a rebound and turned around and then Eddie was above me.
"I got my bell rung two times in three days. This hasn't been a good week for me. The one against Dallas hurt more. After this one, I felt pretty good. I was down for a second or two and all the pain went away."