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Credit scorer with rebound, too

Allen came alive with second-half splurge

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By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / April 21, 2009
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The Celtics were down 3 points to Chicago at halftime, but it felt like more.

The Bulls were relentless, Derrick Rose was playing like a playoff-tested veteran, and with every shot he hit, Ben Gordon was upping the ante for teams interested in the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent.

The Celtics had Kevin Garnett on the bench, Leon Powe in the hospital, and Rajon Rondo on the trainer's table.

"I need one volunteer," Rivers said. "One volunteer to score for us, to step up for us."

Ray Allen didn't see it as volunteering.

"I just went out and played like who I am," he said. "I was who I was. I didn't do anything outside of my skin. I played my role."

Allen had missed 11 of 12 shots in Game 1 Saturday, including one at the end of overtime while canopied by two defenders.

"But shooters, they just keep shooting," Rivers said.

Allen was shooting after practice Sunday, something Rondo said he does from time to time. Allen took just four shots in the first half last night, but Paul Pierce made it a point to get him more looks.

"Every time he got the ball," Allen said, "he said, 'Go get Ray.' "

In the second half, the shots started dropping. A three from the top of the key. A three from the right wing off a pass from Rondo. Six of his 10 3-point attempts found the mark.

None was bigger than the one he drilled with two seconds left to give the Celtics a 118-115 win. Coming off a Glen Davis screen, with Pierce looping over top of him and Rondo patiently weighing his options at the elbow, Allen took the feed from Rondo and fired a shot over a lunging Joakim Noah for the game-winner.

"It meant a lot," he said. "Not only to the team but the organization. Knowing what we face, the adversity we're under."

Having played with Allen for two years in Milwaukee, Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro knew he would shake off his bad shooting day.

"I was hoping he wouldn't," Del Negro said. "But Ray is such a good player and such a good shooter that you knew he was going to get his looks. He missed some open ones in Game 1, and he's too good of a player to hold down all the time."

Gordon finished with 42 points on 14-of-24 shooting. Allen finished with 30 points on 9-of-18 shooting. And every shot felt like call-and-response.

"It felt like we were at UConn in the summertime playing pickup," Gordon said. "Ray is such a big part of their team with KG being out, so we knew he would step up."

"It almost looked like a personal battle," Rivers said.

Allen acknowledged the truth in that statement.

"We were exchanging jabs out there," Allen said. "And I don't mean shots. I mean, he caught me with an elbow, I caught him right back with an elbow."

"I knew they wanted to come out and get Ray off to help them get a win," Gordon said. "If he didn't have the game he had tonight, we would have gotten that win.

"He is a great shooter, and I knew he would break out eventually. We just didn't have an answer for him in the end."

The final shot was the kind Allen has played in his head for years.

"We all talk about it," he said. "We've all dreamt it. We've all been on the playground with the clock counting down . . . 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

"There's nobody out there. The ball goes in the hole. Then you make the crowd noise and you put your hand in the air.

"Then you've got to go get the ball because there's nobody really out there and there's nobody really watching. We've all been there. That moment was 'that moment' for me."

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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