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Incredibly, Allen felt he came up just short

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By Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / May 1, 2009
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CHICAGO - Fifty-one points in 59 minutes. A playoff franchise-record nine 3-pointers. The euphoria of being unstoppable in a sold-out building on the road.

Those were supposed to be highlights Ray Allen would remember after one of the greatest performances of his illustrious career.

But instead of reminiscing about his hot hand, Allen was mad at himself for not being able to get 2 more points that could have led the Celtics to victory instead of a stunning, 128-127 triple-overtime loss to the Bulls in Game 6 at the United Center last night.

Allen and the Celtics are now dealt a do-or-die Game 7 tomorrow at TD Banknorth Garden.

"As an individual I do everything I can to be ready for whatever play comes my way or whatever I can do to help this team win," Allen said. "The ball stopped moving. The bigs started setting screens. And the shots were there. When I was sitting in the shower I was thinking about all the plays that I missed, all the shots that I missed that didn't end up falling.

"When you're on the losing end, you just think about all the great opportunities we had to win, all the bad plays that we made. It was reminiscent of games in this series past where we couldn't close it out."

Allen was 3 points shy of tying the Celtics' playoff record of 54 set by John Havlicek (in regulation) against Atlanta April 1, 1973. Allen also set a team playoff record for 3-pointers, surpassing the eight 3-pointers Paul Pierce made against Philadelphia May 3, 2002.

While Allen wasn't in a celebratory mood, members of the Bulls and the Celtics sang his praises.

"He was unbelievable," Bulls guard Derrick Rose said. "He had a quick release coming off screens."

Said Celtics coach Doc Rivers: "Ray was phenomenal. He made every shot. He was unbelievable."

In a series that already had three games go overtime, Allen was the only Celtics starter that arrived in Chicago with fresh legs. He played 26 minutes during Boston's Game 5 win, fouling out with only 10 points.

"We were joking with him on the plane on the way up here, 'Ray you are the only guy with legs,' " Rivers said. " 'You fouled out and played 26 minutes. You should be great tomorrow night.' I guess he was, 51 points."

Said Allen: "The last game I played 26 minutes and [59] here so it about averaged out, for me personally, it seems like two or three days have went by since I played. I didn't change anything I did today. I just went about it business as usual. Whatever I did, I like to rethink it. I can be superstitious. I'm going to stay in Chicago overnight and then go to the game in Boston."

Allen scored 20 of his 29 first-half points in the second quarter, nailing four 3-pointers, although the Celtics trailed at halftime, 59-57. Allen nailed 10 of 15 shots in the first half, 5 of 7 3-pointers, and 4 of 5 free throws.

"For myself, it's easier when you get some free throws and you get to the hole, get some layups and you're not relying on that first jump shot from long range," Allen said. "That's typically what it has been for me. They talked about me posting up a little more. There were a couple plays that we took advantage of."

Allen finished regulation with 44 points on 15-of-26 shooting, 8 of 14 on 3-pointers, and 6 of 7 on free throws. He scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, nailing a 17-footer that gave the Celtics a 101-96 lead with 1:49 left. But the Bulls scored the last 5 points to push the game into OT.

Allen was scoreless in the first overtime. But in the second OT, he nailed a shot with 20 seconds remaining - referees concluded after watching a replay that he stepped on the 3-point line - that cut the Celtics' deficit to 1.

"As much as I shoot, I always know where I am on the floor," Allen said. "But I didn't know where I was on that particular play. I just knew we needed a three. I knew we needed to score. A three definitely would have put us in good favor. But coming off that screen, it's tough."

But Allen made sure he was behind the 3-point line the next time as he nailed one to keep Boston's hopes of winning another classic against the Bulls alive by tying the score at 118 with 7.6 seconds left.

"Ray Allen was hitting shots. He was unbelievable," Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said.

Allen had 49 points through two OTs. And after Paul Pierce picked up his sixth foul with the Celtics trailing, 125-123, with 35.5 seconds left in the third OT, you would have thought the visitors would have turned to Allen.

Allen, however, only took one shot in the third OT and didn't attempt a 3-pointer. Teammate Rajon Rondo shot 1 for 6 in the third OT. And at the final buzzer, it was Rondo throwing up a desperation halfcourt heave.

"Even in that last play we had a flare set up with Rondo to establish him when we are down 1," Rivers said. "[Allen] was unbelievable. My gosh."

Allen's amazing night will certainly be remembered in Celtics history, but not as much as the loss.

"We came up on the short end," Allen said.

Marc J. Spears can be reached at mspears@globe.com

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