A driving exhibition by Allen
ORLANDO, Fla. — The Magic will open a new Amway Arena next season. It’s unlikely they’ll invite Ray Allen to the ribbon cutting.
Yesterday at aging Amway, Allen showed flashes of his youth, leading all scorers with 25 points as the Celtics stole Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, 92-88.
As the Celtics make another run deep into the postseason, the 34-year-old Allen proved he’s still more than a useful player.
“Ray Allen can really shoot,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “And he’s always on the move. I didn’t think our defense was real good either, to be quite honest. We’ve got to make adjustments there.’’
The NBA’s second most prolific 3-point shooter of all time, Allen took what the defense gave him in the first quarter, pacing all scorers with 8 points without attempting a three. His two field goals and four free throws in the quarter came on a variety of drives and pull-up jumpers, and for most of Game 1 Allen torched the Magic on something other than his bread-and-butter outside shooting.
“It was just the plays that I had,’’ said Allen. “I knew that they were trying to force me away from my shot. Just watching the film all week, they were playing me so high over the top that when I go to the basket I have to keep my head up and look for the ball. I got my shot blocked two or three times. But for the most part, when the shot is not there I need to drive it.’’
Allen kept driving, finishing with 12 points in the first half. When the Magic were making a run in the second half, the old Ray Allen surfaced. Two clutch jumpers — one with 6:35 remaining in the fourth quarter and the other with 5:34 remaining — ended Orlando runs and silenced the “defense’’ chant from the crowd. The second shot — a 3-pointer — put the Celtics ahead by 13 just as the Magic were threatening to cut the deficit to fewer than 10.
Orlando did cut the deficit to single digits, but when the Magic pulled within a possession of the lead (90-88) with 8.4 seconds left, it was Allen who again silenced the crowd with two free throws to put the game out of reach.
It was a defensive-minded game to be sure, but Allen’s consistency on offense was a key for the Celtics.
“When you have two good defensive teams, you’re not going to win off the dribble,’’ said coach Doc Rivers. “You’re not going to win dancing the ball. The trust in the pass will be the key to this series for us and probably for them as well. You’re going to win with ball movement.’’
The recipient of much of that ball movement was Allen, who averaged 17.4 points in the Miami and Cleveland playoff series. His 43 percent shooting from beyond the arc is a far cry from last year’s series with the Magic, in which Allen averaged just 13.1 points in seven games and went 8 for 42 on 3-point attempts. He was 2 of 5 from beyond the arc yesterday, hitting 8 of 16 shots from the field and all seven free throws.
With a healthy roster for the first time in two seasons, Allen says something is different now about the Celtics.
“When we started the playoffs, we said teams are going to hit us,’’ said Allen. “They’re going to attack us. We can take it.’’