Frustrated Allen cuts backdoor
INDIANAPOLIS — When the consummate professional is angry, he doesn’t lash out in the media or bare his soul when his emotions are raw. He slips out of the back of the visiting locker room at Conseco Fieldhouse, nearly jamming his nice travel bag in the door, pulling it through so hard that a piece breaks off and falls onto the floor.
Ray Allen kept walking, hardly concerned about the condition of his bag, more consumed by his lack of involvement in the Celtics’ offense and the team’s struggles to score down the stretch. The Celtics lost to the Pacers, 107-100, last night and once again Allen was hardly a factor in the offense.
He logged 36 minutes and attempted just eight shots, scoring 11 points.
It’s not that Allen wants Kevin Durant-like numbers of attempts, but he wants to be more involved in the offense in the early going, allowing him to gain rhythm for the critical stretches in games. Last night was a perfect example of how Allen is becoming less of a factor in the offense.
Through three quarters, Allen attempted four shots, making three for 8 points. Glen Davis took nine shots through three periods. Rajon Rondo attempted 13, which is understandable because it was one of those rare nights when he attacked the basket with success.
But in the fourth quarter, when the Celtics’ defense began breaking down after a brilliant third quarter, they needed instant offense and called on Allen for four shots in the period. He made one.
Allen needs more than four shots in the first three quarters of any game, especially as the Celtics’ best perimeter shooter by far. He sent a message last night with his slipping out the backdoor, but he may be out of explanations for why his role has been diminishing.
Allen has attempted nearly three fewer shots per game in March than in February. In the past four games, Allen, 35, has logged an average of 37 minutes and has taken just over nine shots per game. The Celtics have lost three of those games.
The Celtics are 18-4 this season when Allen scores 20 or more points. That statistic cannot be ignored.
When Allen is involved in the offense, the Celtics score more because he attempts (and generally makes) more 3-pointers. But asking Allen to drain 3-pointers in dire situations is unfair. For example, during the Celtics’ 90-87 loss March 3 to the Grizzlies, Allen was asked to shoot a potential game-winning 3-pointer that went off the back rim. It was his 10th shot attempt of the game and third of the final quarter.
Allen said afterward that he needed to be in better rhythm to be a more dependable scorer down the stretch. And that has to begin earlier in games, when Allen can help the Celtics build a lead and at the same time prepare himself for the closer role.
The Celtics’ offense is disjointed because Paul Pierce has been attempting more 3-pointers than Allen, and converting a lower percentage. Pierce has launched 33 in the past seven games, compared with 30 for Allen. Pierce has made 10 to Allen’s nine.
For Allen, the 3-pointer is a shot he is capable of making more often than not. For Pierce, it’s a momentum-changing home-run ball — when it goes in.
The Celtics have several issues to address during the final nine games of the season, most notably being more consistent offensively and defensively. They are playing their best and worst in the same game, scoring 32 first-quarter points at Minnesota Sunday and 53 for the final three periods.
They scored 33 and 36 points in the first and third quarters, respectively, last night, but they had 16 in the second quarter and 15 in the fourth. The entire team is frustrated, including Allen, who chose not to express his disappointment last night.
“We’ve got to make up our minds right now,’’ Pierce said. “This is a weird time to be talking about with nine games to go in the season. This is the type of stuff you talk about at the beginning of the year. We’re about to get into the playoffs and we shouldn’t be talking about this stuff. It’s just mental, how bad we want it going into the playoffs. We can’t think about what happened last year and ease into the Finals. That’s not going to happen this year.’’
Pierce’s comments were one of the first true signs of the team being angry, which is a good thing. The Celtics played with an attitude in the first quarter and jumped out to a 10-point lead, but they lost their direction until Allen led a resurgence, scoring 8 of the team’s 36 points in the third quarter after attempting just one first-half shot.
But minutes later, Allen became lost in the chaos of the fourth quarter, the Celtics scrambling to avoid another collapse and forgetting the principles that earned them the best record in the Eastern Conference for most of the season.
There’s time to regain that confidence and precision. But Allen has to be part of it, because last night, his lack of inclusion and his silence were deafening.
Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.