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Allen having space issues

He works around defenders' tactics

By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / March 21, 2012
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ATLANTA - There may not have been a better game to encapsulate Ray Allen’s fifth season with the Celtics than Monday night’s at Philips Arena in Atlanta.

In the first half, Allen attempted two shots, making one, for 2 points in 17 minutes. In the second half, he attempted seven shots, made four (all 3-pointers), and tallied 17 points as the Celtics held on for a 79-76 win.

Allen has faced some strong defense, with opponents motivated to stop his early contributions, chasing him around screens and forcing him into being a playmaker.

Eventually, the defenders wear down and the finely conditioned Allen gets open, as he did against the Hawks. The question is not whether he will get open, but whether he will he get the ball when he does. In that regard, it has been a difficult season for Allen.

Shot attempts have been at a premium because by the time Allen finds space, Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett are into an offensive rhythm and Allen is no longer an emphasis. It is only when the Celtics are behind and need 3-pointers that he becomes a priority again.

He was a priority Monday night because the Celtics trailed by 8, Pierce was anchored with foul trouble, and Garnett was struggling with his shot.

Allen fully understands the situation. He would like to be a bigger part of the offense, but opponents realize the Celtics are more dangerous and front-running when he delivers early offense.

When Allen is launching 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, the Celtics are usually trailing.

“It’s very unusual, and sometimes it can get frustrating,’’ Allen said. “I understand how they’re guarding me. If Paul has it going, Kevin has it going, I’m just biding with the game and flowing into how the course of it’s going to change.

“It’s definitely different from how it’s been for me over the course of my time here, but again you’ve got to stick with it and figure out where your pockets come from. Because in this game, you can score so quickly, especially with what we have on the team, so it’s just biding your time and keeping your head in the game other ways.’’

Coach Doc Rivers concedes that Allen isn’t going to get his usual allotment of shot attempts because beginning in February, after he drained 54.9 percent of his 3-pointers in January, opposing teams began blanketing him.

Allen’s 3-point percentage dipped to 40.6 percent in February, and that has increased only slightly this month.

But then there are plays such as the one at end of the third quarter Monday when, with 1.2 seconds left on the clock, he catches and releases an inbounds pass from Rajon Rondo and cans a 3-pointer.

He remains one of the game’s most feared shooters, but his role has changed because of Rondo’s increased offense and the younger and more aggressive defenders assigned to him.

“I’ve scored a lot of points and still had great difficulties with losing a lot of games,’’ he said. “But just trying to find my way and find how I can help this team get better, it has been difficult.’’

Allen’s contributions are treasured in the locker room. His teammates say the Celtics are a better team when Allen establishes himself early. And they have seen him save the team late on many occasions.

“Ray’s hit threes in several people’s eyes,’’ said forward Brandon Bass. “He doesn’t holler. He’s just a silent assassin. When Ray’s rolling, we’re rolling.

“Me and KG, we’re going to pretty much play solid every night, but people focus on Ray so much, they try to take him out of the game. But when he’s involved in the game, we’re rolling, man, because that opens everything else up. Easier shots for me, [Garnett], more space for Paul.

“When Ray’s rolling, we’re pretty much rolling.’’

Help on the way?

The Celtics should find out Wednesday if they gain the services of Ronny Turiaf, a free agent forward/center who was waived Sunday by the Nuggets after they acquired him from the Wizards. The Celtics are also expected to show interest in former UCLA center Ryan Hollins, who was waived by the Cavaliers. He has been a starter at times in his career. To create roster space, the club would have to waive Chris Wilcox or Jermaine O’Neal or a player on the active roster. The primary candidates are Marquis Daniels and Sasha Pavlovic.

Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe

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