Allen’s career arc includes role of decoy
The court has seemed less claustrophobic for the Celtics since Ray Allen’s return from an ankle injury. Allen’s 3-point threat limits opponents’ double-teaming tendencies, creating space for teammates.
And that is why Allen was in for the entire fourth quarter - along with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce - in the Celtics’ 92-91 win over the 76ers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday night.
Allen failed to convert a field goal in the fourth, attempting two 3-pointers, playing the role of decoy most of the time. But he played through pain to play an important role.
“I mean, I thought 10 different times he was hurt again,’’ coach Doc Rivers said. “He hit the floor four or five times. Ray is just tough. I mean, I don’t think we realize how - his foot’s bothering him and he’s playing terrific. The stretch when he came in again with the second unit, that was a big stretch for us. It gave us some hope.’’
Defending his job
Mickael Pietrus is 2 for 15 from 3-point range in the playoffs, missing both of his attempts Saturday night. But Pietrus is concentrating on his defense.
“You know, the Boston Celtics, they never lead the league in scoring,’’ Pietrus said. “They have 17 banners for a reason, they play defense. Play defense and do whatever it is to win the game.’’
Pietrus played a key role in a comeback started by the reserves in Game 1.
“I think they jumped on us early in the game and we didn’t know how to react to it,’’ Pietrus said. “In the fourth quarter, we played great team defense. Right now, we know how they want to play us and we know how we’re going to play them. So, we are focusing on [Game 2] Monday.’’
Rivers’s advice for Pietrus: “I told him, he shot the ball - the ball went all the way down three different times, so I want him to keep shooting. The only thing I did tell him, ‘You can drive, too.’
“The one thing I will say about him is, at the other end, he hasn’t changed. He’s still defending. And that’s good. That’s a mature player, that he doesn’t get so down on offense that he stops doing his job. His job for us is defense.’’
Each team shot 36 for 82 (43.9 percent) from the field in Game 1. The Celtics were 18 for 19 at the free throw line.
“The plan was to attack,’’ Rivers said. “They had one big on the floor and we just wanted to keep going toward the basket. That’s all we said. Whether that resulted in getting to the line or getting a shot, we wanted to keep attacking the basket.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at email@example.com.