ORLANDO — The Orlando Magic will open a new Amway Arena next season. It’s unlikely they’ll invite Ray Allen to the ribbon-cutting.
This afternoon at an aging Amway, where everyone shown on the outdated Jumbotron looks like they’re starring in some early 90’s movie, Allen showed flashes of his youth, leading all scorers with 25 points as the Celtics stole Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Orlando.
The 21-year-old arena will be out of use by the Magic next winter, but as spring turns to summer and the Celtics make yet 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 after the game. “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 three-point shooter of all-time, Allen can most definitely shoot. But he took what the defense gave him in the first quarter, pacing all scorers with 8 points without attempting a three-pointer. Allen’s two field goals and four free throws in the quarter came on a variety of drives and pull-up jump shots Van Gundy’s team can make adjustments, but 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, Old Ray Allen surfaced. Two clutch jumpers — one with 6:35 remaining in the fourth quarter and the other with 5:33 remaining — ended bursts of Orlando’s momentum and silenced “Defense” chants from the crowd. The second shot — a three-pointer — put the Celtics up by 13 just as the Magic were threatening to cut the deficit under 10 points.
Orlando did eventually cut the lead to single-digits, but when the Magic pulled to within a single-possession of the lead with 8.4 seconds left, it was Allen who once again silenced the crowd with two free-throws that put the game out of reach.
It was a defensive-minded game to be sure, but Allen’s consistency on offense proved to be a key cog driving the Celtics.
“When you have two good defensive teams, you’re not going to win off the dribble,” said Celtics 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, Allen averaged 17.4 points per game in series against Miami and Cleveland this postseason. His 43-percent shooting from beyond the arc is a far cry from last year’s postseason series with the Magic, where Allen averaged just 13.1 points in seven games against Orlando and went just 8 for 42 — 19 percent — on his three-point attempts. Allen went 2-of-5 from beyond the arc Sunday against the Magic, hitting half of his shots from the field and all seven of his free throws.
With a healthy roster for the first time in two seasons, Allen says something is different now about the Celtics.
“We’ve been around each other for a couple of years now, and we were becoming less patient with each other,” said Allen. “When things went awry in any game, or when we lost a couple of games, we were getting on each other a little too much… But when we started the playoffs, we said teams are going to hit us. They’re going to attack us.
“We can take it.”