A little extra lift
Engaged in a struggle with the Bulls, Allen gives the Celtics a boost in OT
The frequency between his dunks are somewhere between oil changes and solar eclipses, but every so often Ray Allen decides to reach for the rim.
“I do it every 65, 70 games,’’ he said.
Last night, as the Celtics found themselves in an unexpected overtime shootout with Chicago, he reached his checkpoint at a moment when the Celtics needed someone to put a dagger in a Bulls team that wouldn’t stay down.
After being down as much as 16 in the second half, the Bulls willed their way into overtime, essentially by turning the fourth quarter into a team-wide dunk contest. The Celtics got some separation in OT, and up, 106-103, Allen delivered the backbreaker.
He set a pick, then sprinted to the basket. Paul Pierce was waiting to deliver the perfect pass, bouncing it between two Bulls big men.
When he gathered it, Allen didn’t know where his defender, Kyle Korver, was and he didn’t want to have a layup swatted away.
“I just knew that once I got the ball I had to do something with it,’’ Allen said.
He scaled his way up for a one-handed flush that put the Celtics up 5 and ultimately helped them put the Bulls away in a 110-105 victory, their second straight in overtime and their fourth in a row overall.
“I didn’t know he could jump,’’ Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “I mean, I was shocked. My goodness.’’
Allen scored a team-high 25 points on 9-of-12 shooting, drilling 3 of his 5 3-point attempts and going 4 for 4 from the free throw line. The dunk was the highlight.
“It gets everybody off the bench, it gets everybody going,’’ Allen said. “The game was pretty energetic too, and it did take everybody to their feet.’’
All night Allen found himself at the center of pivotal points.
He had a key steal late in the fourth quarter, then streaked down the floor for a layup, absorbing the foul and making the free throw for a 3-point play that put the Celtics up, 90-86.
Huge 3-pointers by Luol Deng (20 points) erased the Celtics lead, and with 23.9 seconds left the Celtics found themselves tied at 96-96 and with the ball. An errant Rajon Rondo pass nicked Allen’s fingertips and bounced all the way to the other end of the floor. Allen found himself in a “Chariots of Fire’’ race with Keith Bogans, which Bogans won.
“It looked like we were running in slow motion?’’ said Allen.
The Bulls put the ball in the hands of their 22-year-old franchise player, Derrick Rose (18 points, nine assists), but Rose couldn’t get a shot off. The Celtics were able to take control in overtime.
“He was really the catalyst in overtime,’ said Pierce of Allen. “He hit the big three, the big dunk really sparked us. Then defensively he slowed down Korver from hitting any more big shots . . . He was the hot hand and we got him the ball.’’
The Bulls overcame a second-quarter scoring drought that lasted nearly six minutes, but paid dearly for the 18 turnovers that the Celtics turned into 27 points. The Celtics overcame Chicago’s 46 points in the paint, and watched Pierce shake off a cold four quarters and score 4 of his 10 points in overtime.
The Celtics shot 51.2 percent from the field for the night, but in the fourth quarter and overtime they went 15 of 26, their offense working like a machine.
“It was great execution,’’ Rivers said. “Going into overtime we just told them, ‘Run our stuff, and run it all the way through.’ And it was terrific. Ray sets the pick and gets the flare and then curls. They were top-blocking, so either Ray was going to get a layup or the big was going to get a jump shot. It was a great pass [by Pierce]. Offensively, down the stretch and in overtime, the execution was flawless.’’
Former Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau made his return to TD Garden, and Allen knocked down a couple of 3-pointers from in front of Thibodeau and the Bulls’ bench, including one that turned into a 4-point play in the second quarter.
“We would come out of a timeout and I think he knew something was about to go down and it had me involved in it,’’ Allen said. “The beautiful thing is they don’t know. So they panic — any team — they’re like, ‘Don’t leave him.’ ’’
When it mattered most, Allen was all alone, just him and the rim, and he said, “Sometimes, you’ve got to dunk it.’’