|In Game 2 Monday night, resilient veteran Ray Allen led the Celtics with 17 points. (Jessica rinaldi/Getty Images)|
Allen was there to carry load
He picked it up as offense sagged
PHILADELPHIA - Ray Allen led the Celtics in scoring 12 times in the first 45 games of the season. Ankle injuries have slowed Allen since, but he was resilient in Boston’s 82-81 loss to the 76ers Monday night.
Allen scored 17 points, the first time he has led the team since March 19. Allen should not be expected to be at full strength, but this performance had to be encouraging as the Celtics prepare for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Wednesday night.
In Game 2, Allen displayed confidence in his shot and durability. He converted two 3-pointers in the final 1:40 of play, also barely missing one that could have given the Celtics the lead with 28 seconds remaining.
Allen’s 37 minutes were second to Rajon Rondo (39) on the team.
The Celtics might have won had Brandon Bass (5 for 15) been near his regular-season percentage or with normal production from Paul Pierce (7 points).
Allen’s instincts kicked in against the Sixers’ aggressive defense as he scored off backdoor moves and drives. The Celtics struggled through the second and third quarters, totaling 24 points. In the final quarter, Allen was 3 for 4 from the field as the Celtics scored 32 points.
“I believe when we watch the fourth quarter we’ll see what we need to do and what we need to keep consistent throughout the course of the game,’’ Allen said. “I think it was contagious on both sides. Both sides weren’t making anything.
“I do attribute that to the great defense that was being played. We’re a defensive-minded team, and they played great defense during that stretch. They forced us into tough shots, as well as we did them. So when we find something that works, we’ve got to stay with it.’’
Philadelphia coach Doug Collins has called the Celtics one of the “best third-quarter teams’’ in the league, but that was not the case as the Sixers had a 21-11 advantage in the third quarter of Game 2.
“Offensively, I don’t think we shared the ball well enough to win,’’ Allen said. “There was a stretch where we didn’t score and it created a bad rhythm there in the third quarter where we weren’t making shots.’’
The Celtics held a 47-43 lead on Allen’s layup with 4:44 remaining in the third quarter. But that would be their final field goal until the final quarter.
Now, to regain the home-court advantage, the Celtics have to win at least once on the road.
“I don’t really worry about where we play,’’ Allen said. “It’s just about how we play and when we play them. We will look at film and we will see everything we didn’t do well offensively.
“I think our defense wasn’t too bad. We had a couple spots where we didn’t run off them off threes. They got a couple three in the fourth quarter where they were back-breakers.
“So being in their building really isn’t going to affect us. It’s all about how we play them when we get out there, how we take care and work together better than what we did.’’
Allen noted that the Celtics have not underestimated the Sixers, who got off to a 20-9 start, then faltered in the second half of the season.
“I don’t know really what they went through,’’ Allen said. “I know throughout the course of the season, they were leading the division for quite some time. And then they hit a lull, and I know everybody goes through their adversities. I don’t know why they went through it, what they were doing when they dealt with it.
“So we had our own issues and we didn’t come into the series thinking this was a 4-seed/8-seed matchup. This is a team that’s in our way that we need to beat to get to the Eastern Conference finals.
“They have players that are capable of making big shots, they have players who are capable of carrying their team scoring. They have defensive players.
“They have a team that is capable of winning, beating us. They won the first round, they beat a really good Chicago Bulls team. So that has us all on notice. So we don’t by any means look past who they are and what they are capable of.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at email@example.com.