Originally written on Celtics Town  |  Last updated 5/25/12
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Think back to the Oklahoma City Thunder defeat right before the All-Star break. A team-building game, Doc Rivers called it. There’s no such thing as a team-building 15-point loss, the crowd shouted back at him. Not for these Boston Celtics.

Flash forward to Game 6. A rhythm-builder, Ray Allen called it. There’s no such thing as a rhythm-building 4-for-11 from the field, including 1-for-5 from the arc, the crowd shouted back at him. Not for Ray Allen.

We threw up our hands, dropped our jaws and stomped our feet upon hearing Rivers’ comments, but maybe he knew something. That Thunder loss was Boston’s fifth straight and dropped the Celtics to 15-17. They returned from the All-Star break and immediately posted a five-game winning streak. Their bounce back continued through the remainder of their brutal second-half schedule, allowing them to post the league’s best record after the All-Star break. Maybe it was a team-building game.

And maybe, just maybe, Allen’s Game 6 was a rhythm-builder. He felt the Philadelphia 76ers game him a little more room to operate and believes it might have helped him get back on track.

“There was a little more cushion there, which was good,” said Allen, according to the Boston Herald. “I felt like I got into more rhythm, so we’ll see how it goes.”

He shot just 4-for-11, yes, and 1-for-5 from deep, sure, but Allen drilled two of his final three shots. He also started the game with a surprising amount of aggression, taking three of Boston’s first four field goal attempts and making two of them. Foul trouble hurt Allen the rest of the contest, but for a few minutes at the beginning of Game 6, his scoring chops had returned.

We might scoff at the notion that the World’s Most Prolific Three-Point Shooter needed to see the ball drop through the hoop for his confidence, but there he was late Wednesday night, telling reporters his body feels good and his jump shot finally felt natural. (Boston Herald)

“They felt great,” Allen said of those last two shots. “That’s why I was excited about it. Even coming to the game I thought my body was in a good place.

“Every shot is the next shot that I’m going to knock down,” he said. “I never let my mind drift to where I think I’m out of it, or I can’t get into it. (Wednesday) felt like that night. Offensively for all of us, we can’t predetermine what’s going to happen, because we’ve seen them guard us a couple of different ways.”

The Celtics need to replace Avery Bradley. In a perfect world, that would be as easy as, “Well, the guy who had been playing behind him is a Hall of Famer and the greatest shooter of all time.” But this is 2012 and Allen is 36 years old. Bone spurs in his ankles have hindered his mobility and hurt his shooting touch. He has averaged 8.5 points this series in 31.0 minutes per game, an alarming rate especially when considering that Allen is by now Boston’s weakest perimeter defender. He cannot replace Bradley’s defense, but his offensive output should be an improvement. Except it hasn’t been. Not even close.

Rivers is in a tough position. If Allen cannot hit from the perimeter, his minutes should go to somebody else, whether that be Mickael Pietrus (who is also misfiring far too often), Keyon Dooling (not my choice), Sasha Pavlovic (he’s still alive, right?), Marquis Daniels (who Rivers dusted off during the final quarter of Game 6) or even E’Twaun Moore (something tells me Rivers isn’t too fond of giving a rookie his first playoff minutes in a Game 7). None of the potential recipients of Allen’s minutes has lit the world on fire, not at all. But each would be a defensive upgrade.

The problem, though, with deciding whether to bench an unproductive Allen is that a shooting barrage always rests right around the corner. Ray Allen almost certainly won’t hit just 25.9 percent of his threes forever, no matter how many bone spurs rattle around his ankle. The question is whether he can wake up before it’s too late.

One positive is that Philadelphia has finally loosened its coverage. They had been shadowing Allen and doubling him off ball screens, but they decided to decrease the pressure on Allen in favor of focusing more closely on Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett.

“They allowed Ray to get loose and he just didn’t make shots,” Rivers said of Allen’s Game 6, according to WEEI. “That will be good for Ray coming into the next game now that he knows that he’s going to get shots now. Hopefully he can get his feet under him and get some rhythm.”

According to Allen, the rhythm is coming. But will it come soon enough?

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