BOSTON — Boston Celtics guard Ray Allen admits he has problems sleeping after bad losses and before big games.
So last week he had a few restless nights.
We'll assume last night he slept like a baby.
Allen appeared to be pressing again last night ... but not for too long. After a miserable first half (0 for 3 from the floor, 0 for 1 from the line), he at long last found his rhythm, scoring all 16 of his points in the second half to help lead the Celtics to an 89-73 win over Cleveland in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
"That free throw really ticked me off," said Allen, a lifetime 89 percent free throw shooter. "It looked like it was in and then it kicked out in front of the rim. That was a freebie."
On the heels of Allen being held scoreless in Game 1, the Celtics made a concerted effort to get his shot going. The first four offensive plays of the third quarter last night started with the ball in his hands.
"I told the coaches at halftime, 'We're going to him over and over again. We've got to get him going,' " said coach Doc Rivers. "Shooters just need something to go in."
Allen's first hoop wasn't a thing of beauty. He missed a 15-footer to open the third quarter, but got the rebound and laid it in. It was akin to David Ortiz hitting a bloop single to left, breaking an 0-for-20 streak.
The third quarter was Allen's. He played all 12 minutes, making three of five shots (he only shot one 3-pointer and missed) and five free throws. He finished with 11 points, all in the first eight minutes. After that, any chance of a Cavaliers comeback was put to rest.
"I can score more than that," assured Allen. "Heck, I can shoot five shots in a minute. I just took the shots that were open."
Allen finally hit a 3-pointer, from 25 feet out, to put the Celtics up 76-54.
The Garden crowd, knowing all too well about Allen's slump, rose to its feet as if he had just sunk a game-winning shot from halfcourt.
"You can feel the anticipation of a 3-pointer just when you are about to take it," said Allen, the second most prolific 3-point shooter in NBA history. "The crowd gets a little quiet when you let it go. And then, when it goes in, they go wild. I love it. I really do."
So there wasn't much love in Game 1, his first scoreless game (regular season or playoffs) since his rookie season 11 years ago.
He played 37 minutes and didn't score a point in Game 1, which for a pure-shooting, potential Hall of Famer is mind-boggling. The cherry on top was the four turnovers and one measly assist, amounting to one of the least productive nights of his 18,227-point career.
But upon further review, it wasn't as atrocious as it seemed. Allen missed only four shots and Cleveland is known for its stifling defense.
In case you were wondering, sleep deprivation was not a problem.
"First of all, we won the game," said Allen. "And I don't have a problem sleeping when I miss shots. Sometimes you miss shots. I know that there is another day and I'll just keep shooting."
With Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett combining for about 40 points per game, Allen doesn't have to score 40 (something he has done 12 times in his career, by the way) for his team to win. Heck, he doesn't even have to score sometimes.
"You don't know what a relief it is," said Allen. "I don't have to score for us to win here. But I know that when I do score, it makes it easier for Kevin and Paul."
As for his shot, particularly the ones from behind the arc, Allen promises they'll be coming early and often in Cleveland.
"The funny thing is when I first came into the league, the dunk was the big thing," said Allen. "But now, chicks dig threes."
I don't know about the "chicks," but I do know hungry Celtics fans dig and expect a bunch from Allen.
E-mail Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Game 2 Summary
Stat of game: The Celtics outscored the Cavs 27-12 in the second quarter, when Cleveland had only two field goals.
Stat of the game II: Leon Powe and Sam Cassell led all players with a plus-20 and plus-16. That means the Celtics scored 20 and 16 more points respectively when they were in the game.
Not your night, kid: Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo had the worst playoff game of his short career, missing all six of his field goal attempts. He also had a playoff-high four turnovers. All seven of his points came from the foul line. "He struggled in the first half. He really did," said coach Doc Rivers. "What we tell Rajon is that the offense is what comes, but your defense has to be phenomenal every night. I thought he started out flat defensively and that can never happen with him."
Bench major: The Celtics bench again came through as Powe, Cassell, James Posey and P.J. Brown all played meaningful minutes in the first half. Most of that second group was in the game when the Celtics turned a 21-9 deficit into 28-27 lead.
The Celtics bench outscored their Cavs counterparts, 34-17, for the night.
The Garnett contribution: Kevin Garnett scored only 13 points, his lowest total in these playoffs, but he added 12 rebounds and four assists. Two of his offensive rebounds were turned into easy baskets.
Cleveland bound: The Celtics will have a quick practice today in Waltham before flying out to Cleveland in the afternoon.