BOSTON — Ray Allen looked finished. In a three-game stretch against the Philadelphia 76ers, Allen mustered a total of 13 points. A game later he fouled out after playing only 25 minutes, and in the deciding Game 7 he shot 3-for-11 from the field and 2-for-7 from the free throw line.
The stats were not the only troubling indicators for the veteran Celtics shooting guard. He seemed to struggle to keep up with Philadelphia's speedy guards, and once Boston escaped with its seven-game series victory, many Celtics fans had to feel dread at what Heat guard Dwyane Wade might do to a hobbled Allen.
Sometime after the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals, something clicked for Allen. His shooting numbers were not much more appealing in Sunday's 93-91 win in Game 4 than they were in the conference semis, but if you squinted your eyes, he almost looked like the Allen of old. He was able to stay with Wade defensively and did not hesitate to plant and lift off his feet, which was unthinkable at times during the previous playoff rounds.
"At my lowest point, I was ready to have surgery," Allen said. "I didn't think that I would get any better, because I was doing all the things I needed to do treatment-wise and just staying off of it. It didn't seem like it was going to get any better, so I just stayed with it and stayed off of it and did what I had to do, and it progressively got better over time. We'll see how I deal with it once the season is over."
None of Allen's 16 points on Sunday was bigger than the 3-pointer he hit midway through the fourth quarter. The Heat had wiped out an 18-point Celtics lead to take a two-point edge on a free throw by Norris Cole.
Allen responded with a three — only the Celtics' second field goal of the quarter to that point — to give him four triples in the game. He had not knocked down that many threes since April 7 in Indiana, when he hit five 3-pointers just four days before he went on the shelf for nearly a month with bone spurs in his ankles.
His mobility was not completely back to its pre-injury status, Allen said, but he has adjusted to play through the pain.
"I would say there is a percentage of mind over matter," Allen said. "For me, as aggressive as I run coming off screens, I have to almost be a little ginger going in certain directions so I don't aggravate it too much more than it already is. I know what I'm dealing with, so I try to work through that."
As for the defensive end, the concern over Wade victimizing Allen looked unmerited after four games. Wade missed 10 of his first 12 shots on Sunday, and with the Celtics mixing their defensive looks against the Heat guard, Allen was able to hold his own in the matchup. Wade held the quickness advantage, as he would have even if both players were healthy, but it was not the blatantly unfair fight it could have been.
Allen might never be fully back to form until he gets the surgery, treatment and rest he requires. At less than full strength, though, he is giving the Celtics exactly what they need.