Tony Allen Emerges as Marquis Daniels Hits the Shelf

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Tony Allen Emerges as Marquis Daniels Hits the Shelf The bad news that surfaced for Celtics fans this week? Marquis Daniels, their backup swingman, was forced to undergo surgery on his left thumb, and he's now expected to miss 6-8 weeks.

The good news? It's been two games, and the C's don't appear to have missed a beat.

The Daniels injury is discouraging for anyone who knows his previous track record before joining the Celtics. This isn't the first time this health concern has crept up — he's had nagging injuries to his left wrist and hand for a while now, and they kept him out for the last month of his final season in Indiana. It didn't take much to bring the injury bug back — one crisp pass from Rajon Rondo in practice Sunday afternoon hit him the wrong way, and Daniels was back on the disabled list.

It's a disappointing setback for a Celtics team that had found an extraordinary sixth man in Daniels — an efficient scorer inside and out, an intelligent passer, and a quick defender on opposing wing guys, big and small. But the Celtics will have to make do until February without Daniels' services, and they just might know how to handle it.

In a happy coincidence, their first game without Daniels on the floor came Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Garden, which happened to coincide with the return of sixth-year shooting guard Tony Allen. Allen has been maligned by Boston fans and media alike in recent years, for everything from his basketball IQ to his shot selection to his commitment to defense — but with the serendipitous timing of his comeback to the Celtics, he now gets a chance to redeem himself.

Allen was limited to 46 games last season due to a sprained right ankle and a torn thumb ligament. He underwent surgery on the ankle this June, and it was unclear at the start of camp when, if it all this season, the C's would get him back. Allen answered that question with perfect timing.

As expected, Doc Rivers eased him back into the fold. He played only six minutes in the Celtics' 98-89 win over Milwaukee — he didn't log a single field-goal attempt, and he finished with one assist, one rebound, two turnovers and two fouls. Not an impressive stat line. But he came back Thursday and began to sneak into an impact role — while he wasn't a crunch-time contributor to the Celtics' last-minute 104-102 win, he did play over 17 minutes and shoot 4-for-5 from the floor, chipping in eight points and three rebounds.

Is he Marquis Daniels? Not quite. But he's definitely a suitable backup plan, and he's reason enough for the C's to hold off on making a rash move to replace Daniels in the next 6-8 weeks.

Allen's coaches and teammates are already raving about his impact after two games. Rivers called him "terrific" immediately following Thursday night's win, and captain Paul Pierce went even further.

"He was big for us," Pierce told ESPNBoston.com. "He came in and gave us some very productive minutes. He was able to play defense for us, and he came back in the nick of time with Marquis being out, so he was able to fill the void. We are able to put him on different guys, defensively, and what people don?t know is that he can get to the basket and score the ball, too."

Not too shabby for a guy who began the season playing no part in the Celtics' plans.

If Allen can keep it up, the Celtics will be able to take their time bringing Daniels back from his thumb injury. Daniels can return on his own terms — no rush, no urgency, just come back whenever he's 100 percent.

With Daniels coming off their bench, the Celtics won eight games in a row. With Allen in his place, they've won two more. This Celtics team hasn't broken stride for a second — they're still sprinting toward a title, and they're not going to let one little setback slow them down.

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