By Rob Peterson, NBA.com
Posted Jan 27 2009 11:56AM
If it seems as if the Boston Celtics can't lose right now, it's because Ray Allen can't miss.
During Boston's current eight-game winning streak, Allen has been a model of ruthless offensive efficiency. Beginning with a 36-point performance in a win against Toronto on Jan. 11, Allen has averaged 20.9 points while shooting .656 from the field, including a sizzling 27-for-41 from three-point range.
The streaking Celtics, who at 37-9 have the same record through 46 games as last season,
smartly have stuck with Allen's hot hand. "It looks like they're running more stuff for Ray," a scout said.
While they haven't installed new plays for Allen, the Celtics seem to be emphasizing Allen's versatility when he gets the ball.
"They're not stashing him in the corner to make threes," the scout said. "He can catch and shoot so well. He's making his threes, but he's also putting the ball on the floor.
"It takes a lot of pressure on offense off Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett."
Allen's accuracy during the Celtics' eight-game rampage has helped Boston crush its foes by an average of 16.2 points per game. After the Celtics' manhandled the Mavericks 124-100 on Sunday, Pierce noted that when Allen's shot is falling, Boston inevitably cruises.
"Ray's been phenomenal for us this year," Pierce said. "Usually when we win big it's because he's shooting the ball the way he is ..."
Allen said he's entered a comfort zone because, after a year-and-a-half with the Celtics, he is more at ease.
"I think I'm more comfortable in my role here on the team" Allen said of the difference between this season and last season. "It's changed a little bit since last year, because we had [James] Posey coming in. And I knew when he was coming in, so that's changed.
"But every night I figure out what I can do. Some nights I'm a scorer. Some nights I'm a defender, so I just try to stay ready."
The Celtics have benefitted from the 13-year veteran's rigorous preparedness. As the Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy noted Sunday, Allen is a creature of habit. He arrives at least three hours prior to tipoff for his pregame shooting routine. And in a gentlemanly gesture after he's done shooting, Allen stops to shake the hand of every team attendant who helped rebound and pass during his warm-ups.
When something such as a team meeting delays his routine -- as it did before a Jan. 17 game in New Jersey -- Allen admits his physical and psychological flow is interrupted.
"It does throw me off," Allen said, "but I think as early as I'm here, I have the leeway to do things I need to do. But it does push things back a little bit."
Still, even that didn't mess him up much: Allen had 25 points on 8-for-12 shooting that night.
As recently as two weeks ago, the Celtics seemed to be off. Starting with a defeat on Christmas to the Lakers in Los Angeles, the Celtics lost seven of nine in a 16-day stretch that saw their march toward immortality interrupted.
"There was a lot of talk during the streak," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "But as a team we felt there were stretches where we played very well. There were stretches where we weren't playing well.
"We knew we had to be more consistent to be where we wanted to be and that's what our focus was on."
Since a Jan. 9 loss in Cleveland, the Celtics have been close to perfect. Crisper ball movement has helped the Celtics shoot .496 from the field and average 24.8 assists per game in the last eight games, compared to .455 shooting and 20.6 assists a game during their nine-game lull. Boston's trademark defense also has reappeared. The Celtics are holding opponents to .417 shooting and outrebounding them by an average of 5.5 boards per game.
They're playing as well as they did when they started the season 27-2 and had a 19-game winning streak.
"They're just like the old Celtics," the scout said. "They don't change. They're doing what they've always done on both ends of the floor."
And right now, they're doing it better than everyone else.
When Michael Redd went down with a torn knee on Saturday, the Bucks' slim hopes of making the postseason became even slimmer. Redd's injury complicates matters off the floor, too.
Heading into the 2009-10 season, the Bucks will be $6.5 million under the luxury tax. With Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions becoming restricted free agents, the Bucks could be hard pressed to keep both players and not go over the tax. Sessions, who started in Redd's stead against Minnesota on Monday, and Villanueva each have been mentioned in separate trade rumors over the past month.
Bucks general manager John Hammond said the franchise won't make a deal just to make one.
"At this time we are not looking at adding another player immediately," Hammond said. "We will explore all options that could include free agency, D-League and trades."
For the time being, the Bucks will try to replace Redd's 21.2 points per game by committee. Redd was having his worst scoring season since becoming a starter in 2003, but he was hot in January, averaging 24.2 points per game on .512 shooting.
Cleveland's Mike Brown could soon be named coach of the Eastern Conference All-Stars. With one week before the coach is named, Brown's Cavs have a 1.5-game lead over the Magic. Because he coached the East All-Stars last year, Boston's Doc Rivers cannot coach this year's team. Phil Jackson will coach the Western Conference All-Stars ... The latest Shawn Marion rumor has the Heat dealing him to Sacramento for Brad Miller and Kenny Thomas. Marion has been rumored to be headed to Toronto as well ... The Pistons are 20-19 since Allen Iverson joined the team on Nov. 7 ... Boston, Cleveland and Orlando are a combined 46-21 (.686) on the road, while the rest of the Eastern Conference is 93-176 (.346)
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