By Rob Peterson, NBA.com
Posted Apr 21 2009 6:33AM
BOSTON -- Each Celtics player has a nice, glossy photo above his locker. And most of them capture their respective player well.
For example, Rajon Rondo's is perfect. It shows the third-year point guard running through Wizards forward Caron Butler in the lane, ball in his right hand extended toward the hoop and with a determined, pursed-lipped look on his face.
On Rondo's left sits Ray Allen's locker and, frankly, the photo is all wrong. Allen, who may have the sweetest shooting stroke in NBA history, is also shown driving through the lane. He has beaten his man, but has a quizzical look on his face. It's as if he's wondering why he is where he is.
"I know I have a clear path to the lane," Allen seems to be thinking, "but three is better than two."
If the Celtics need a suggestion, here's one: Take a picture of Allen's picture-perfect 3-pointer he hit to give the Celtics a 118-115 win over the Chicago Bulls in Game 2 of their first-round Playoffs series.
Now, that would be suitable for framing.
Allen's game-winner gave him a Boston-best 30 points and capped a night in which he and Bulls shooting guard Ben Gordon -- two UConn alums -- combined to score 72 points, including 26 in the fourth quarter between them.
In that final quarter, Allen and Gordon both made seemingly impossible shots. With the Celtics up 115-113, Allen and Glen "Big Baby" Davis closed out quickly on the 6-foot-3 Bulls guard, but it didn't matter. With two pairs of hands in his face, Gordon made points Nos. 41 and 42 look as easy as his first 40. After 18 lead changes, the game was then tied for the fourth time.
But then came the shot that dreams are made of.
"There's nothing greater than hitting the game-winning shot," Allen said. "We've all talked about it. We've all dreamt it. We've all been on the playground with the countdown: five, four, three, two, one. There's nobody out there and the ball goes in the hole and you make the crowd noise and you throw your hands in the air.
"And then you have to go get the ball because there's nobody out there and nobody watching. We've all been there, whether you've played professionally or not, because it's just a childhood dream. That moment was that moment for me."
Allen's mile-wide grin in recounting that shot and those memories also underlined the relief and redemption he and the Celtics felt in winning Game 2. The nine-time All-Star was awful in Game 1, going 1-for-12 from the field and finishing with four points. The first half of Game 2 wasn't much better, as Allen had a meager two points.
But somewhere early in the third quarter, Allen found his rhythm.
Moments before he scored on a floater two minutes into the third quarter -- only his second hoop of the game to that point -- Allen made a move that would have seemed overly melodramatic if it had been in a movie, but was even more impressive in the reality of playoff basketball.
Gordon had pinned Allen's hands to his abdomen as Allen tried to move off a screen on the baseline. Then, as if he were trying to break a big stick over his knee, he made an exaggerated yanking motion and managed to loosen his hands from Gordon's grip. Free to move, Allen went baseline, curled around another screen and received the pass. But Gordon caught up to him and was pinned to Allen's right hip. It was too much contact for the referees' taste, however, but not enough to prevent Allen from draining it. The hoop and the subsequent free throw gave the Celtics a 63-61 lead, their first since the final two minutes of the second quarter.
That new-found aggressiveness was just what the Doc Rivers ordered.
"We really needed somebody," Rivers said. "At halftime, you've got Rondo landing in the training room and Leon [Powe] injured and guys in foul trouble. Basically, at halftime all I said, I needed one volunteer.
"You know, one volunteer to score for us, to step up for us. And it was Ray Allen."
Rivers asked for scoring because the Celtics, despite the three-point halftime deficit, were getting everything else as the Celtics had plenty of heroes on Monday night. Rondo was doing it all, and his final stat line reflected it: 19 points, 16 assists, 12 rebounds and five steals. Glen Davis had 26 points and nine boards. Kendrick Perkins couldn't miss, hitting 7-for-9 from for 16 points and had 12 boards.
After getting creamed on the glass in Game 1, the Celtics outrebounded the Bulls 50-36 in Game 2, including 21 offensive rebounds. Boston also had 32 second-chance points.
And then there was Boston's other All-Star, Paul Pierce. His 18 points and eight boards didn't lead the Celtics in either category, but he led in other ways.
"I like to say it was Paul," Allen said. "Paul made a concerted effort. Paul looked up and every time he got the ball he said, 'Go get Ray. Go get Ray.'
"He was looking up, getting the ball to me. And by the time he threw it to me, I was able to beat the defense."
Speaking of defense, it was the foundation upon which the Celtics built their 17th NBA title last year. With Kevin Garnett sidelined, Boston has lost their defensive mojo. Chicago shot 50 percent from the field and the Bulls, specifically Gordon, found a lot of open space on the perimeter to drain 6-of-11 3-pointers.
Already without the injured Garnett and Brian Scalabrine, key reserve Powe landed awkwardly after making a hoop in the second quarter and strained his left knee. He was schedule to have an MRI on it later Monday evening.
All of those problems can't affect the good feeling of a hard-fought win but the Celtics know they're not in control of the series, which heads to Chicago for Game 3 on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, TNT). The Bulls, after stealing Game 1, have wrestled homecourt advantage away from the defending champs.
Still, Pierce believes the Celtics have a lot of fight left in them.
"I think we feel very confident because we feel like we haven't played good basketball yet," Pierce said. "We win tonight and it felt like we should have won Game 1.
"I feel like this is pretty much our C game."
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