WALTHAM - The good news is Tony Allen had 21 points, nine rebounds and seven steals Sunday night. The bad news? He had six turnovers and plenty of defensive attention from the Magic in the 87-79 loss.
With Paul Pierce still nursing his stress reaction, Allen has stepped up to pick up the scoring slack, posting 21.1 PPG, 5.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.4 steals over the last nine games since the The Truth has been out of the lineup. But as he's picked up his game, opponents are taking notice, and he's seeing more reach-ins and swats at the ball when he finds it in his hands.
"They were loading up on me, reaching in when I'm driving. Silly turnovers like palming the ball, carrying, I can look at film and eliminate. But when a team loads up [on me], I've got to be more aware of that," Allen said.
Tony Allen is getting to the line by beating his man off the dribble and then seeking out contact in the lane.
The long road back to recovery from a right knee injury two offseasons ago seems nearly complete, as Allen is once again blowing by defenders on the perimeter and exploding to the basket, not to mention finishing with some loud dunks and acrobatic layups.
Too often at the beginning of the season, Allen appeared out of control and was fumbling the ball away on fast breaks without any provocation. But over the last few weeks, he's settled down as his athleticism returned. A dose of confidence that comes with renewed health has also helped him get right.
Still, even more than health and confidence, Allen's approach to the game might be what's making him so effective. Rather than forcing the issue and over-dribbling, he's now just taking what the defense gives him, and in most cases that means attacking the basket when the ball swings back to him on a rotation.
"Whenever he just takes it and goes instead of dancing, he's one of the better penetrators in our league, and he also becomes a good passer when he does that as well," said Celtics Coach Doc Rivers. "I think he's one of the better guys getting to the basket."
Allen's best weapon is his first step, and he's now confident again that he can get by pretty much whoever stands in his way at the top of the key.
"I feel like I can explode when it's there," said Allen, who specifically credits Massage Therapist Vladimir Shulman, and Strength and Conditioning Coaces Bryan Doo and Walter Norton Jr. for his physical improvements. "I take what [defenses] give me."
Blowing by guys is one thing, but finishing at the rim is another. And most of the time, Allen doesn't even have to finish. It becomes a lot easier to score if you're doing it from the free throw line on a regular basis, and given the way Allen goes to the hoop, he can expect to spend plenty of time shooting free throws.
"He attacks bodies," said Rivers. "A lot of guys go to the basket and go away from bodies. Tony goes to the basket and toward bodies, and it usually ends up with him on the free throw line."
Allen is averaging six free throw attempts a game since the Pierce injury, and he's hitting at 81% once he gets to the stripe. In fact, according to Basketball Operations Analyst Mike Zarren, by the numbers, Allen is among the best on the Celtics at getting to the line.
"All I'm trying to do is help my team. If the opportunity is there I take it," Allen said. "Coach came to me today to tell me keep scoring, keep scoring, the same thing he tells me every time. It's not like he told me 'we need you to get these numbers,' I'm just playing within the system."
Allen's always been known for defense, but his field goal percentage is impressive this season; at 51% he ranks 24th overall in the NBA and fourth among NBA guards. Rivers said that Allen's poor outside shooting (just 27% on threes) will come around, and when it does it will make him an even more effective scorer in the paint.
"Every time he makes one, it sets up for a drive," said Rivers. "His ratio should be 4:1; four drives for every one jumpshot."
Allen thinks he's already turned the corner with his jumper, but again, stressed that it's all about opportunity.
"If the three is there, I'm going to take it. The confidence is there," said Allen. "I just feel good as an all-around player right now."
West Sits Down
Delonte West sat out Tuesday's practice, and Rivers said that it could be a few games before we see him again. When asked if it was West's back, Rivers responded, "It's just his body."
West has hit the deck hard several times over the last week, at times laying motionless on the floor before returning to the game.
With West sitting along the sideline watching the practice, Sebastian Telfair ran through offense with the Green team, likely indicating that he'll start Wednesday night against the Pacers.