Allen Takes Step Toward Game 3 Return

WALTHAM, Mass. – It’s been a story of one step forward and one step back for Ray Allen’s right ankle over the past week.

That sore ankle has prevented Allen from playing in a game since April 10, forcing him to miss several key games down the stretch of the regular season and the first two games of the playoffs. He has been doing everything he can to return to the lineup for the postseason, but every time he pushes the ankle to its limits it screams back at him to stop.

“There will be a Monday where I feel pretty good, then Tuesday it’s like, ‘It’s not happening today,’ “ Allen said Thursday morning.

Despite the negative feedback his ankle has been giving him, Allen pushed his right wheel yet again this afternoon in Waltham, Mass. He made it through the 90-minute practice without incident and remains a game-time decision.

The last time Allen attempted this was on Monday, when he went through shooting and running drills at the team’s practice at Georgia Tech. The semi-practice went so well for Allen that Doc Rivers claimed Tuesday evening that he had been “almost positive” that No. 20 was going play in Game 2. That is until Allen woke up Tuesday morning and could barely walk, according to Rivers.

Ray Allen

Ray Allen hasn't played in a game at TD Garden since April 8 against the 76ers.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty

Allen and his ankle have been afforded 72 hours to recoup from that Monday workout and he now feels good enough to give it another run – literally.

“I do feel good today… I can’t say that I don’t,” Allen said before the team’s practice. “I definitely am practicing today, so for me that’s – I’m excited about it.”

And so is the rest of the team. The absence of Allen in this series has caused Boston’s offense to bog down. Atlanta has made a conscious decision to pack its defense in around the paint since the league’s all-time 3-point shooter isn’t out there as an outside threat.

“Clearly, without Ray, they’re using both guards to just sit in the paint, and we have to do a better job of creating space,” Rivers said on Thursday. “It’s tough when you have two guards that they’re just not guarding, and that makes it difficult on Kevin (Garnett). It reminds me of Perk and Rondo early on; it was a big and a guard (sitting in the paint back then). Now it’s two guards who are quick, and they can go and jab at the ball.”

As a result of that compact Hawks defense, the Celtics have shot just 40.1 percent from the field in the first two games of this series and made just three of their 25 3-point attempts. Boston doesn’t need Allen to hop back into the lineup and play 40 minutes to help the offense create more spacing. His presence will be felt even if it comes in limited action.

Said Rivers, “I’d rather take 10 minutes of him on the floor than nothing if that’s what it comes to.”

Allen will be out on the practice floor for much more than 10 minutes today. He’s practiced with his team for the first time in a long time, albeit under the watchful eye of Rivers and the medical staff. However, as the head coach stated minutes before that practice began, Allen’s practice session today isn’t really what matters. Instead, tomorrow is the day that will determine whether Allen will dress for Game 3 in a jersey and shorts or a suit.

“Tomorrow matters a lot more. Tomorrow matters,” Rivers said. “He’s going to practice, but it’s going to be under my watch.

“If he practices today and doesn’t play tomorrow, I’m going to be upset with myself.”

If Rivers is upset with himself tomorrow, we’ll know that the same old story has played itself again: one step forward and one step back.

The Hawks better watch out if Rivers isn’t upset with himself heading into Game 3, because that means Allen will be taking two steps onto the parquet floor for the first time in nearly a month.