October 7, 2007
ROME - In his 11 NBA seasons, Ray Allen has encountered countless suffocating double-teams and sometimes triple-teams. But now, in a Celtics uniform and with two other All-Stars to play off of, he had unfamiliar breathing room last night.
In the preseason debut of "The Big Three," open shots Allen rarely saw before came his way with a star-studded Celtics lineup of Paul Pierce and newcomers Allen and Kevin Garnett keeping the Raptors honest on defense. With Toronto challenged to pick its poison defensively, Allen, Garnett, and Pierce combined for 50 points through three quarters in an 89-85 victory in front of a sold-out crowd of 11,118 at the PalaLottomatica.
"I had a lot of open shots," Allen said. "Shots I haven't had in a long time. Paul kept his man occupied. It was definitely a different look."
Pierce scored a game-high 21 points, including 13 in the third quarter, in 32 minutes. An intense Garnett had 19 points in 32 minutes, grabbed a game-high 17 rebounds, incurred a technical for doing a chin-up on the rim during a two-handed dunk that revved the crowd, and even dived for a loose ball. Despite all the open shots, Allen finished with 10 points, hitting 4 of 13 from the field, including 1 of 7 3-pointers, in 31 minutes.
"Paul was telling Ray and myself to be very aggressive starting off," Garnett said. "I think the problem we have is staying out of each other's way. So [Pierce] let it be known right up front to be aggressive. I came out and I did that, whether it was diving on the floor for loose balls, going to the basket big, being aggressive all around. I pretty much thought I had a lot of energy to do that tonight."
Said Pierce, "It was great to give the ball to Kev, give the ball to Ray. We'll see what happens."
Allen said he felt pressured while playing in Seattle and Milwaukee to play well offensively for his team to win. But on this off shooting night, Garnett and Pierce picked up the offensive slack for him.
"It's not like it's me trying to carry the load of the team and everybody behind is like, 'Well, what do we do now?"' Allen said. "We have so much happening at any given time."
Even with Allen, Garnett, and Pierce, the Celtics were up just 70-68 through three quarters. Toronto, the defending Atlantic Division champion, respected Boston but didn't seem intimidated.
"We know we can beat them," Raptors guard T.J. Ford said.
The Celtics completed their first week abroad during NBA Europe and departed for London after the game. While it was just a preseason game, it had regular-season intensity, with Italy's own Andrea Bargnani and "The Big Three."
The crowd was littered with celebrities such as filmmaker Spike Lee (who sported a Yankees cap), ex-Celtic K.C. Jones, ex-NBA stars Spencer Haywood, Rick Barry, and Micheal Ray Richardson, and Rome's mayor.
"I had a lot of energy," Allen said. "A lot of gas in my system because it was the first time suiting up in a Boston uniform. We were all geeked to be out there on the floor.
"Being here in Rome was extra special because the fans. The building was pretty electric tonight starting the game off. I [can't] wait to see what it's like in Boston when we come back home."
The highlight of the game might have come from Celtics guard Tony Allen, who soared for a lean-in dunk with 10:27 left in the fourth, but limped afterward. Allen, who missed the final 48 games of last season with a torn left ACL, stayed in the game despite the post-dunk pain. He said his knee was fine and he planned to ice it and get it massaged during the off day in London today.
"It kind of shocked me more than anything," Allen said. "It was my first time attacking the basket that hard since I was injured."
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said point guard Rajon Rondo needed to push the tempo more. Rondo had 4 points on 2-of-8 shooting and 3 assists in 24 minutes. Backup guard Eddie House had 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting off the bench. When told of Rivers's comments, Rondo said, "If he wants to push the ball more, I'll try to look [to do] it."