WALTHAM, Mass. — Doc Rivers  has been around way too long to get over overly excited – let alone ahead of himself – when players tell him they’re optimistic they can play.
But still Rivers was pleased Thursday when Ray Allen  showed up, announcing that his left ankle felt good enough to allow him to practice as the team prepares for Game 3 against the Hawks on Friday at the Garden.
“[Friday] matters a lot more. I thought you said he said he was definitely playing,” Rivers said. “That would be great news. He’s going to practice but it’s going to be under my watch. He told me [Wednesday] he was going to practice and I told him, ‘we’ll see.’ Really, I don’t even know what to do. Honest to God. Eddie and our doctors have all talked. We don’t know the answer. We don’t know if practicing is a good idea or not. If he practices today but doesn’t play [Friday], I’m going to be upset at myself.”
Allen took part in the full 75-minute Celtics  practice Thursday, which was mostly comprised of half-court sets. Allen tried working out before Game 2 and had a bad setback that kept him from playing in Game 2 Tuesday.
“He biked [Wednesday], I guess that is good. I think he has a better shot but we’ll find that out,” Rivers said. “He wants to do more today so we’ll see. We did that the other day and it didn’t work so we have to maybe limit Ray from Ray. He’s such a creature of habit, and I actually thought that may hurt him for any chance of him to play. Obviously, it reacted that poorly after just the workout he did, it’s probably good he didn’t play, at the end of the day.
“He’s a tough one because he’s such a creature of habit. He does his workouts the night before every game and does his two hours of shooting and then before the game does his hour of shooting. That’s a lot of work. We have to figure out a way of allowing him to try to do some of it but not doing so much where when he finishes he can’t play because I’d rather take 10 minutes of him on the floor than nothing, if that’s what it comes to.”
Allen sounded as optimistic as he has since missing the final 11 games of the regular season with the left ankle injury and the first two playoff games.
“Last couple of days, I’ve been in a really good place so I’m optimistic,” Allen said before Thursday’s practice. “If I’m sitting here [Friday] feeling good, that’s a different story. I am optimistic about practicing today so that’s definitely a great step for me moving forward.
“I do feel good today. I can’t say that I don’t. I am definitely am practicing today. I’m excited about it, my body’s excited and [Paul Pierce ] is probably excited. He asks me every day. It’s always great when [teammates ask]. I appreciate when you ask because it shows me you care. I’m here every day and I’m trying to be here for you guys. That’s about 80-90 percent of me doing everything I can to get back because I know my guys care about me. When they ask, I say, ‘Don’t ever stop asking because if you stop, that’s when I start getting worried.’ I’m here for these guys.”
Rivers was asked if Allen may have return prematurely in late March, when he played five games before shutting it down again, and whether that had an adverse effect on his long-term availability.
“You can’t think back,” Rivers said. “We don’t work in reverse. There’s nothing you can do about it. It is what it is. When Ray can play, we’re going to play him.”
Allen has taken cortisone shots in the left ankle to try and cope with the pain and discomfort. Last week, Doc Rivers said Allen didn’t respond well but was happy to hear Allen felt good enough to practice Thursday.
“From excitement, knowing that I was in a good place, to frustration,” Allen said before Thursday’s practice. “You want to be there to help the team. My guys are looking at me saying, ‘he’s close.’ When you know you can’t play, you almost feel like you’re letting the team down because they need you out there on the floor. So, it’s been a range of emotions. Emotionally, you just try to stick to it. It’s like I want to be here for the team but sometimes, I have to be away because it’s better for me to do what I need to do so I can get healthier and join the team.
“Injuries are tough but I’m in a good place. I’m optimistic.”
The Celtics have missed Allen’s permeter game, a point underscored when they missed their first 19 3-point shots in the series before Keyon Dooling  hit a pair in the third quarter on Tuesday night.
“It’s amazing, we were a team that has shot and made threes this year,” Rivers said. “And what, we’ve made three for the series. It’s a crazy number so we have to figure other ways. They’re clearly guarding the [three-point] line and they’re really actually clogging the paint, too. We’ve kind of adjusted to it and guarded them back.”
The series is tied, 1-1, as it shifts to the Garden for Games 3 and 4 Friday and Sunday nights.