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Uncovering Allen’s Game 01.19.09 at 12:13 pm ET
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Ray Allen makes basketball look easy. He could knock down three-pointers in his sleep, right? Allen is featured on the cover of the latest issue of The Improper Bostonian, where he explains that his game isn’t as effortless as it seems.

A long time ago, somebody told me that they thought God had blessed me with a jump shot, and the ability to be a great NBA player. That surprised me. I was like, ‘Do you really believe that?’ God blessed me with health, a healthy family and the ability to go out and find for myself what I wanted to do. He granted me with the competitive drive to want to be the best and the sound mind to accomplish my goals. But that came through focus and dedication, not from some Godgiven right.

Allen’s dedication to his professional and personal life made him an easy choice for the cover story. Away from basketball he is involved with the Joslin Diabetes Center, where his son Walker received treatment for Type 1 Diabetes.

“Since it’s our Man issue, Ray Allen seemed like the perfect fit,” said Megan Lisagor, editor of The Improper Bostonian. “He embodies the qualities of a good guy–dedicated on the court to his craft and off the court to causes like juvenile diabetes. He’s focused and humble. Not to mention, he’s incredibly smooth!”

This issue of The Improper Bostonian hits newsstands this week.

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What If: Tony Allen 01.10.09 at 1:56 pm ET
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On January 10, 2007 Tony Allen blew out his left knee in a post-whistle slam dunk. Two years later, he still isn’t the same player.

At the time of his injury Allen was one of the few bright spots on a dismal Boston Celtics team. He had stepped up in the absence of Paul Pierce and was doing his best to lead his team with explosiveness and  defensive hustle. He was also averaging a career high 11.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, and shooting 51.4% from the field. In an instant, it was gone.

Reminders of Allen’s injury have come to mind with the recent struggles of the Celtics bench. He has missed the last three games with an ankle strain and has been inconsistent when healthy. Allen, who turns 27 on Sunday, has learned to accept his role as a defensive specialist. At times there are flashes of the old TA, slashing to the basket, getting up for a dunk, or attacking the hoop for a rebound. But those highlights have been few and far between.

On the date of his injury it’s easy to wonder, what if Tony Allen never went up for that dunk?

If Allen had continued his breakout season, he most likely would have been packaged in the Ray Allen trade instead of Delonte West. If not, the Minnesota Timberwolves probably would have pushed for him in the Kevin Garnett deal. Allen was playing too well to stay on a team desperate to make moves.

There would be no need to wonder what if. Chances are Tony Allen wouldn’t be on the Celtics.

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900 Games for Ray Allen 01.09.09 at 9:57 am ET
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If there’s one thing the Celtics never have to worry about it’s the availability of Walter Ray Allen. It’s almost taken as an article of faith that when the ball goes up, Allen will be there. For the first five years of his career Allen never missed a game, and since coming to the Celtics the 33-year-old Allen has been logging 36 minutes consistently every night, which is remarkable when one considers that the primary objection to the Allen trade was his health.

Allen played in the 900th game of his career the other night against Houston and it’s a testament to his career that such an accomplishment happened with very little fanfare. (Kobe Bryant is the only other player from the 1996 draft class to appear in 900 games to date, and Allen ranks 10th on the list of active players for games played).

Allen’s career is a study in consistency, which is easily explained by his tremendous conditioning and his legendary pre-game shooting routine. There is no wasted motion with Ray. He is the smoothest robotic player in the game, and that’s meant as a compliment of the highest order.

A lot has been made about Allen’s revitalized play this year. He’s shooting 48 percent from the field (up from 44 percent last year) and just seems to be more integrated offensively with the Celtics system. There is an interesting quirk in Allen’s numbers, however.

While it’s true that his FG shooting is up, his 3-point shooting has actually gone down (from 39 to 36 percent), which brings up something Kevin Pelton from Basketball Prospectus mentioned to me about a month ago. That is that Allen’s shooting on 2-point shots has gone up dramatically (from .486 in 2007-08 to .579 this season). Pelton feels that sort of trend is usually not sustainable, so it’s something to keep an eye on as 2009 develops.

Still, by any measure Allen is enjoying a very successful year. He has the highest adjusted +/- rating on the team, according to 82games.com (which in layman’s terms means the Celtics are more effective with him on the court than off it than any other player) and the highest Offensive Rating, as well. Allen also remains the best starter option when Doc Rivers subs in the second unit, which is both a blessing and a curse, since Doc would love to manage Allen’s minutes in the second half of the season.

Beyond the bench’s issues, of which there are many, keeping Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett healthy and somewhat rested remains Rivers’ primary challenge for the rest of the season.

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LeBron isn’t Celtics biggest competition 01.08.09 at 9:54 pm ET
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Ask the Boston Celtics who their toughest competition in the East is and they won’t say LeBron James. They’ll tell you it is themselves who stand in their way of another title, that only they can control the fate of their season. On Friday night when the suddenly skidding Celtics take the court against the Cleveland Cavaliers, their biggest challenge is not stopping King James. It is simply not getting beat by their own mistakes.

“I really don’t care who we play next,” Ray Allen said. “It’s just, I look at it personally as an opportunity to get back on track to do what I need to do to help this team. Every little thing that I look at that has my input or my stamp individually for this team, I’ve got to find out ways to do it better, to make it better out there.”

After winning 19-straight, the Celtics are on a three-game losing streak and have dropped six of their last eight contests. At this point they aren’t seeing Friday as a chance to beat an Eastern Conference rival but rather an opportunity to get back on track.

“The thing about our team is that we don’t ever look ahead. Now that we’ve got Cleveland, we’re concentrating on Cleveland. But we never once had just talked about beating Cleveland,” Kendrick Perkins said. “We need a win. We’re desperate for one right now.”

Even though winning on the road has been a struggle for the Celtics this season, spoiling the Cavs perfect home record is a test they are up for.

“We have an opportunity to go in down there playing one of the best teams in the league,” Leon Powe said. “They’re real hot at home too. I think they’ve won about 18 straight in their house. Man, it’s going to be a challenge. But we’ve got a wonderful opportunity to go in there and play well and hopefully pull out a win to give us a big confidence boost.”

A win in Cleveland would do more than get the Celtics back on the winning side. The Eastern Conference standings are so close this season that an early January victory could pay dividends in the playoffs.

“Really, we’re just trying to win all the games we possibly can and get homecourt advantage,” Perkins said. “That just would make it a little bit easier for us in the playoffs. But if we don’t get homecourt advantage I’m not saying we won’t win he championship, but it’d really be a whole lot harder.”

With an electrified crowd behind them, the Cavs will also look to avenge last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinals elimination. The biggest key is matching their intensity.

“It has the same sense of urgency,” Powe said. “We’ve got to go out there, play hard, it’s going to be just like a Game 7.  They’re going to come at us and try to hit us in the mouth first. We’ve got to take it and then respond back. We haven’t been doing that as of lately but I think we should be alright going out there. Our captains and everybody on this team know what we’ve got to do to win the game.”

Playing hard is one thing, but the Celtics don’t have a panicked attitude toward the game. Allen added the team has not reached the point of frustration yet, and Sam Cassell, the only member of the Celtics who has won back-to-back titles, explained there’s no need to get flustered this early in January.

“When you’re repeating you’ve got all that stuff with big matchups, but it doesn’t matter,” he said. “You want to win every game possible but it doesn’t make you or break you. A team that got its rhythm in April going into the playoffs is a team that can win a championship … Why should we [worry]? We aren’t breaking .500. When I won a championship we were 10 games over .500, that’s all.”

The Celtics won 19 straight by focusing on one day at a time. After Friday night they have 44 more regular season games left and each one is just as important as a match up against LeBron James. It doesn’t matter who’s on the opposite side of the court. The Celtics have to take care of the five guys in green first.

“It wouldn’t have made a difference if it were Cleveland or Sacramento,” Allen said. “It wouldn’t have made a difference. We lost three in a row and that’s the mentality we have to have going into the game.”

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Sounds of the game… Rockets 89, Celtics 85 at 8:14 am ET
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You can sense the concern growing each and every day. What was a juggernaut headed for 70+ wins two weeks ago is now a team that has lost three straight, six of eight and in second place, IN ITS OWN CONFERENCE. Talk about a change of direction. The Celtics haven’t hit a bump in the road, they’ve hit a Boston-sized pothole that has messed up their alignment and they desperately need a trip to the garage to get it fixed. Problem is their next pit stop is against the Cavaliers, the team ahead of them in the East, in Cleveland Friday night where they haven’t lost at home this season in 18 games. Wednesday night, someone named Von Wafer drilled a three with 44 seconds remaining and the Celtics couldn’t overcome Yao Ming’s 26 points as Houston handed the Green their sixth loss in eight games since Christmas.

Head coach Doc Rivers is philosophical about the losing ways of late.

Rivers thinks the defense at the end of games is what needs to improve.

Paul Pierce says the team needs to get back to trusting each other again.

Pierce says this is where Ubuntu comes in handy.

Kevin Garnett says the team needs some good practice time together.

Ron Artest says last year’s Celtics taught the Rockets a good lesson.

Ray Allen says the Celtics need to be tougher against hungry teams.

Allen isn’t worried about facing Cleveland on Friday night.

Glen Davis said the Celtics will be ready for the Cavs on Friday.

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Are the Celtics in trouble? 01.06.09 at 9:45 pm ET
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The Boston Celtics knew there would be a target on their backs this season. But the threats sounded empty after winning 19 straight and blowing out their opponents in embarrassing fashion. Eventually, though, the rest of the league began to fight back. The Los Angeles Lakers were the first to take a stand. The Golden State Warriors followed suit and soon the Portland Trail Blazers, New York Knicks and Charlotte Bobcats wanted in. (CLICK HERE for a recap of Tuesday’s loss to the Bobcats.)

For every game the Celtics win, there is an opponent circling their next meeting. The problem is, the Celtics can’t mark every game as their biggest and defending their title is taking a toll on them. They are 2-5 since losing to the Lakers on Christmas Day and holes in the roster are being exposed. The once unstoppable Rajon Rondo has been contained by big men. The bench that was supposed to compensate for the loss of James Posey has blown numerous leads. Final minutes that used to be garbage time are now seconds of desperation.

December 25, 2008: Lakers 92, Celtics 83

The Celtics made the Lakers look soft last season during the NBA Finals. The Lakers got payback by snapping the Celtics’ 19-game winning streak on Christmas Day, challenging the Celtics to test them again for the title. Phil Jackson inspired other coaches to put their bigs on Rondo, which stifled the Cs soaring offense.

December 26, 2008: Warriors 99, Celtics 89

The Warriors kicked the Celtics while they were down and handed them their second consecutive loss of the season in Oakland. It was a rude awakening that offered a reminder that, no matter what kind of advantage the Celtics have on paper, stats can’t compensate for the motivation of their opponents.

December 30, 2008: Trail Blazers 91, Celtics 86

The Brandon Roy-less Trail Blazers forced the Celtics to make bad plays and dealt Boston its first loss in Portland in four years. The Celtics were outrebounded by 15 in a sloppy defensive effort.

January 4, 2009: Knicks 100, Celtics 88

Thirty points from Al Harrington served as a reminder to the Cs of what a deep bench can do for you. The Celtics were simply outhustled and there was no secret who wanted this win more.

January 6, 2009: Bobcats 114, Celtics 106 (OT)

The Celtics practically welcomed the Bobcats into the paint with open arms early on to jumpstart this loss. They forced far too many shots from long range (6-23 3PG) and did not hit enough from the line (22-30 FT). This game affirmed the concern that the Celtics have work to do.

As long as the Celtics wear the rings, they will also wear a target. It is an inevitable struggle they will have to overcome if they want to face the same curse next season.

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It’s not just Yankees fans … 01.04.09 at 4:27 pm ET
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Yankees fans aren’t the only New Yorkers who speak their minds. The Madison Square Garden crowd is just as vocal when the Boston Celtics come to town. Rather than get annoyed, the Cs appreciate their dedication to the Knicks.

“One thing I’ve always liked about Madison Square Garden, and actually our fans … they actually come to watch the game,” Doc Rivers said. “I mean seriously, they don’t walk around and it’s not a fashion show. Both Garden crowds, Boston and Madison Square, people sit and watch basketball and that’s what they’re there for. They’re not there to be seen and they’re there to cheer for their team. And I’ve always appreciated that.”

Ray Allen attributes their die-hard mentality to the intense media coverage in New York.

“You figure from any New Yorker who comes to a game, you know baseball or you know basketball or you know football, and you know every team basically around the United States,” he said. “You  might not see them but you know them because being in New York, walking through Times Square you see every stat, sport, game, whatever it is, through the media outlets in New York. So the fans are very knowledgeable, they appreciate good sports. They appreciate great athletes, the ones that works hard.”

Whether they are loved or hated, at least the Celtics always know where they stand in the Big Apple.

“When you’re walking down the street and everybody knows who you are,” Allen said. “They’ll tell you if you suck or if they really appreciate you.”

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