BOSTON - Ray Allen has had the itch to play for quite some time. You can't blame him, either. Allen is one tough hombre, and a fierce competitor. It would take a debilitating injury, like the right ankle swell Allen's been dealing with, to keep him on the down and out.
Allen missed 11 straight games and hadn't played since April 10 heading into Friday night's showdown between the Celtics and Hawks in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at TD Garden, but he would finally get the green light to suit up and play.
"Being back on the floor, I felt alive," said Allen, who scored 13 and collected six rebounds in Boston's 90-84 OT win. "I felt like I was back in my own skin and it was a great feeling."
Great for Allen, and great for Celtics fans, too. Allen first checked in with 4:40 left in the first quarter and was greeted by a booming ovation. Allen hit the ground running, scoring his first points on a jumper at 4:02, and chipping in six points in nine minutes before sitting down at the 7:40 mark of the second quarter. Allen's night wasn't over, though. Far from it, in fact.
When the night was over, Allen had logged nearly 37. So much for easing back in.
"He was terrific," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "And like I told you before the game - someone asked me, ‘Would there be a minute restriction?' I said, "No, because we don't know when he'll play again or not.' So I'm getting everything I can get out of him each game. I'm saying that jokingly, but somewhat true as well. Tonight honestly, we needed him."
Allen didn't have a 20-point game, but that doesn't mean he wasn't effective. Just having Allen on the floor opens things up for players like Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass and Rajon Rondo. Even just seeing Allen in his uniform was helpful for the team.
"Just having him out there really picked us up because we haven't seen Ray in a jersey in so long," said Pierce, who led the team with 21 points. "Just having him out there, you heard the reaction from the crowd when he checked into the game. Stuff like that brings so much energy to the ball club, to have a guy that's so vital come out there and give us a big lift. It's huge having him out there, especially tonight with Avery [Bradley] going down."
Allen's extended return means he won't practice on Saturday, and neither will the Celtics.
"We're giving them the day off tomorrow because they're exhausted," said Rivers. "And I don't want Ray in the gym because he would do something; he would shoot, or something. So that's unusual for us in the playoffs to take a day off, but they need one."
Game 4 between the Celtics and Hawks takes place on Sunday night at TD Garden.