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A No-No-Yes Kind of Opening Night

Tonyhang_mediumA Daily Babble Production

Amidst the larger events of an emotional evening at the TD Banknorth Garden, the man who is expected to bear the answers to perhaps the most crucial questions about the Celtics' ability to defend their title had one of those nights.

One of those nights.

He had the type of game that makes us shake our heads, at first in apparent frustration.  Then in rueful bewilderment.  And then simply to level out that grin spreading wide on our faces.

In his first meaningful action as the Celtics' top backup swingman, Tony Allen proved exactly what most players do on opening night: nothing.  But he sure gave us plenty to think about when we were done with the head-shaking and goofy grins.

No-no-yes.  That's the type of basketball the 6-4 guard from Oklahoma State played on Tuesday night.  He got on the floor, and the shots immediately started going up from all angles.  He drove to the basket with abandon and didn't shy away from heaving up a couple of off-the-mark treys either.

The aggressiveness looked good, but once more, the decision-making seemed suspect.  The threes didn't need to be taken, and as always, it seemed at the outset once more as though any TA drive was a charge or turnover waiting to happen.

But along the way to driving us nuts with another night of missed opportunities and wasted athleticism, a funny thing happened.  Allen didn't do any of that. 

He managed to get it all to click.   How his first take to the basket wound up going in, I'll never know.  It certainly didn't look orthodox.  Twice in a tight game in the fourth quarter, the Tony Allen who in the past would have been hurtling out of control sliced through the paint to draw fouls on Lorenzen Wright while finishing lay-ups.  He followed those up with a beautiful swish on an 8-foot baseline jumper over LeBron James.

In just 17 minutes of play, Allen got himself to the foul line four times.  He put up nine field-goal attempts but hit four of them en route to 11 points and no turnovers.  For the most part, he played tight defense, and it didn't hurt that was finally on the receiving end of a good break when a pass that would have hit a cutting LeBron for a dunk on TA's watch was thrown out of bounds.

It was another night when we could see both potential sides of Tony Allen, but this time around, it was from the perspective of what could have gone wrong and what did go right, rather than the other way around.

Those shots aren't going to fall every night.  He isn't going to get those foul calls every time out.  Because of the fact that, to some extent, TA still simply puts his head down and goes, he is going to face his share of evenings where neither of those positive outcomes is happening, when he isn't hitting his shots or getting to the line.  On those nights, he will look awfully like the TA that frustrated so many of us over the last few years.

But last night, he showed us that it isn't impossible for him to harness the energy and the aggressiveness into hard-nosed, productive basketball.  He gave this team the type of play it desperately needs from its sixth man: an offensive spark and hard work on a big-time scorer defensively. 

For one night, he brought some question to the minds of those who have doubted him, those who believed that his head wasn't in the right place to allow him to play this crucial a role.  That he was a foul-prone, turnover machine who couldn't play this game under control.  The question is how consistent he can be in having this type of night.

I've certainly been among the skeptics at times, especially since it became apparent that Allen would be the de facto sixth man on this team.  But being happy about this beloved team of ours blows the doors off being right for the sake of being right any day of the week.

I hope Tony Allen spends every day of this season making me look like an idiot for ever wondering if he had the wherewithal to do this job in the first place.

How he will be able to balance those "old Tony" nights with what we saw last night remains to be seen, and again, because this can't be stressed enough, one opening-night performance proves nothing.

But Tony Allen sure made a nice first impression in his new role.

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