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Tony Allen Finally Seems to Get It

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Every Boston sportswriter wrote something about Tony Allen either last night, or this morning, and why not? The Celtics have their should-be playoff heroes in Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Rajon Rondo. But Tony Allen? Well, quite frankly, yes. Ray Allen took an elbow to the nose in the first quarter, which appeared to disorient him for the remainder of the game. Strangely enough, it was one of the best things that happened to the Celtics all night, as Tony Allen checked into the game and proceeded to wreak havoc on the Miami Heat. Now, there's certainly a difference between just cracking Doc Rivers's rotation, and taking that opportunity to become a playoff savior. But ultimately, that's what Tony Allen is this morning: The savior of Game 1 of the 2010 NBA Playoffs for the Boston Celtics

In an interesting twist of fate, TA was awarded the Comcast SportsNet Sixth Star Award prior to tip-off, and promptly backed up his newfound title by inserting a boatload of energy into a team that was sorely lacking it early on. Despite the playoffs being underway, it's still the NBA, and any frequent witness to it can attest that a certain amount of effort is not always guaranteed on every play. But with 3:40 left in the first quarter, after TA caused a deflection and got the ball to Rondo in the open court, he not only bowled over Carlos Arroyo at halfcourt - and went sprawling himself in the process - but he got right back up and continued toward the hoop, and was promptly rewarded by Rondo with an easy pass that he converted into a one-handed slam. That's playoff effort. Falling flat on your face at halfcourt, getting back up, and being the guy who gets the bucket because you continued to hustle your tail off. 

Injury after injury after injury has routinely derailed Tony Allen's career, even as recently as the beginning of this season. But finally, he appears to be healthy, and with that health comes the athleticism that makes him such an effective defensive player. Last night against Dwyane Wade, TA was quick enough going east to west, and equally quick enough going north to south. Wade might be used to having a distinct quickness advantage over his defender on most nights, but last night, Allen was a worthy adversary, sticking with him step for step for much of the time he spent on him.

Is it a coincidence that Wade scored all nine of his third quarter points before Tony Allen checked in with 6:30 to play? Wade was held scoreless not only for the remainder of the third period once TA checked in, but all the way until the 6:28 mark of the fourth and final frame, when he converted the second of two free throws. 

"My teammates," Allen said afterward about how he was able to stop Wade. "We corralled him. They told me to pressure him, so I pressured him. My teammates had my back. We locked in on who we needed to lock in on. We basically just stuck to our game plan."

While Allen credits his teammates, Doc Rivers deserves some love for pulling an ineffective Ray Allen midway through the third in favor of Tony, and for keeping him in there down the stretch of the fourth quarter. Paul Pierce checked back into the final frame with 3:30 to go, but came in for Ray, not Tony. Kudos to Doc for that. 

One play I'm sure you'll see quite a few replays of to help demonstrate Allen's defense on Wade was the horrible jumper Wade was forced into with 6:58 left in the fourth quarter. Wade had the ball on the right wing and looked to be trying to unleash his shake-and-bake dribble dance that routinely throws his defender off balance. Only, on this play, when he rocked right, TA went right, and when Wade crossed over to the left, TA was right there with him. Wade had no shot of sneaking by Allen on this play and was eventually forced into a desperation three-pointer which harshly clanged off the opposite side of the glass, making you wonder what the warranty on that backboard is. 

On top of his stellar defense, TA also scored a playoff career-high 14 points last night, largely due to the fact that he didn't overdo anything on the offensive end. He kept things as simple as they needed to be on offense, not attempting any flashy drives to the hoop, or fancy dribble moves that might be beyond his skills as a ball handler. Instead, he posted up around the rim, and slashed and curled through the paint, taking the entry passes as they came, and finishing them off. He was the benefactor of ball movement most of the night, which suits his game just fine. 

Above all, this season, along with last night's pressure-packed game, has served as legitimate evidence that Tony Allen finally "gets it". "Getting it" doesn't exactly have a crystal clear definition, but I've always seen it as the point in time when a player finally realizes what he has to do to be successful on the court, and he continues to adhere to that style of play no matter what the situation might be. Tony's shown a commendable amount of maturity this season, and has never fully reverted back to "Bad Tony", even when his minutes were limited for a brief span once Michael Finley arrived. 

And now that he appears to "get it" (keep your fingers crossed in fear of a relapse), he can continue to serve as an integral weapon for Doc Rivers. And who knows, by the time we reach the end of Game 2 on Tuesday night, we could be proclaiming Tony Allen as the savior of that one as well.