BOSTON -- Normally, Ray Allen's performance on Sunday would have been considered exemplary.
Allen, who returned following a three-game absence due to a left ankle injury, scored a team-high 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting, including a 4-of-6 mark from 3-point nation, to go along with three rebounds and three assists over nearly 36 minutes. But his performance was overshadowed by the Celtics' fourth-quarter meltdown that resulted in an unsightly 88-87 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden.
Allen, himself, wrote off his performance almost immediately, stressing that his team's first loss in five games weighed on his mind.
"The loss," Allen said of Sunday's greatest takeaway. "It doesn't matter, individually, what I did out there."
Well, yes and no.
Certainly the loss stings, as the C's should have extended their winning streak to five, but Allen and his mates can take some solace in his performance. Sunday saw both a return to the lineup and a return to form for Allen, who looked spry and fluid throughout the game, burying his usual string of midrange jump shots and 3-pointers while adding a host of strong drives toward the rim.
The fact that Allen was able to generate a team-high 14 field-goal attempts probably was something of a relief as he was unable to create those same looks in several games prior to his ankle injury, which occurred in the first half of last Sunday's win over the Washington Wizards. Allen averaged just 7.8 field-goal attempts in the four games prior to that, but he eclipsed that mark in the first half alone against the Cavaliers, putting up eight shots over the first 24 minutes, making five of them for 12 points.
"I felt great personally," Allen said. "I just tried to play. Going with how I felt, I was very aware of my body early and I felt great. As the game went on, I got to feeling a lot better out there."
Added Kevin Garnett: "[Allen] gave us a spark. He looked fluid, looked energized. I thought he brought us a lot of energy, though. Definitely gave us a boost, scoring-wise."
But Allen ultimately was left wishing he finished with two more points. He missed a pivotal driving layup with 2:53 to play that would have put the Celtics up by nine, in the midst of the Cavaliers closing out the game on a 12-0 surge.
"By the time I got past [Anderson Varejao], I was wondering if I was going to have to do a reverse layup because I felt like he was still hovering over me," Allen explained. "And then Antawn Jamison rotated, so it was almost like I held onto it, thinking he was over the top of me, and I let it go too late as opposed to just getting it up on the rim."
A win would have forgiven Allen for his uncharacteristic blemish, but the self-inflicted wounds always seem to sting more for a club on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
C's coach Doc Rivers acknowledged Allen's missed opportunity, but praised his overall play on Sunday.
“Ray looked good, he looked fresh," Rivers said. "I thought he -- 9-for-14 -- in some ways you look at the stats, he was probably our most efficient player. You know, he missed the big layup down the stretch and I thought he gave up some middle drives and some baseline drives that creates those offensive rebounds that we talk about. And those are things we have to get better at. But overall, I couldn’t have been happier with his play.”
Fortunately, Allen won't need to wait long for a chance at atonement. The Celtics will play the Cavaliers again on Tuesday night -- this time in Cleveland.
"That is probably the one saving grace, is you get another shot at them, right back, and you don't have to sit and wait three weeks or a month or two months," Allen said. "We gave them confidence. They beat us on our floor, and we have to protect what we have here better than what we've done. We're all kicking ourselves. Everybody's really pissed that we let this game slide, but I'm glad it's not football. You've got to wait a week. We've got to turn it right back around and be ready."