The Celtics reserve filled in when Ray Allen struggled, scoring a season-high 20 points to help Boston beat the Memphis Grizzlies 100-96 on Friday night while his more celebrated namesake was scoreless into the last 10 seconds.
It was the eighth consecutive victory for the Celtics, who haven't lost since playing the Pistons on Dec. 19. The two teams meet again on Saturday night.
"Probably our worst focus of the year. Could be because of tomorrow night," coach Doc Rivers said. "We might have been looking forward to it. I don't know."
Tony Allen scored 15 in the second quarter to help Boston take the lead for good, Paul Pierce scored 23 with 10 rebounds and Kevin Garnett also had 23 to give the Celtics their eighth straight win. James Posey had nine points and 10 rebounds while also busting open the lip of Memphis' Rudy Gay, who made just one of his first eight shots but finished with 21 points.
Ray Allen went 0-for-9 from the floor, but sank a pair of free throws with 9.3 seconds left to avoid his first scoreless appearance in a decade. The crowd cheered its approval, and Rivers had to ask one of his players why the seemingly meaningless foul shots were met with applause.
"I know I've always been a scorer but, ultimately, (the key is) to do what I need to do to let this team win," Allen said. "It's a relief that I don't have to stress out sitting on the bench worrying about not scoring, because we have a bunch of guys that can carry the load."
The Pistons (26-7) have the second-best record in the NBA, trailing only Boston (28-3), and they handed the Celtics their last loss with an 87-85 victory at the new Garden. Detroit won its 11th straight, 101-85 over Toronto on Friday night.
"Everybody knew we're playing Detroit on Saturday night, but we had to take care of Memphis," Pierce said. "We're preparing for something bigger than the regular season. It's got to be every night."
"I thought the whole game was a missed opportunity," coach Marc Iavaroni said. "I thought we were in perfect position to come in here and have a shot at it, and I think we did until we made some miscues. And that's the way they've won this year."
The Celtics trailed for most of the first quarter and into the second before taking the lead for good when Tony Allen scored all but two of Boston's 15 points in a seven-minute span; he assisted on the other basket. Allen hit a reverse layup to cut Memphis' lead to one point, then made a 3-pointer to give the Celtics a 39-37 lead with 4:48 left in the half.
Posey hit a pair of free throws to give Boston a four-point lead and after Darko Milicic made a layup, Allen hit another jumper to give him 15 points in the quarter.
The Celtics made an 8-0 run in the third to open a 14-point lead. Gay had a pair of baskets and a steal to help cut the deficit to seven points before he crumpled to the floor after taking Posey's forearm in the mouth. Celtics trainer Ed Lacerte bandaged his player's arm before venturing onto the floor to retrieve the remnants of one of Gay's teeth.
"It was tough. I'm missing a tooth," Gay said. "What more can I say?
- Garnett moved into 26th on the career rebounding list, passing Jack Sikma.
- Miller became the 43rd player to make 1,000 3-pointers.
- Milicic, Miller and Pau Gasol each had eight rebounds.