BOSTON Ray Allen didn't have the kind of triumphant return to the court that he and the Boston Celtics would have liked.
But in the C's 87-86 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, Allen once again showcased his value to the team despite having just five points on 2-for-6 shooting from the field.
In typical Ray Allen fashion, he nailed one of the biggest shots of the night, a 3-pointer with 39.8 seconds to play, that brought the C's within a point of tying the game up.
But there would be no sequel to his big shot, as the final shot of the game by the C's was taken by Paul Pierce whose jumper hit the back of the rim before rolling out as time expired.
Despite having not played in six games, Allen saw about 35 minutes of court time, which is about a minute more than his season average for minutes played (34.2) per game.
C's coach Doc Rivers didn't think Allen played bad, but did say he thought he was "rusty."
"He didn't get a lot of shots, which is fine by me," Rivers said. "Especially at the beginning of the game he didn't get any shots and our offense was rolling. So you don't worry about that. But overall pretty well."
"He's been out a while," said Rajon Rondo. "He's a veteran. He's come back before."
Still, his play won't be good enough to end the debate between whether he should remain with the starting unit, or whether his replacement while injured -- Avery Bradley -- should hold down the starting job full-time.
Bradley came off the bench and led the C's in scoring with 19 points.
"He's a pain in the ass," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, referring to Bradley. "The game starts and you know what he's going to do. He's going to cut from the corner to the bucket and lay it in. He's going to cut diagonally from the top. You've got to give him credit. He knows his role and he does it very, very well. He killed us all night long."
While Bradley had the better night statistically, it wasn't as if the C's were horrible with Allen in the game. In fact, he had a plusminus of plus-3 for the game. The only Celtics player with a higher plusminus ratio was Paul Pierce who was plus-4.
Although it wasn't one of Allen's better games, his teammates understand that it may take a little while for him to regain his top-shelf form after missing the last six games with a right ankle injury.
"It's tough when you take five, six games off," Pierce said. "You know sometimes the timing's off, sometimes a little bit of the conditioning. But he's going to work his way back slowly; he's a veteran and he knows what it takes. He had a huge shot for us down the stretch and we got to have him back for the stretch run. It's a tough run coming up here, these home and road games, and we need a little bit from everybody."