It's the matchup Celtics fans have been talking about since the day Ray Allen left town.
Celtics-Heat, at the Garden.
On Sunday, Allen returns to the city that he won his first and only championship with. Except this time, he's wearing Red and Black… and will be accompanied by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Allen's bolt for South Beach left a sour taste in the mouths of the Celtics organization, his teammates, and fans. It probably ended the chances that he'd get his number retired by the C's too, if that mattered to him.
One former Celtics teammate of Allen's told Metro Boston that the way in which Allen left - choosing Miami over Boston shortly after that team knocked the C's out of the postseason - irked him a bit. The player understands that Allen had to do what's best for himself, but wondered if his future with Boston, or the possibility of joining the Heat in the offseason, was on Allen's mind even when the two sides were playing each other in the postseason.
So how has Allen fit into his role with the Heat? Just fine, actually. His shots are down a bit, but his percentages are still up there.
It’s what Allen's long-range shot does for the rest of the team that is his real value. As he did with the C's, Allen opens up the court, forcing guards to play up tight on him far from the basket. That creates space for Miami's other stars to do the heavy lifting.
So can some of the C's struggles be attributed to the fact that Allen isn't with the team? Perhaps. The two guards Boston brought in, Jason Terry and Courtney Lee, have had below-average starts with the team, with Terry notably cold from the field.
Boston’s uninspiring play has undoubtedly cast a shadow over the upcoming matchup.
That said, a win on Sunday could do wonders for the team’s overall morale. It could be the win Boston needs to get things rolling in the right direction.
Then again, this year’s team has been the team that couldn’t.