Allen ready when opportunity knocked

BOSTON -- To the untrained eye, it might have looked like Tony Allen has been sitting on the Boston Celtics bench in a green-and-white warm-up suit that he has found difficult to shed since the addition of veteran swingman Michael Finley.

To Allen, he might as well have been wearing an all-black suit with a hood. Just like a ninja.

"Well, I just look at it like we've got a quiet assassin and whenever you all want to unleash him, he's going to be ready," Allen said after pouncing off the pine to score 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting in 20 high-energy minutes in the Celtics' 113-99 triumph over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday.

This from a player who had logged just 36 minutes of court time since Finley's arrival, including four DNPs in a 10-game span. Allen had scored just 10 points during that stretch on 3-of-8 shooting.

"Basically, I've been listening to the coaches," said Allen. "'Stay ready, stay ready, stay ready.' That's what I've been doing, conditioning my body, working on my game with the coaches and strength coach. Today was a day my number got called and I took advantage."

It's been a while since coach Doc Rivers called on No. 42 in any sort of meaningful situation. During Monday's loss in Utah, Allen played a whopping 6.5 seconds in the first half -- to provide defense in the final first-quarter possession -- and then scored five points in two minutes of garbage time.

Allen saw a handful of minutes in three previous lopsided wins at TD Garden (and before that, one lopsided loss to Memphis), but you'd have to go back to the very start of the month to find Allen logging quality burn in a non-blowout situation.

Like a good ninja, he waited patiently.

"Ain't no frustration over here, because I know what I'm capable of," said Allen.

On Wednesday, he was capable of injecting a spark at both ends of the floor when the Celtics were hindered by early foul trouble, particularly to Paul Pierce and Marquis Daniels.

After a short stint at the start of the second quarter, Allen replaced Pierce with 4:05 to play in the first half when the captain picked up his third foul. With the Celtics nursing a five-point lead, Allen helped Boston score the game's next seven points, contributing four of them, as the lead ballooned to 12.

Before the intermission, Allen added a thunderous one-handed jam off a behind-the-back pass from Rajon Rondo (11 points, 11 rebounds, 15 assists) and spun in a layup to beat the buzzer and keep Boston out front by double digits at the break.

What's more, Allen provided some of the trademark defense that at times has made him a staple of Rivers' rotation, locking down Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups and J.R. Smith at various times.

"I thought Tony Allen, honestly, was the star of the game," said Rivers. "I thought he turned the game around for us with his energy, with his defense. I was concerned about him fouling out at one point and I told him, 'Don't worry about it. If you foul out, you foul out. Don't save it.' And he was absolutely terrific."

Has a player ever gone from unable to get off the bench to being in danger of fouling out in such a short span? It's downright preposterous. But even though he picked up four fouls in little more than 11 minutes, Allen contributed eight more minutes, maintaining his aggressiveness at both ends.

Allen's efforts weren't lost on his teammates.

"I really commended Tony because, as a young player, when you sit and you don't play for a few games, it can bother you," said Pierce. "The good thing about it is, he's been getting extra work in, he's been getting to the gym, getting his shots in, and he's been staying ready. Tonight was a night that we needed him."

Rivers echoed that sentiment, noting that Allen waited patiently for an opportunity to pounce and never got discouraged.

Just like a ninja.

"I think he really understands that," said Rivers. "The one thing I said -- and I said it actually before [the game] -- where Tony has really grown up, to me, is that [he] didn't pout. He worked every day and was always the first guy on the bench cheering. And I think that's just where our team's at right now. It's really good. Everybody's supporting everybody. That's a good thing."

Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.