WHEN HE was growing up, shooting jump shot after jump shot by himself, 76ers guard Jodie Meeks tried to emulate the play of a pure shooter who was adept at coming off screens, getting his feet set and draining long jumpers.

Last night at the Wells Fargo Center, Meeks started opposite that player. Boston Celtics shooting guard Ray Allen has been drilling jumpers for 14-plus years in the best league in the world, and Meeks still watches, still takes mental notes.

"When I was in grammar school and in middle school, I tried to play my game after him," said Meeks, who made his fourth straight start last night. "I watched him growing up, always moving constantly, coming off screens and pulling the trigger. I kind of [patterned] my game after him."

There are few better for an up-and-coming shooting guard to study. Allen, now 35, has averaged 20.4 points in his career and drained 45 percent of his career three-pointers. He is still one of the deadliest long-range bombers in the NBA, averaging 16.6 this season while shooting fewer than 13 times a game.

"The thing that Jodie can do is, he's the only guy on our team who can come flying off screens and catch that ball and shoot," Sixers coac Doug Collins said. "He's our only legitimate 'two' guard, a guy who can run off screens and do those things.

"Ray Allen and my old broadcast partner, Reggie Miller, are two of the best who have ever done it. And what you learn to do is you learn to read screens. The next thing for Jodie is going to use his speed and then change speeds, get yourself on balance - what is the [defender] doing? Is he shooting the gap on you? Is he chasing you? Ray Allen's seen it all, and so what he'll do is, Ray always goes away from pressure. He doesn't fight pressure, he goes away from pressure. And that's what experience will do."

Experience is something Meeks is soaking up now, which is invaluable to a second-year player who saw limited action last season, including with Milwaukee. In his three starts before last night, Meeks averaged 17 points on 53.1 percent shooting and 13 three-pointers.

"We're hoping Jodie is going to continue to develop," Collins said. "He's been an incredible bright spot for us. He's changed our team. He gives us a dynamic guy out there to start the game that the other teams have to be worried about. If he gets an open shot, they have to be concerned that he's going to knock that thing down. If he can keep emulating Ray Allen, then I'm going to be the happiest man in the world."

Shaq sits out

Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal did not dress last night because of a sore right calf. It was the sixth game the 38-year-old center has missed this season.

"I was going to go old-school and shoot it up, but they wouldn't let me," O'Neal said in the locker room before the game. O'Neal had been taking anti-inflammatory medication to keep the calf under control, but acknowledged that he had taken too much, which caused some stomach problems. So a night off was in order.

"The one good thing about this [coaching] staff is that they see the long picture," O'Neal said. "I've been in it 20 years, and I've been in places where they'd just shoot it up, but they won't do that here, so I'll just rest it, get double treatment and hopefully it will go away."

Never at a loss for words, O'Neal also chimed in on other things.

"When I watch basketball at home with my son, there are only three players I let my son watch - Kobe, LeBron and Blake Griffin," O'Neal said. "As a kid, you always want to watch the best and then try to go outside and practice what those guys did. That's what I did when I was little. I used to watch Kareem, Wilt and Russell."

As for the Sixers, his scouting report was: "They've got that guy - Meeks, Meche, Meeks? - shooting the ball. Iguodala is always a dangerous player."

Rookie Semih Erden, from Turkey, took O'Neal's place in the starting lineup. *