Foul Trouble Reduces Ray Allen to Spectator in Game 1 of NBA Finals
LOS ANGELES -- Most of us expected these Finals between the Lakers and the Celtics to be as physical as they come, and it didn't take long at all for that to be demonstrated on the basketball court.
Just 27 seconds into the game, Ron Artest and Paul Pierce got tangled up -- basically wrestling each other to the ground -- before play was stopped and the officials stepped in.
The ever-harmless double technical fouls were assessed to Pierce and Artest, but that early play set the tone for the rest of the first quarter, if not for the entire game.
Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Derek Fisher, and Ray Allen each picked up two personal fouls in the tightly-whistled first quarter, resulting in early trips to the bench for each. But the foul trouble seemed to have the most profound effect on Allen, who never was able to get into a rhythm after being forced out of the game early on.
"I watched the game from the sideline tonight," Allen said. "It was frustrating. I got a bad whistle tonight. What can you do?"
Doc Rivers echoed that sentiment, and agreed that Allen's game was thrown off due to the early foul problems.
"Ray didn't have a chance to play tonight," Rivers said. "He was in foul trouble the entire game and it took his rhythm off. He actually started out the game like he was going to have a big game, but then he picked up the fouls. We have to make an adjustment there, that's for sure."
The Celtics need Ray Allen's offense if they're going to have any chance at all in this series. Not to overreact too much to what we saw in Game 1, but with the Lakers holding huge advantages in points in the paint (48-30), rebounding (42-31), and second-chance points (16-0), it's clear that for Boston to win, they're going to need all of their offensive weapons on the floor for as many minutes as possible -- and productive minutes, at that.
Ray Allen needs to stay on the floor for more than the 27 minutes he managed in Game 1 -- he averaged 39.5 minutes per game against Cleveland and Orlando over the last two rounds of the playoffs -- and he needs to be more involved offensively, especially from three-point range.
The Celtics were just 1 for 10 from three in Game 1, and Allen by himself was 13 for 31 from beyond the arc in the Eastern Conference finals against the Magic. They'll need that type of offensive infusion in this series, because Boston is likely to slow the Lakers' offense only so much -- at some point, the Celtics are going to need to get to a minimum threshold of points scored to have any chance at winning. And whatever that magic number is, they simply cannot get there without any help from Ray Allen.
For Allen to stay in play, something has to change for the Celtics defensively. Sure, he might have had the toughest individual assignment in trying to slow Kobe Bryant, but it's really a team effort, which is something Allen spoke to afterward.
"Well, it's a team challenge," Allen said of trying to defend Bryant. "Just like playing D-Wade, LeBron, Dwight ... I've just got to follow the game plan, keep him in front of me."
Easier said than done on most nights, especially when from a team defense standpoint, the help simply isn't there.
"A lot of times it's positioning," Allen said. "If they attack one of us on a drive to the basket, it's important -- we've done it all playoffs -- it's important that we keep a tight paint behind the defense.
"You make sure if your guy's going to drive you see a wall behind you, and the times that they attacked us, we didn't have a wall up. And a lot of times, it's putting a lot of pressure on that guy guarding the ball. So we've got to do a better job all around."
There's no question that the Celtics will have to do much better defensively in Game 2 if they are going to beat this Lakers team. But they will have to do it as a team, and have to do it in a way that will keep Allen -- one of their two biggest offensive threats on the floor -- out of foul trouble and into the flow of the offense.
That definitely wasn't the case in Game 1, where Allen felt more like a spectator than a participant.
"I had five fouls, two in the first quarter. In the first half I'm sitting down, then three in the fourth, so it was like playing from behind the whole time," Allen said. "Once I got into foul trouble, the trend of the game took shape, and once that happened, it was like I was watching from the outside looking in."