Ray Allen's Barrage Helps Bury Lakers
He doesn't scowl, snarl or even smirk. When the Boston shooting guard lets his personality manifest itself in any sort of physical way on the public front, it's usually with a smile, sometime between when he's offering extra time to the fans and the media. His role in "He Got Game" not withstanding, he's anything but Hollywood. He is, and has been for all of his 15 seasons in the league, the anti-Kobe Bryant in that sense.
Except in one area: his deceivingly-deadly ability to dominate.
For all the premature talk of Bryant's alleged decline, Allen reminded us that he's not done yet either as the Celtics evened the NBA Finals with a 103-94 win over the Lakers on Sunday night at Staples Center.
At 34 years old, and just months away from his own boss having nearly cut this AARP party short by trading him, he ran off screens and rose up for silky-smooth threes during a well-timed return to his future Hall of Famer form. His 32 points had come mostly in the first half, giving much-needed life to the Celtics after their opener left so little reason to expect this sort of series that suddenly looks primed to go seven games.
Allen scored 27 by halftime, when he hit his first seven three-pointers that put Boston up by as many as 14 points. By the end, Allen's eight three-pointers (on 11 attempts) broke a Finals record of seven he previously tied in 2008 and shared with former Houston Rockets guard Kenny Smith (1995) and ex-Chicago Bulls forward Scottie Pippen (1997).
And even if the rumor of LeBron James' attendance had come true, Allen -- who is a free-agent-to-be just like the Cleveland star -- would have been the most valuable player in the building on this night.
"I was feeling good out there," Allen said as he walked out of the arena. "But there's nothing [better] than being able to have this feeling after the game, being able to sit back and soak in the battle that we just had, the fun that we just had in winning. You're completely depleted after the game, but the celebration is always after the fact. It would've sucked to play or have the record or shoot the way I shot if we didn't win the game. I felt like I had still an opportunity to really go out and inject myself in the series and do what I can to help my teammates."
He was the anti-Kobe in that sense, too, with Bryant dealing with significant foul trouble early this time around (three by halftime) just as Allen had in the opener. And therein laid the reason Allen was smiling again.
Before tip-off on Sunday, Allen shrugged at the way in which he was taken out of the equation in Game 1, when he had 12 points on 3-of-8 shooting and played just 27 minutes. The foul trouble took him off the floor, and the Lakers wasted no time running his teammates off of it as well while he sat and stewed.
He tried to play golf the following day, only to give up on that venture when his thoughts and focus were obsessed with rectifying the troubling way in which his series began. He was even out of character in the extensive media sessions, surly by his standards and eager to get through the nonsense and take the floor again.
"He's a perfectionist," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "If you watched him yesterday and in the last two days, he took a million shots. It's no coincidence that the great shooters ... work on it more. You look on the TV early in the game, [and] you see Kobe before everybody is out there shooting. Ray shows up three hours before every game. There's a reason they can shoot."
Bryant had just 21 points on 8-of-20 shooting, tallying five rebounds, six assists and five turnovers before reverting to his 2004 form when asked about Ray's performance. Back before Bryant's transformation as an overall player that just so happened to coincide with the arrival of Pau Gasol in 2008, he was accused by Allen of playing selfishly after a 2004 preseason game in the first season after the departure of Shaquille O'Neal. Bryant didn't take kindly to Allen's assessment then, saying "I'm tired of talking about Ray. Next question."
This time, it took two questions to get a short assessment of Ray's outing from Bryant.
"You try to take the ball out of his hands as much as possible," Bryant said. "He's catching it. You've got to try and deny him and force him off his sweet spots. He was hot."
The real answer to this question, of course, may be to put Bryant back on Allen for Game 3. Lakers coach Phil Jackson has opted to use Bryant on point guard Rajon Rondo to this point, with that approach hardly working as Rondo finished what Allen started in his triple-double night (19 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists).
He didn't indicate that any change is on the horizon, instead complaining that the officiating had everything to do with Allen's outburst.
"Well you know, when they take away any bumps, when Fish is trying to make him divert his path and they don't allow him to do that, they call fouls on Fish and that really gives him an opportunity to take whatever route he wants to make off the pickers, that really makes it very difficult," Jackson said. "That makes for a totally different type of ballgame."
And suddenly, this is a very different type of series, perhaps more reminiscent of the Celtics' six-game win in 2008 than we thought. Allen, for one, hadn't played this well on this sort of stage since that deciding win on the Garden floor, when he had 26 points on 7-of-12 shooting and hit 7 of 9 threes.
"[His performance] is definitely right up there because there's no better place, moment, time to play a game, to win a game, and to win in a great fashion where everybody has to do it together as a team," Allen said when asked where it ranked in his illustrious career. "This is definitely the time. This is definitely our time."