Ray Allen Goes From Gunner to Goat
Kevin Garnett was jawing with Derek Fisher, no doubt questioning him and the official on an offensive foul that stole Boston's last chance at Game 3 of the NBA Finals with 32 seconds left. Allen had kept rolling to the hoop off the high screen, the Celtics guard all alone when he blew a layup that -- had the whistle not been blown -- would have cut the Lakers' lead to three.
Call it the mercy miss.
The loss was bad enough, with the Lakers' 91-84 win at TD Banknorth Garden dimming the lights on this electric city while giving them the 2-1 lead. Allen was even worse, missing all 13 of his attempts just one game after setting a Finals record with eight three-pointers in Game 2.
But had Allen missed just one more time, he would made history on consecutive outings in the most contrasting of ways.
Only two players have ever gone 0 for 14 in the Finals: Baltimore's Chick Reiser at Philadelphia in 1948 (pre-shot clock) and Seattle's Dennis Johnson in Game 7 against Washington in 1978 (post-shot clock).
That was no consolation to Allen, who was greeted afterward by a media mob that nearly filled the entire Celtics locker room. The night had been so disastrous, so unexpected, so crushing to his team's much-needed momentum, that there were whispers among reporters about whether one of the league's most media-friendly players would talk at all.
A towel-wearing Allen ducked in and out of the locker room twice before the discussion would begin, a towel around his waist and the impending scrutiny closing in on his neck. The group of reporters grew to absurd proportions before he finally appeared in his suit, the mass of bodies making it even harder for Allen to maneuver than Fisher and his Lakers teammates had during play.
"I though they did a good job defensively," Allen began. "That's why you always have to be humble. When things go great, it's great to be a part of, but you've got to make sure you make good decisions moving forward and continue working on things you need to do to be good in the future ... I never hang my head. Tomorrow is always another opportunity to get back on track. I've got to tip my hat off to them. They took a lot of the easier, open looks I had last time away."
From 32 points to two, Allen's story couldn't have been more different this time. According to the Associated Press, Allen's previous worst shooting game in the regular or postseason was 0 for 9 against Memphis on Jan. 4, 2008. Since 1991-92, no player has ever shot worse than 0 for 10 in a playoff game, that dishonor belonging to Patrick Ewing on May 28, 1994, against Indiana and Charles Barkley on May 13, 1995, against Houston.
"I know the game is on TV, and everybody is watching, but there's no script to it," Boston small forward Paul Pierce said. "Just because you do one thing one game doesn't mean it's going to happen the next ... You can't simulate what goes on in the game. You can't go out there and shoot a million shots, but you can't put a crowd in the stands, with a championship moment and defense on there. It's the way the game goes sometimes ... There's no script to this."
Allen was hit by an Artest knee in the first half and said it may have affected his lift, but the more obvious truth was the Lakers had simply taken their defense to a new level. As was the case in the second half of Game 2, their big men showed harder when the Celtics' stagger screens entered their area, with Pau Gasol even getting his fingers on a couple of Allen's early looks.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers stood by his player during and after the game. Allen logged 42 minutes, and even had a shot at redemption down the stretch with the Lakers up 84-80. After Allen and Glen Davis doubled Kobe Bryant and forced a missed jumper, Allen found himself with a sliver of space in the left corner as Ron Artest quickly closed.
Allen fired away, and then misfired, his attempt short like so many before it. Moments later, Fisher's late heroics were capped with an ensuing three-point play that stretched the lead to seven with 48 seconds left.
And Rivers, quite remarkably, found himself defending his use of Allen just one game after heaping endless praise upon him following one of his finest playoff moments.
"We didn't need a three (on that play from Allen), but it was open," Rivers said. "If he didn't have a shot, it was going to go right back down the post to Kevin [Garnett]. We liked the motion. We liked the movement. Listen, he was open. I don't mind that shot at all."
Yet the more fitting end would have involved Garnett, whose breakout game (25 points on 11-of-16 shooting) was wasted by not only Allen but Pierce (15 points on 5-of-12 shooting) as he struggled once again with Artest but also with Luke Walton. Garnett had thrown fuel on an already-fiery Celtics crowd early when his three explosive -- yes, Pau, we said "explosive" -- scores helped Boston jump out to a 12-5 lead some four minutes in.
But a 32-8 Lakers run that lasted until midway through the second quarter followed, with the jumbotron noise meter quickly plummeting from "Garden Level" to "Thunderous" to Silent Garden status.
Meanwhile, Allen and the Celtics were quieted once again in the story of this series.
To follow Sam on Twitter, go to @samickFanHouse or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.