As the Boston Celtics try to defend their crown without their superstar forward and team leader, Kevin Garnett, one thing is evident: Ray Allen's inconsistency in this year's postseason has clearly hurt the defending champions.
For the second straight year, the Celtics are being pushed to a decisive Game Seven in their first and second round matchups. Last year, it was the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers that pushed Boston to the edge. This year, it was the pesky Chicago Bulls and now the Orlando Magic.
Last night, the Magic, facing elimination, forced a Game Seven back in Boston with an 83-75 victory in Orlando. On Tuesday night, the Celtics rallied from a 14-point fourth quarter deficit to take a commanding 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series and had a chance to close out Orlando.
Instead, the Magic took care of business on their home floor, getting a 23-point, 22-rebound effort from Dwight Howard to send the series back to the Garden. A major reason for Boston's inability to close out the series? The inconsistency of shooting guard Ray Allen.
As the Celtics are set to play their 14th game of the 2009 NBA Playoffs, it is clear that they win when Allen is on and they lose when Allen struggles. In games where Allen scores less than 10 points, the Celtics are 0-4. In games where he scores 10 or more, Boston is 7-2.
It's simple: When Allen has a lackluster night or his offensive production is down, Boston loses.
Another major inconsistency in Allen's game in this year's postseason has been his three-point shooting. In Boston's playoff losses so far, Allen has shot a pitiful 28 percent from beyond the arc, while in wins he has shot 43 percent. He shot 41 percent from the three-point line in the regular season, so his poor three-point shooting is odd.
Not only has Allen been shooting bad in losses, he has been downright terrible. There has already been four games where he has missed all of his shots from beyond the arc, including an 0-for-seven effort in last night's loss.
He has been having dismal performances for most of the Celtics semifinals series with Orlando. He is shooting 23-for-75 overall in the series, which is an uncharacteristic 30 percent.
Allen shoots 45 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc in his storied career, but hasn't even come close to those numbers in this year's postseason.
He is averaging a meager 39.4 percent from the floor and 34 percent from the three-point line in the 13 games of the Celtics postseason this year, which is very uncharacteristic of his career and typical postseason numbers.
While he is still averaging 17.9 points per game overall in the playoffs, his overall inconsistency has hurt Boston's chances of repeating. He will need to get out of his slump and start helping captain Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo shoulder the offensive load.
Allen's shooting really helps space the floor for the C's and they are at their best when he is knocking down his shots.
If the Boston Celtics want to advance past the second round and have an opportunity to play for their 18th NBA title, they will certainly need Ray Allen and his shooting touch back to full form. With the Big Three not fully intact, they're going to need some consistency from the man they call "Jesus."