Ray Allen got shut down by the Lakers’ defense in Game Three of the NBA Finals Tuesday night.
He didn’t get slowed down, or defended well—he got 100 percent shut down, like someone pulled his plug out of the wall.
One game after putting on the greatest shooting performance ever in an NBA Finals game, Allen was denied a field goal on 0-13 shooting, including 0-8 from behind the arc.
He finished with two points, connecting on his only free throw attempts of the game.
So, what changed for the Lakers defense in Game Three?
Well, clearly the Zen Master, Phil Jackson played a game of "pick your poison," and played it quite well.
The Lake show allowed Kevin Garnett to shine like it was 2004 again. They dared Paul Pierce to beat Ron Artest or Lamar Odom one-on-one. They let Derek Fisher take Rajon Rondo. The big men battled each other. But Kobe Bryant wasn’t going to let Ray Allen embarrass him again.
The Lakers loss in Game Two was their first home loss of the season. Allen’s eight three-pointers, an NBA Finals best, was not just a series-equalizing performance, it was a slap in the face, a slap in Kobe’s face.
Los Angeles seemed content letting the other Celtics players do their best to beat them in Game Three. The big mission was shutting down Allen, the catalyst on Boston’s Game Two win.
If Game Three is any indication, Boston could be some serious trouble for the rest of this series.
The Celtics’ high pick-and-roll with Rondo and Garnett was most effective in the first two games because the speedy point guard was getting past his man.
This afforded Boston a miniature two-on-one, with Rondo heading to the basket, with Allen in the corner, and Bryant the lone defender.
Even if he had an space, Allen was going to knock down the corner jumper, forcing Bryant to stay with him and allow for Rondo to get an easy layup or set up a big man after someone like Pau Gasol switched to cover him.
In Game Three, LA’s help defense covered Rondo well, not allowing the pass to a big man down low.
Instead, the Lakers gave Boston a different option. After Garnett sets the high screen for Rondo, he popped out for a 20-foot jump shot. KG finished Game Three with 25 points, which the Lakers clearly didn’t mind.
After all, Paul Pierce, Rondo, and Allen combined for 28 points, which is hardly enough to beat the Lakers.
Moving forward to Game Four, and the rest of the series, Boston is going to need to mix up the scoring much better, or perhaps recognize who to get the ball to. The Lakers have scoring options coming out of their ears, with Bryant, Gasol, Odom, Artest, and now add Fisher to that list.
But Boston kept giving the ball to Allen Tuesday night, when he was clearly the wrong guy to keep feeding. (Umm… where was Paul Pierce?)
Pierce needs to wake up and take some of the pressure off Allen if Boston is going to hang around past Game Five.
The Celtics’ scoring has been very balanced, with four guys who can potentially put up the most points in any given game, but maybe it has been too balanced.
Allen’s lights-out performance in Game Two was spectacular, as was Rondo’s triple-double. The Celtics’ offense clicked as a unit in Game Two, and that’s how they beat the Lakers.
This means, no more Paul Pierce one-on-one basketball all night, no more banking on Ray Allen to break shooting records every night, and certainly no more hoping Rajon Rondo can post a triple double.
The Celtics need to adjust, both in-game and between games. They have four very potent weapons in their lineup, they just need to figure out which ones to use at the right times.