Ray Allen curled to the left corner and found an opening to squeeze off a triple that would have trimmed a late deficit to one.
The shot looked good leaving his hands. Like every other attempt on Tuesday night, it came up short.
Two nights after setting the NBA Finals record for most made three-pointers in a game (eight), he nearly wrote himself into the history books again.
Allen finished 0-13 from the field, one heave shy of tying the all-time mark for attempts without a made basket in a Finals game.
Moments after Allen's last agonizing brick, Derek Fisher ran the length of the floor and banked in a layup as Glen Davis tackled him to give the visiting Lakers an 87-80 lead the Celtics could not overcome.
The fourth-quarter scoring tally: Fisher, 11, Allen, zero.
Sometimes, great shooters produce lamentable efforts. Allen ranks as the best of the best in the long-distance department. With at least one championship on his resume and a stroke that would give Willy Wonka goopy gut, he already stands above Reggie Miller. He can hang with anyone else, from Mark Price to Rick Barry, too.
Tuesday, he couldn't hang with Brian Scalabrine. He converted as many field goals as me and Adam Morrison—combined.
There will come a time, later, when this future Hall of Famer gets a break.
The Celtics already faced a daunting stat after dropping Game One 102-89. Phil Jackson-coached teams are 47-0 when they win the series opener.
Now, Boston must face another: the Game Three victor in a tied series is 10-0 since 1986.
Paul Pierce's prediction on Sunday night might still prove true. "We ain't coming back to L.A.," he yelled to some Lakers fans.
The Eastern Conference Champions will not win another game in this grudge match if Allen and Pierce fail to find the hoop. Should Doc Rivers convene a search party complete with dogs and flashlights to aid them in their expedition?
Rajon Rondo, the undisputed star of these 2010 playoffs, delivered a pedestrian 11-point, eight-assist, three-rebound effort.
When Fisher goes berserk and Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol own the glass when it counts, the Celtics cannot triumph.
Call off the search dogs. Put down the flashlights. Allen, Pierce, and Rondo just need to drain more shots.
The abysmal inaccuracy of Boston's perimeter stars negated a Herculean showing by Kevin Garnett.
The Ticket Stub became the Big Ticket again. He poured in 25 points, snared six rebounds, and drilled clutch jumper after clutch jumper to keep the Celtics within striking distance.
If only Rivers could get all of his rotation players to show up in the same part of the film.
Allen watched most of Game One from the bench because he was saddled with a foul any time one of his hands approached Kobe Bryant. When he managed to keep himself on the court in what seemed to be a series-turning victory in Game Two, he dropped 27 points in the first half alone.
Fisher's stingy defense appears inconsequential, as do the spurts when Bryant tries to chase Allen around screens. In a make-or-miss league, Ray Ray can still make it rain.
When the Celtics needed a momentum shifting triple from him last night, he could not even cause a sprinkle at the TD Garden. As Allen clanged looks he once knocked down in his sleep, Fisher contorted his body and swished several attempts that had to make even Bryant blush.
The Lakers need two more wins to complete their redemption quest, and history says they will find a way. Maybe then, the same rage that consumed Hollywood two years ago will hold Beantown hostage.
The NBA's two storied franchises did not play like finalists in March or April. The Celtics dropped seven of their last 10 regular season games. The Lakers, a supposedly strong defensive unit, lost a nationally-televised home game to the Portland Trail Blazers because Fisher fouled a three-point shooter in the act.
That both squads recovered to become the last two standing is an indictment on the rest of the league. Handsome contract extensions will keep the Lakers' core of Gasol, Bryant, Odom, Andrew Bynum, and Ron Artest in L.A. for at least three more years.
GM Mitch Kupchak should do the right thing and make sure Fisher joins them for another campaign. He must then find another point guard who can play the bulk of the minutes in the regular season.
Retaining Phil Jackson remains the lone off-season obstacle for the defending champs.
A look at the Celtics' laborious summer ahead highlights an uncomfortable reality. The Lakers may boast more circumstantial fuel, but the Celtics need to win this series more than their counterparts.
GM Danny Ainge may have to let Allen, an unrestricted free agent, walk in a month. Who else on this roster can curl or come off those screens and drain treys?
His Game Two shooting clinic drove up his price. His other two dreadful Finals performances show why Ainge might hesitate, per a mandate from ownership, to match the highest bid.
Months after securing banner No. 17, Celtics bosses asked the NBA and JP Morgan-Chase for a significant chunk of a $175 million loan split among 15 teams.
Rumors flew in the following year that Ainge tried to trade Rondo, after he had refused to package the point guard in the seven-for-one Garnett transaction.
Allen's name also surfaced a lot in February. The Celtics, the league's second oldest team behind the Dallas Mavericks, wanted to get younger. Could Allen have been dealt to the Sacramento Kings for Kevin Martin?
No one outside of those two organizations knows how serious those discussions were. We know they happened in some capacity. Ainge likely fielded a number of calls about his 34-year-old dead-eye shooter.
Yet, the Celtics did not pull the trigger on a trade and instead rode out the turbulence until they could land in the playoffs as a four seed. Many of those late-season final scores suggested Boston might rank as the worst 50-win team ever.
The Houston Rockets invaded the Red Auerbach Parquet sans Yao Ming, Kevin Martin (who did end up being traded), Shane Battier, Trevor Ariza, David Anderson, and Jared Jefferies, and they still managed an overtime win.
Allen's diminished quickness and several shooting slumps contributed to these humiliating defeats. The Celtics also would not have advanced beyond the first round without Allen's perimeter touch and veteran savvy.
Boston leads all squads in the playoffs in three-point accuracy. Has any other team ever done that with just one bona fide shooter who gets regular rotation minutes?
Michael Finley plays mostly in garbage time, and Pierce has often lacked the touch.
Nate Robinson? When he feels like it. Tony Allen? He couldn't hit the side of a barn with a large rock. Do you want "Big Baby" Davis jacking up threes? Didn't think so.
The 2008 title team boasted Allen, Eddie House, and James Posey—three players who could spot up in the corners and bag open triples. Pierce, then, was also deadlier from beyond the arc.
Now, when Allen does not make his threes, no one does. He cannot finish around the rim as effectively, and his defense, while admirable, isn't quick-footed enough.
Ainge dangled Allen in trade discussions for much of the season. This time, Allen has all the leverage. If a pending offer from the Celtics insults him, he can pack up and go somewhere else.
The unwavering chemistry between the "Big Three"-turned-"Big Four" allowed the Celtics to hammer the teams with the two best records in successive series. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic would not dare count Boston out now.
They, too, supposedly boasted rosters the elderly Celtics could not handle. Oops.
The other best shooters on the market this summer—J.J. Redick and Kyle Korver—can light it up from three. They cannot, however, star the way Allen does.
No great replacement for Allen exists. As long as Pierce and Garnett anchor the front-court with Kendrick Perkins, that will remain the case.
The Celtics need him, but can they afford him?
The melancholic answer that becomes more of a possibility with each Finals contest should infuriate this veteran squad more than losing to the Lakers.
Then the entire roster could curl up in the left corner and just scream.
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