Last season the Boston Celtics proved that the start of the season is irrelevant; it is the end that matters. Even though they had a vicarious start, it ended in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. A loss there was not the result they were after, but it is better than the Cleveland Cavaliers, who had the most wins in the NBA last season but finished in the second round.
One of the reasons that the Cavaliers dropped the ball 40 yards from a clear touchdown was attributed to their superstar LeBron James’ subpar performance that eventually led to Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert incurring a $100,000 David Stern slap on the wrist for some erstwhile comments after James later spurned Cleveland to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.
Gilbert also stated that James “quit” during the playoffs where they were leading the series 2-1, but Boston eventually rallied to take the series in six games, including a 32-point blowout in Game 5.
"He quit," Gilbert said. "Not just in Game 5, but in Games 2, 4 and 6. Watch the tape. The Boston series was unlike anything in the history of sports for a superstar."
But James was not the only player who was “not quite himself” in the playoffs. It could be argued that like James, Ray Allen was just not himself in the NBA Finals. Allen, a career 45 percent shooter, shot only 36.7 percent from three-point range, including a game where he went 0-13 (0-8 on three pointers) for two points on free throws.
One game he set the NBA Finals record for most consecutive three-pointers and most three-pointers made, but two days later he could barely graze the rim. Pau Gasol may have blocked one or two of his three-point attempts, but he also missed open shots that were normally a cinch.
"I do think the Lakers did a better job of coming out on me," Allen said. "I didn't get the open looks that I did in the first game. I missed the first couple of shots. Then they got their hands on a couple more. I know Pau Gasol got one. As the game went on I kept shooting and kept coming up short. I never felt like I was out of rhythm."
Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com broke down that erroneous Game 3 of the NBA Finals, and he reckoned that the Lakers deserved most of the credit for employing an “anybody but Ray” tactic. But from the video (if you are able to see it) you can see that Allen had a few good looks.
Another theory is that Allen’s young son Walker is a diagnosed diabetic, and it was reported that Allen and his wife were up late prior to Game 5 of the Finals taking care of the infant. Diabetes is not life threatening if treated properly, but still that is a distraction for a player who depends on fluid mechanics to get the job done.
A shooter's greatest ally is a short memory, but Allen was unable to forget he was in a slump, nor did he have the usual shooter’s swagger. Maybe the pressure was too much. Since trading away Eddie House, the Celtics have not had a reliable shooter except for Paul Pierce.
Pierce did win the three-point competition at the All-Star Break and shot 41.4 percent for the season on threes, but somehow there was a lot more pressure to shoot the ball well. This could be down to Ron Artest and the Lakers' defense on Pierce, or that Paul fell in love with the “pump fake until they foul me” move that was as effective as rowing upstream without a paddle in the Finals.
Unlike James, whose performance was blamed on a devastating rumor regarding Delonte West and his mother, no excuse has been revealed regarding Ray Allen, who lost his shot. That’s like Charles Barkley turning up for work 100 pounds lighter and no one commenting on it!
Allen became a free agent in the offseason and quietly resigned with the Celtics at a modest price of $20 million over two years. The 34-year-old shooting guard could have commanded higher earnings had he left Boston, considering that teams were flushed with money after failing to sign James, Bosh, or Wade.
Good news for Allen is that the Celtics signed Delonte West, another guard that can spell Allen and provide effective scoring off the bench, which means they will not rely on Allen too heavily.
Ray Allen’s job going into the season is to forget that this game ever happened and keep firing away.