LOS ANGELES – After a 102-89 loss in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers knew his team wouldn’t be able to compete against the Los Angeles Lakers without Ray Allen on the floor.
“Ray has to play,” Rivers said. “We have to get Ray the ball.” Boy, did they ever.
Allen had one of the greatest shooting performances in NBA Finals history, hitting eight three-pointers and scoring a game-high 32 points in the Celtics 103-94 Game 2 victory Sunday night at Staples Center. The Celtics handed the Lakers their first loss at home this postseason and tied the series at 1-1.
“Well, starting the game off, you don’t want that first shot to be a three-pointer,” Allen said on his hot shooting from beyond the arc. “You want to try to work your way into the game. But if it has to be, it has to be.”
With each Allen swish, the Celtics managed to wrangle the momentum that the Lakers stole following a dominating Game 1 victory on Thursday.
Before you knew it, Allen had made his first seven three-pointers before halftime, breaking Michael Jordan’s NBA Finals record for the most three-pointers in a half.
“Yeah, I do remember that,” Allen said on watching Jordan make six first half three-pointers against the Portland Trailblazers in Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals. “I’m going to tell him that his were a lot easier.”
All in all, Allen had 27 points on 7-for-8 shooting from three-point range at halftime.
When Allen hit his eighth three-pointer with 4:39 remaining in the third quarter, he set a new NBA Finals record for most three-pointers in a game. Allen along with Kenny Smith (1995) and Scottie Pippen (1997) held the previous record with seven.
“It’s definitely right up there because there’s no better place, moment, time to play a game, to win a game,” Allen said on his record night.
It was a far cry from Thursday, in which the shooting guard was relegated to the bench because of foul trouble and had just 12 points on 3-for-8 shooting. Allen had made more field goals (4) in the first 7:08 of Game 2 than he did in all of Game 1 (3).
“If you watched him yesterday and the last two days, he took a million shots,” Rivers said. “It’s no coincidence that the great shooters are great shooters; they work on it more.”
Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson rolled the dice and placed the 6-foot-1 Derek Fisher on the 6-foot-5 Allen. Kobe Bryant was left to contain Rajon Rondo, and he didn’t fare much better against the Celtics point guard. Rondo recorded his fifth postseason triple-double with 19 points, a team-high 12 rebounds, 10 assists and a key 20-foot jump shot with 1:50 left to put the Celtics up 95-90.
“They both were terrific,” Rivers said on Allen and Rondo. “Rondo did a terrific job of finding him [Ray]. He saved us in the first half with Kevin in foul trouble, Paul struggling. We needed points and Ray gave them to us.”
Based on his demeanor at practice on Friday and Saturday, Allen’s performance shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Teammate Tony Allen describe Allen as quiet the last couple of days, as if he was stewing over his Game 1 showing.
“Well, I was upset,” Allen said. “The way I went into practice yesterday and the day before, I was disappointed that obviously we lost. I was trying to think of the things that I needed to do to be better.”
If Allen thinks of more things to do to be better, it could spell the end for the Los Angeles Lakers.