Allen makes up for lost time
After a difficult Game 1, Celtics sharpshooter was determined to contribute in Game 2
LOS ANGELES -- He had felt like a spectator in Game 1, watching the game like the rest of us. Continual foul trouble effectively neutered Ray Allen in the opener of the NBA Finals. Twenty-seven minutes represents a veritable cameo, barely enough time to break a sweat and not nearly enough time to make a difference.
In the two days leading up to Game 2, all Allen wanted was another chance, not to mention some wiggle room when the game began. He was not a happy man at either of the Celtics' practices. He couldn't clear his addled brain even on the golf course, where he is known to have peace of mind as well as a sound game. He simply had trouble letting go -- of the Game 1 loss and the fact that he did very little to help his team or impact the outcome.
While much of the attention heading into Game 2 was justifiably focused on the status/health of Kevin Garnett after his Game 1 eyesore, there was no such alarm about Allen. He simply hadn't had a chance in Game 1. He had 12 points, no three-pointers and way too much time on the bench.
He got his opportunity in Game 2 and he certainly made up for lost time. He set an NBA Finals record for 3-pointers, eight, with seven coming in a 27-point first half. He finished with a game-high 32 points, and the Celtics are back in the NBA Finals thanks to a 103-94 victory in Game 2.
"I felt like I was in limbo [after Game 1]. For [Game 2], I just focused on being the best team player that I could,'' Allen said.
And he can be pretty good. We've seen this before, of course. He vaporized the Heat in Game 2, scoring 25 points in 33 minutes and knocking down seven 3-pointers. He had the 51 against the Bulls last year.
The Lakers have even seen it before. He made seven 3-pointers in the 2008 series clincher in Boston. It was a performance made all the more remarkable because he had to spend an extra day in Los Angeles and then take a redeye home in time for Game 6 after spending time in the hospital because his son had just been diagnosed with juvenile diabetes.
There was no such drama this time around. Allen served notice from the outset that his voice was going to be heard, scoring 10 in the first period, or almost as many as he had in Game 1. Then came the Vesuvius-like second period: 17 points, five 3-pointers and a double-digit Celtics lead. The Lakers ran everyone at him -- Derek Fisher, Ron Artest, Kobe Bryant -- but Allen was able to find his spots and Rajon Rondo was able to get him the ball.
"There's so much going on out there, from great screens being set to misdirection plays,'' said Allen, who made 11 of 20 shots, 8 of 11 from international waters. "Everybody is making sharp cuts. I thought they did everything they could to keep me from shooting 3s, and they worked tirelessly. But we were setting great screens and I was getting to my spots."
And at the point of almost every Allen launch, the entire Staples Center went into collective inhale (except for Leo DiCaprio, who was texting). It wasn't any noisier when the shots went down, either.
"It makes me a better coach, I can tell you that,'' Doc Rivers said. "When you draw up those plays and he makes them, you feel a lot smarter. Ray is a perfectionist. If you had seen him at practice over the last two days, he took a million shots. It's no coincidence that the great shooters are great shooters. They work on it more. Ray shows up three hours before every game and he's out there, shooting. There's a reason he can shoot. He believes in it and we believe in it."
Allen got the Celtics rolling in the first half. ("He saved us,'' Rivers said.) Kevin Garnett got the Ray Game 1 treatment, picking up two quick fouls en route to a basically useless night. Paul Pierce didn't make a basket until the third quarter and was 2-of-11. Someone had to score, and Allen happily -- and, in his mind, finally -- was able to deliver.
"I can't say enough about what Ray did for us, especially in the first half,'' Rondo said. "He carried us the whole way. Guys were in foul trouble. We were playing on the edge, but Ray, he held us through it. He took over the game. It was fun to watch. I just tried to give him the ball on time and on target when he needed it."
The night had a redemptive feel for Allen, even though no one blamed him in the slightest for his foul troubles in Game 1. Those were the results of questionable calls (at least two of the five) and it had been almost unbearable for him to have to sit and watch the Celtics self-destruct, unable to help.
"The other night [Game 1] was frustrating,'' he said. "[Not] being a part of a game that I was so looking forward to. We didn't make it this far last year, so the anticipation was so great. It was tough on the sideline. I was just trying to root them [his teammates] on. I felt great. I just never got into a rhythm."
And Allen is all about rhythm. He missed his first shot in Game 2, then coolly knocked down a 20-footer from the baseline. Then came back-to-back 3-pointers (the second off a Rajon Rondo pass) and he was, as they like to say, feelin' it.
"I have not seen him much warmer,'' Rivers marveled.
"It's definitely right up there,'' Allen said, when asked to rate his performance. "There's no better place, no better moment or time to play a game, to win a game, and to win it in great fashion."
And as if to underscore the difference between the first two games, Allen played 43½ minutes, his high in the postseason in a non-overtime game, and more than anyone else on either team. Not bad for someone who is going to turn 35 in six weeks.
Longtime Celtics reporter Peter May is a contributor to ESPNBoston.com.
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