Oh, it was all going so well.
Tony Allen was the hero of the first two rounds of the playoffs. Largely considered an afterthought coming into the season, and a no-show for much of the regular season until Marquis Daniels’ injury history popped up, Allen developed into a huge component for the Celtics off the bench in the first few rounds of the playoffs.
Then, in Orlando, he started to struggle a little bit, and in the first game of the NBA finals, he was an abject disaster. More stunning is that it’s not as if Allen hasn’t been in key positions this postseason. He guarded Dwyane Wade, the Dwyane Wade during the first round, and did time checking LeBron in round two. He was hitting huge shots, making key plays, and playing great defense.
And then melted down in Game 1.
Allen had 4 points on 1-4 shooting, no rebounds, no assists, 1 steal, 1 block, was blocked once, had 2 turnovers and four fouls in 16 minutes in Game 1. That’s a pretty efficient dose of sucking for a guy who was considered to be a huge swing player for the Celtics, helping their bench improve from a weakness to a strength in the playoffs.
Part of Allen’s struggles, obviously, was Kobe Bryant, who if you haven’t heard, is quite good. While Allen’s able to stay with quick guards, Kobe’s at an elite level, and because of the bigs he’s now facing, he’s getting clipped on screen and rolls much harder than he was in the first two rounds. From there it becomes simply a level of increased aggression. The Lakers are playing with a cutthroat sense of urgency the Celtics haven’t faced before and that Allen may not be adjusted to. The fact that he can’t even switch due to Ron Artest’s bullishness and Lamar Odom’s size means that Allen has very little he can provide in terms of matchups. Expect his minutes to decrease in Game 2 unless Doc Rivers really thinks it was just a bad night for TA (along with the entire Celtics team).
Allen may not be a star player, but he’s the kind of player that championship teams need to step up. If he and his bench cohorts can’t make an impact for the Celtics, that’s yet another advantage that goes into the Lakers’ column.