As the Celtics look to move on from their Game 3 loss, they can find some redemption in how much they were able to accomplish with so little going right. As much as I’d like to say that Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were smothered by the Lakers’ defense, that doesn’t quite do justice to just how much the shooting of the two left to be desired.
L.A. clearly learned a few things after Ray Allen turned Game 2 into a resume-builder, as the Laker bigs did a better job of preventing open looks and the guards a superior job of chasing him down. But even a team of the world’s most disciplined defenders won’t prevent Ray from getting open at some point, and on numerous occasions Allen found himself open beyond the arc or within it.
Clearly, something was different in Game 3. Allen elevated in idyllic form — his back a straight, steady, and perfectly vertical support from which his arms would heave yet another faultless attempt — but his shots met a less idyllic result. Ray just…missed. Quite a few times, actually. There weren’t flaws in his mechanics, but only the reality that no matter how good of a shooter Allen is or could ever hope to be, he’s going to have nights like this one. Obviously it’d be preferable if those nights didn’t come during the NBA finals, but what are you going to do.
Pan to Paul Pierce, one Celtic capable of making up for Allen’s poor shooting with a three-point assault of his own or another well-timed scoring explosion. Yet Paul wasn’t much help, either. He too missed some very makeable shots — some of them wide open — and finished with just 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting. His three hits from outside were much-needed, but this is the second straight performance in this series where Pierce has failed to produce in the scoring column, with his only fault being his inability to hit the shots he’s worked so hard to get.
This is Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, two fine scorers, both going cold at just the wrong time. They’re getting open, they’re getting the shots they want (on some occasions, but not all), but the ball just can’t find its way through the net. Factor in a decent but somewhat uninspired performance by Rajon Rondo, and it’s easy to understand why the Celtics lost in Boston: they were waiting on the arrival of two heroes that never showed.
Still, the nature of the Celtics’ struggles should leave Boston fans somewhat optimistic. Everything that transpired in Game 3 can be fixed with some troubleshooting and a bit of luck, and should Pierce and Allen return to form for Game 4, we could see another tiebreaker as both 2-2 teams square off in Game 5. You’d have to think that both Celtics would be able to rebound from their poor Game 3 performances in one way or another, and if not, Boston will have to get creative in using the mere threat of their offense to open up opportunities for Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Rasheed Wallace, and others.
That’s where things could get a bit dicey. The bad news is that the Celtics don’t have a ton of weapons, and thus they need the scorers they do have to produce. The good news is that the scorers they do have are so experienced and so skilled, that it’s extremely unlikely they’ll be kept down for a significant portion of this series. Even if Ron Artest is playing tough defense and the entire Laker team is aware of Allen’s cuts and streaks, Paul and Ray are plenty capable of rebounding in Game 4.