LOS ANGELES - Thanks to foul trouble, a frustrated Ray Allen barely touched the basketball in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. But it seemed like he had it every possession in the first half of Game 2.
Allen hit his first seven 3-pointers of the game Sunday night and finished with eight on the evening, setting a new NBA Finals record in the process. He dropped 27 of his 32 points before halftime and carried the Celtics to a 54-48 lead at the break, positioning his team to withstand a Lakers run and then finish them off in the final minutes for a 103-94 win that tied the series at 1-1 and stole home court advantage.
Ray Allen pulls up from downtown on a night where he set a new Finals record for most 3s in a game with eight.
"He was unbelievable. He just looked like a basketball player who was...somebody took his ball last game," Celtics Captain Pierce said after watching the display from Allen, who had just 12 points while coping with foul trouble in Game 1 on Thursday. "I think he wanted to come out here and prove something and I think he showed us that Ray Allen is a future Hall of Famer and one of the greatest shooters to ever play."
Allen's epic shooting night (11-for-20 on FGs, 8-for-11 on 3FGs) once again proved something nobody's ever disputed: that he's one of the most deadly marksmen in the game. The guy gets to the gym three hours before every game to "get shots up" as he likes to say, and that preparation before tip off continues to pay dividends.
And despite how easy he made it look after tip off, Allen explained that getting open looks isn't as simple as the Lakers just leaving him open or forgetting he's on the floor.
"You know, getting the threes up in the air, it was like somebody you look up and I'm shooting a three and everybody is probably thinking, 'how did this guy get them?' But there's so much going on out there from great screens being set to misdirection plays," Allen said. "I thought they did everything they could to keep me from shooting threes and they worked tirelessly. We were setting great screens and I was getting to my spots."
On the biggest stage basketball has to offer, Allen came through when the Celtics needed him most as they bounced back from their Game 1 stinker. Allen said he spent the last few days constantly fixated on what he needed to do better in Game 2.
"I was upset," Allen said of his letdown in Game 1. "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 need to do to be better. So when I went and practiced yesterday, I spoke with most of you yesterday, and I wasn't in the best of moods because I was ready to practice. I was ready to get through practice and do the things we need to do at least to relieve some of the tension that we had as a team and I had individually."
Stealing a game in Los Angeles certainly broke that tension. With the Finals headed back to Boston for the next three games, the Celtics have taken control of the series.
That same tension was written all over Kobe Bryant's face when he met the media after the game. With his cheek resting on his hand, a seething Bryant was deliberately short with his retorts.
"You try to take the ball out of his hands as much as possible," Bryant said of Allen. "[If] he's catching it, you've got to try to deny him and force him off his sweet spots.
"He was hot."
Hot? After his first four threes went down, Allen proceeded to hit three more consecutive heat-check shots that bordered on molten lava scorching hot.
Whether he was coming off curls, freeing himself on double-screens, or just trailing point guard Rajon Rondo on the break, Allen was ubiquitous, draining threes without hesitation to lead a suddenly potent Celtics attack. Derek Fisher, who did his best to check a zig-zagging Allen with Bryant covering Rondo, took a beating on multiple picks, screens and collisions with the Celtics big men, who seemed to take pleasure in picking him off at every turn.
The Lakers aren't the first team to use a shooting guard against Rondo and take their chances that Allen won't just shoot over the top of their point guard; they used the tactic in the 2008 Finals as well. And they're not the first team to get burned on the gamble either.
"Teams have done it all year, so it's nothing new putting a big guy on Rondo and a smaller guy on Ray, and every time they do that, we feel we can give Ray shots, and that's what happened," Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said. "Obviously it's a lot better when he's on the floor. Ray couldn't play the last game. He was in foul trouble the entire game. Tonight he was able to play. He stayed in his rhythm, and we got him great shots."
Allen's seventh three, a transition bomb that put the Celtics ahead 52-39, had the C's sitting pretty and poised to take a big lead into the locker room. But the Lakers wrapped a 16-2 run around the halftime break and took the lead at 57-56 with 10:02 to play in the third on a Pau Gasol baseline jumper.
The Lakers finally did a better job of containing Allen in the second half, only to watch Rondo finish them off with an impressive triple-double. Rondo tallied 19 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.