Offensively, the Celtics put together a hell of a performance last night. Paul Pierce turned back the clock, putting together a tidy 27 points. Kevin Garnett provided himself as a reliable outlet in the post, hitting 4 of 6 shots in the paint on his way to 18 points. Rajon Rondo attacked the hoop with terrific aggressiveness, hitting 9 of 12 buckets, 6 of which came on layups.
Collectively, the team shot 56 percent, and it was the first time this series the C’s got above average nights from more than two members of The Big Four.
Nonetheless, with the team’s success there is one Celtic storyline that is falling under the radar and that is the outside shooting struggles of Ray Allen.
We all remember how he set the NBA Finals record with 8 3-point attempts made in game 2. Yet it has been easy to overlook just how much Ray has struggled with the deep ball over the rest of this series.
Consider this. After last night, Ray has now missed his last 18 3 point attempts. For Ray, it’s a good thing the Celtics are going to LA, because that’s where Allen left his shooting stroke, last hitting a 3 in the 3rd quarter of the Celtics Game 2 victory.
Now I am sure a lot of people have missed 18 consecutive 3 point attempts in their NBA careers. Hell, I bet Antoine Walker did it multiple times. We aren’t talking about just anyone here though. We are doing about one of the best 3 point shooters in NBA history.
I did some quick research through Ray’s game logs to see if I could find any compare slumps. After three full seasons of wearing Green I couldn’t find any string of games in his Celtic career that came close to Ray missing that many 3 point attempts. In fact, I think it’s a safe bet to say this is likely Ray’s longest 3 point shooting slump of his Hall of Fame career.
A couple things to consider from this development.
1) The Lakers are doing a much better job defending Ray.
Give credit where credit is due here. Ray has had some open looks, but not nearly as many as he accumulated throughout game 2. The Lakers are a strong team defending from beyond the arc, tops of the league during the regular season, so Ray’s struggling a bit shouldn’t be a huge shock.
2) The Celtics Aren’t Reliant on the 3 Ball
I talked a lot about this in a post before the series started:
Unlike 2008, the C’s don’t have to be reliant on the 3 ball in their offense.
Allow me to explain further. You see, for most of this regular season the C’s weren’t a great 3-point shooting team. They were though, terrific at taking shots inside the arc.
In fact, they led the league in that department, hitting their shots 52.3 percent of the time from two-point range. They also took a higher percentage of their field goal attempts as 2 pointers than almost any other team in the league as well, checking in with 79.8 percent of their shots as 2’s throughout the season.
Those trends have continued this postseason, with 78.5% of the C’s shots coming from 2 point range with the C’s hitting 48 percent of those attempts. Not as strong as the regular season, shooting wise, but still very solid numbers.
Noting this, it’s easy to see the C’s are not an offense predicated on shooting the 3 ball. All of their 3-point shooters are capable of creating their own shot inside the arc, and quite simply the team doesn’t have that many three-point shooters.
Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rasheed Wallace and Rajon Rondo a couple times a game. That’s it. To compensate, the C’s have a bench of players like Wallace, Glen Davis and Tony Allen that are capable of creating their own shot, either in the post or driving to the basket. It can be limiting at times for the C’s when their limited number of outside shooters aren’t hitting, but also gives the team more reliable options of scoring the ball as a whole.
Fast forward to five games through this series and you can see the C’s gameplan has been predicated on shooting from the inside thus far. The C’s have only taken 13.6 3 point attempts per game, meaning a whopping 82 percent of their shots this series have come from 2 point range, hitting 49 percent of those 2 attempts.
Thanks to this, the C’s have been playing to their strength in this series, for the most part being unaffected by Ray’s cold shooting, minus his game 3 stinker. Besides Ray, the rest of the C’s have hit their 3’s at a 36 percent, choosing their spots well in taking them, which has helped Boston win multiple games this series.
3) If I’m the Lakers, I’m afraid about Ray over the rest of this series.
There’s two ways of looking at his struggles. One is to be happy about Ray being in a slump and hope you can continue to clamp down on him for the next two games. The Boston fan inside me though knows you can’t keep a great shooter like Ray down for this long, especially with Derek Fisher as his primary defender.
If you told the Lakers before this series started, they would have held Allen to 37 percent shooting from the field and 27 percent from 3 point range they would have taken it in a second. Now that they’ve done that and are still down 3-2 in this series is a sobering reality.
A shooter keeps shooting and Ray Allen is…..well he’s due. He has also come up big countless times this postseason away from TD Garden, especially in the Cleveland series.
I trust Ray to break that consecutive miss streak early on Tuesday Night and if he gets going early, while being surrounded by a similar kind of offensive production we saw out of KG and The Truth in Boston, the Lakers will be able to dust off their golf clubs by mid-week.