For Boston's Ray Allen, it is the best of times and the worst of times. Allen's record-setting performance in Game 2 is now quickly forgotten after missing all 13 of his field goal attempts, eight from beyond the arc, in Game 3's 91-84 loss to the Lakers to give LA a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals. Kobe Bryant and his pals will try and grab a stranglehold on the champsionship series in Game 4 at TD Garden on Thursday.
Paul Pierce said the NBA Finals wouldn’t be going back to Los Angeles. He could still be right.
Pierce and the Boston Celtics find themselves down 2-1 to the Lakers in their best-of-seven series after L.A. came up with a 91-84 victory Tuesday night, the first of three straight games at the TD Garden. The Celtics were 3-point favorites at the open, but by tip-off, the spread was down to 2½ points under pressure from sharp bettors riding the zigzag theory. And what a zigzag this was – almost the mirror image of Game 2 at Staples Center.
First and foremost, there was Ray Allen. After setting an NBA Finals record with eight 3-pointers in Game 2, Allen shot 0-for-8 from downtown and 0-for-13 overall in Game 3. With Allen struggling, it was the Lakers jumping out to a 17-point lead in the first half, only to nearly give it all back in the second before pulling away late.
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And instead of Boston point guard Rajon Rondo sealing the deal, it was L.A. point guard Derek Fisher with 11 fourth-quarter points.
The madness didn’t stop there. Kevin Garnett (25 points on 11-of-16 shooting with six rebounds) and Lamar Odom (12 points on 5-of-5 shooting with five rebounds) both had excellent games for their respective teams after being nearly invisible at Staples. And to cap it all off, the Lakers went to forgotten man Luke Walton early after Ron Artest picked up a pair of quick fouls to start the first quarter. Walton played 13 useful minutes and finished the night at plus-13.
Odom’s resurfacing may be just the lifeline the Lakers needed. Andrew Bynum (nine points, 10 rebounds) was played sparingly in the second half and appeared to be favoring his swollen right knee. The Lakers offense nearly fell apart in the fourth quarter before Fisher caught fire, but Odom’s defense at the other end helped keep Boston’s comeback incomplete. Bynum only has one day off to heal before Thursday’s Game 4, so Odom becomes that much more important to L.A. supporters.
That’s if there are any L.A. supporters for Game 4. The first wave of betting odds on the board has the Celtics laying three points with a total of 191, and if the zigzag pattern holds, it’ll be Boston making the adjustments and Allen hitting at least some of those 3-pointers.
The three games thus far have given us a push, an 'over' and an 'under' against the total, in that order. The 'over' would be the natural zigzag choice for Thursday night with both teams looking to unclog their offenses.
The Lakers almost completely gave up on the triangle after the first few minutes of Game 3. Kobe Bryant finished the night with 29 points (the 'over/under' was 29½ on the NBA props board, by the way), but on 10-of-29 shooting with just four assists. Boston’s defense got the job done and still lost.
Allen, meanwhile, wasn’t just unlucky on Tuesday. His form was noticeably off; according to ESPN’s Chris Forsberg, Allen admitted to having trouble with a minor “leg/thigh issue.” As we’ve seen in all three games of this series, Boston’s success is contingent upon Allen draining jumpers – Rondo is a streaky shooter, and Pierce (15 points on 5-of-12 shooting) is being smothered by Ron Artest.
Now here’s a stat that should make L.A. supporters very happy: Since the advent of the 2-3-2 format, teams that have won Game 3 to take a 2-1 series lead have gone on to win the series 10 times out of 10. The Lakers had a series price of -130 going into this game; that’s a bargain compared to whatever lines you’ll be able to find right now. If Los Angeles earns a split over the next two games, that leaves the defending champions up 3-2 with the last two games at Staples. At this point, Boston fans are just hoping the series does return to L.A.