Monday, June 7, 2010

Allen, Rondo steal Game 2 show to tie NBA Finals

When people talk about the continued development of Rajon Rondo as a jack-of-all-trades point guard, they sometimes seem to forget just how good his supporting cast can be, even at their advanced ages. Ray Allen (age 34) proved that fact on Sunday night.

Allen hit the first seven three-pointers he attempted in the first half on his way to tying an NBA record for three-pointers made in an NBA Finals game. He would break the record late in the third quarter with his only three of the second half and finished with 32 points, 27 coming in the first half.

Allen is already well regarded by many (myself included) as one of the best pure shooters in NBA history and this performance will only cement his place among the Larry Birds and Reggie Millers of yesteryear. He has the game's quickest release (showcased on the record-breaking three with Shannon Brown closing hard) and it seems like most of his shots never hit the rim at all, instead splashing into the net like rocks thrown into the ocean.

His ability to come off screens is unmatched and he balances himself better on the fly than anybody else. Allen's body looks so contorted and off balance at times when he shoots, but everything that he needs to be in balance is there, every time he puts up a shot. Combine that with his lightning-fast release and there really is no way to stop him once he gets into a rhythm like he did last night.

Despite Allen's first half heroics, the Celtics were up just six heading into halftime after Kobe Bryant stole an outlet pass and drained a three-pointer to beat the buzzer. The Lakers went into halftime with enough momentum that anyone watching would have thought Allen would need to score 40 or more for the Celtics to win.

Allen scored just five points in the second half, but the Celtics ended up winning by nine. Rajon Rondo took over, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half and finished with his FIFTH triple-double of the playoffs, adding 12 rebounds and 10 assists, 8 of which came in the first half to aid Allen's shooting barrage.

Rondo also came up with key plays at key moments, including a late offensive rebound and putback around the rim that put Boston up for good. Just a minute later, he blocked Derek Fisher's three-point attempt from behind, ignited a fast break and hit a 20-foot jump shot to put the Celtics up 95-90. If there were any questions whether Rondo could step his game up on the road at the most important time, in the most important series, they have been answered.

The Celtics now go back home for three straight, but I don't see home court holding serve in those games. It's hard to keep the Lakers down for three straight games with a player like Bryant and their depth, even on your home court. I think Boston will ride the momentum to a Game 3 victory before the Lakers come back in Game 4, just because I don't see them falling behind 3-1.

Game 5 will be the pivotal one and a must-win for the Celtics. If the Lakers win that game I think the series ends in six although I wouldn't put it past the Celtics, who went 26-15 on the road this season and 6-4 in the playoffs, to force a Game 7. If Boston wins, I think they have a great shot to win their second NBA championship in three seasons. If you predicted that before the playoffs cheers to you, because I sure didn't! I'm still taking L.A. though.

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