Boston's Ray Allen exploits Lakers' defensive lapses
So this was the player the Celtics were supposedly trading.
Guard Ray Allen had often been the subject of trade rumors as the deadline approached. And the reasons were fairly obvious. Though he's part of the Big Three, including forward Kevin Garnett and guard Paul Pierce, Allen has shot a career-low 33.3% this season.
Yet, despite having a two of 10 effort Jan. 31 against the Lakers, he scored a team-high 24 points on 10 of 15 shooting in the Lakers' 87-86 loss Thursday to the Celtics. And after a look through the game footage, Derek Fisher's contention that Allen's performance stemmed between Allen being a good shooter and team defensive breakdowns is pretty accurate.
"Obviously he's a great shooter. Sometimes they’re not going to be really anything you can do to maybe keep him from having the type of night he had tonight," said Fisher, who largely struggled defending Allen. "But there were a few times where we didn’t defensively react the way we needed to, which allowed him in particular a couple transition threes and he got a dunk in transition. Those are points you cant give him. If he makes a shot with a hand in his face, you have to give him credit for being Ray Allen. There are some times when he was wide open and those are the breakdowns we can’t have in a game like that."
Although Fisher isn't absolved from some blame for those lapes, the film shows that the problem wasn't squarely solely on him and Shannon Brown. Though they often trailed Allen's efficient cutting from screens, rarely did the rest of the team help adjust its defensive strategy. Below is a breakdown on all of Allen's shot attempts.
1st quarter, 8:42 - 8:30
Pierce's pass inside to Kendrick Perkins went too high and bounced off the front rim, and into Allen's hands on the near corner behind the three-point line. Brown confronted Allen as he drove baseline before kicking the ball out to Garnett up top. After the pass, Allen kept penetrating out toward the far end of the three-point line, while Brown sagged inside. Garnett quickly passed the ball back to Allen, who nailed the 23-foot trey, giving the Celtics an 11-2 lead.
1st quarter, 8:05 - 8:00
On the Celtics following possession, Pierce brought the ball up the floor, while Fisher guarded Allen on the far corner. After Allen meandered to the paint, Rajon Rondo set a screen on Fisher. Fisher easily fought through the screen, but it gave Allen enough time to curl near the left block for a 19-foot jumper. Fisher caught up in time to contest the shot, but it still went in, giving the Celtics a 13-4 lead.
1st quarter, 3:49 -3:38
With Rondo manning the point up top, Rasheed Wallace set a down screen on Fisher, as Allen curled up near the right block. Fisher successfully went past the screen and contested the 18-foot jumper. But it went in again, with Boston holding a 27-18 lead.
1st quarter, 1:37 - 1:30
Allen grabbed the board off Farmar's missed three-pointer and then took the ball up the court. With Brown waiting for him just below the three-point line, Boston's Glen "Big Baby" Davis screened in front. That gave Allen enough space to sink a 26-foot three-pointer for a 30-20 lead.
2nd quarter, 6:15 - 6:07
Allen appeared to run the wing, but he flashed up top as Pierce cut inside. Allen curled around Perkins, as he set a down screen over Fisher. He moved past it, but it Allen opened space up top. After receiving a pass from Rondo, Allen's 20-foot jumper rimmed out.
2nd quarter, 5:16 - 5:09
Rondo swiped the ball from Gasol while posting up and led a two-on-one break. A simple bounce pass to Allen near the free-throw line resulted in a one-handed dunk for the 47-36 lead. Though Brown got posterized, credit Brown for confronting Allen and trying to force a bad shot. Nonetheless, Allen converted on the dunk and Brown was called for the foul.
3rd quarter, 10:59 - 10:52
With Rondo at the point, Allen cut from the baseline on the near corner as Garnett set a downscreen on Fisher, who went around Garnett's left side. After moving past Garnett, Fisher saw Rondo make the pass toward Allen on the near side and immediately cut toward him. But Fisher was slightly off balance on his penetration, while Allen easily sank a 25-foot three-pointer for the 59-51 lead.
3rd quarter, 10:18 - 10:15
Forgive me if this sounds repetitive. Perkins set a down screen on Fisher, as Allen flashed toward the free-throw line extended on the nearside. Fisher fought through the screen, but Allen again had enough leverage. Gasol didn't step up and switch on the screen, resulting in Allen making a 17-foot jumper for a 61-51 advantage.
3rd quarter, 9:14 - 9:06
After Artest's missed layup, Pierce fired an outlet pass on the near side to run a four-on-two break. Fisher and Brown were back, while Bynum was slow to get back. With Garnett in the paint, Perkins running the nearside and Allen on the far end, Rondo passed to Allen. Brown rushed out to Allen, who swished a 26-foot three-pointer for a 64-53 lead.
3rd quarter, 7:21 - 7:13
Allen cut from the far end to the paint and then flashed back on the near side. Fisher stumbled as Allen cut back outside, but immediately caught up as soon as Rondo passed to Allen. He then drove left past Fisher and made the 17-foot jumper for the 68-59 lead.
3rd quarter, 4:55 - 4:48
Again, Allen ran the baseline and flashed up top on the far end. Instead of Brown trying to run around Gasol and Wallace on their left, Brown moved up to space himself between Rondo and Allen. He recognized Brown's move and instead cut toward the far corner, while Wallace set a screen on Brown. He noticed Allen's change in direction, but he couldn't get back in time. Allen drained a 20-foot jumper for a 72-62 lead.
3rd quarter, 2:29 - 2:25
After Allen flashed up top, Brown followed and fought through Perkins' screen along the free-throw line. Allen had an open 25-foot three-pointer but it hit off the front rim.
4th quarter, 9:15
Perkins set a down screen on Vujacic, as Allen cut up top on the far side. Vujacic saw exactly what he was doing, weaved past the screen and heavily contested Allen's shot. His 20-foot jumper nipped the front rim.
4th quarter, 7:37 - 7:31
While Rondo manned the point, Allen made a v cut on the far side and Perkins set a down screen. Vujacic tried fighting through, but fell down in what ultimately led to what the team said was a grade 1- right shoulder sprain. Allen's 25 foot three-pointer hit off the front rim.
4th quarter, 4:27 - 4:24
On an inbounds pass, Rondo was the inbounder, Pierce was on the near baseline, Allen was on the left block, and Garnett and Perkins lined up on the right block. When Rondo was about to inbound the ball, Allen cut to the right block and then drove inside the paint. Odom switched on Allen and forced him to miss the left-handed layup. But Perkins' dunk on the tip in gave the Celtics a 85-84 lead.
What this means
Well for one, the explanation provided by Lakers Coach Phil Jackson wasn't entirely valid. When I asked him what he thought was the root of Allen's big night, Jackson wasn't exactly complimentary of Boston's execution.
"When they can set picks like that, he’s going to get free," Jackson said. "If we can get them to call some offensive fouls on picks like that, and that depends, game by game. But when he’s getting picks like that, he pops out. But you know, Fish had a hard time. He got hot against Fish. The other guys came in and slowed him down a little bit."
Jackson was correct specifically on the play that led to Vujacic's injury, but the other remaining plays pointed more to Allen's sharp footwork and speed. In fact, most of Boston's screens created minimal contact. The Celtics often used those screens simply to throw up a temporary roadblock that, in fairness to Vujacic and even Brown and Fisher, had no trouble getting around.
Whenever Allen made a cut, Fisher and Brown were often slow in initially reacting to the sudden change in movement. Fisher and Brown had tremendous recovery time, however, and rarely gave Allen completely wide open shots. But the picks gave him a slight amount of leverage to shoot.
Make no mistake that the Lakers backcourt could've played better defensively, but there is such a thing in basketball as switching on screens and double teaming. That could've been an effective strategy whenever Allen created shot opportunities through constant off-ball movement along the wing.
Photo Credit: Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images.