LOS ANGELES - The results may vary, but Ray Allen never wavers.
On a night when the other two members of the Big Three struggled, Allen's shooting kept the Celtics in a game they seemingly had no right to win. The silky shooting guard went 5 of 7 from beyond the arc to lead the Celtics with 25 points. No other Celtic scored more than 13 in the 87-81 loss to the Lakers.
"I thought Ray was fantastic tonight," said coach Doc Rivers. "Guarding Kobe [Bryant] is no easy task, and having the strength to play defense or to score was big."
The other Celtic in double figures was Kevin Garnett, though the Big Ticket's 13 points on 6-of-21 shooting hardly qualified as dominant. Only Allen brought his best game to Los Angeles.
And one player does not win a game in the NBA Finals.
"I was just trying to keep the team in it," said Allen. "The ball came my way and I was just trying to carry the team a little bit. I just think it was all about energy tonight, and our energy wasn't right."
It's no secret Allen is one of the best-prepared players in the league. He took a cab to the Staples Center for Game 3 because the team bus wouldn't get him there early enough. He was the first player on the court, putting up his typical 150-plus jump shots more than three hours before the game.
And when he was finished, he sat by his locker and patiently answered questions from a mob of reporters because he said he knows everyone else in the arena has a job to do, too.
"I think we conquer any fear and any nervousness by preparing and just knowing everything like the back of your hand," Allen said. "If we do that, this stage is no different than any other."
At times, it seemed Allen was the only one putting on the play. The Celtics shot only 32 percent in the first half, but Allen had 12 of their 37 points, helping to limit LA's lead to 6.
Allen started the scoring for the Celtics in the third quarter, taking a handoff from Garnett and driving for a baseline layup. After another driving layup, he went back to the perimeter. His 3-pointer at the 4:47 mark put the Celtics up 4, quieted the crowd, and gave the visitors life.
He added an unconventional 3-point play toward the end of the third, drawing a foul on Bryant while attempting a three. His fifth and final three came at the start of the fourth, giving the Celtics one of their last leads. His 25 points were 9 more than his playoff average, and his scoring was needed on a night when Garnett and Paul Pierce combined for just 19 points. Still, it wasn't enough to get the Celtics over the hump.
But don't expect Allen to panic. And don't expect him to change his habits. He'll be here tomorrow, at least three hours before Game 4. And he'll do what he always does.
"There's always room for improvement," Allen said. "And I think that's why we're here today, because we never rested on what we did well. We'll just continue to improve on what we do."