Allen has been a missing piece
ORLANDO, Fla. - Ray Allen definitely knows what the Magic are doing to him. Stopping it from happening, however, is a completely different challenge.
The All-Star sharp-shooting guard missed 9 of 11 field-goal attempts last night and was held to 5 points while coughing up four turnovers during an 83-75 loss to Orlando in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Allen isn't the only one to blame for Boston's offensive woes. The Celtics had playoff lows in total points, points in the third quarter and in the fourth quarter, and they made 19 turnovers that led to 28 Orlando points.
But for the series, Allen is shooting a team-worst 30.7 percent from the field and has missed 31 of 36 3-point attempts while averaging a mere 11 points per game.
"Their job is to not leave me open. They don't want me to get anything at all," Allen said.
Considering Allen's scoring résumé, who can blame Magic coach Stan Van Gundy for putting a smothering defense on him?
Allen averaged 18.2 points during the regular season, scored more than 20 on 33 occasions, and nailed 40.9 percent of his 3-pointers. In three regular-season games against Orlando, he averaged 20.3 points while shooting 50 percent from the field and nailed 30 percent of his 3-pointers. Van Gundy probably remembers Allen scoring 32 points against the Magic March 8 and all the big shots he hit against Chicago in the first round.
So to ensure that Allen doesn't get going again, the Magic have made sure a defender is always on him, no matter where the ball is. Allen acknowledged that Orlando is playing a defense similar to a box-and-one. And even when screens are set, both Magic defenders often rotate to him when he gets the ball.
"The game plan is to stay with him at all times," said Magic forward Rashard Lewis, who played with Allen in Seattle. "They run him off a lot of screens. Even if he's coming off a screen with a [big man], we have to help and the whole defense has to shift over. Even when we double-team Paul Pierce and we try to leave [Rajon] Rondo open to shoot the jump shot, the guy that is guarding Ray Allen or Eddie House has to stay on him tight."
To get a good idea of what Allen is going through, check him out when he does not have the ball.
"They are not leaving me," Allen said. "They're not leaving me. They're chasing me. If the play is [away], guys are up on me."
Orlando's suffocating defense, however, shouldn't get all the credit. Allen has received several open looks, but can't seem to hit the side of Space Mountain at nearby Walt Disney World right now. While he has been known to save games with big shots, he missed all seven 3-point attempts in a game that could have sent the Celtics to the Eastern Conference finals with a win. Allen also has 14 turnovers in six games.
Rivers said the Celtics aren't being patient offensively while running its plays to help free Allen.
"They are playing good defense," Rivers said. "They're doing a terrific job. We're trying to get him more space. We certainly have to get him more shots. Even if he doesn't get more shots, he has to touch the ball more. That's on us. But give them credit though, I think they're doing a great job."
Said Allen: "We have to make them pay. There is somebody open. We just have to find them."
Even with Allen's struggles, don't expect Van Gundy or the Magic defense to let up. From his days playing with Allen in Seattle, Lewis expects Allen to be in the gym shooting at least 100 extra shots today and tomorrow and that he can get hot at any time. The respect for Allen is too deep to get lax now.
"All it takes is for him to make one 3-pointer and get himself going," Lewis said. "He's that type of shooter that won't miss at all the rest of the night."
Allen is as cerebral an NBA player as there is, and long after the game you could see him trying to mentally figure out what the Magic have been doing to him. Unfortunately, he left Amway Arena with no clear answer.
But with Game 7 looming, Allen and the Celtics collectively have to figure out something quick.
"It's not frustrating," Allen said. "I want to help more than I'm helping. But that's how it's going down. From Doc to the coaching staff to my teammates, I got to find a way to get incorporated a little bit better, just getting easy layups and make sure I get started off by going to the free throw line. But, from this vantage point, it's hard to say."
Marc J. Spears can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org