There are nine All-Stars in this year’s NBA Finals, but the player who’s had perhaps the biggest impact isn’t one of them.
As it turns out, the most important matchup of the Finals hasn’t been Kevin Garnett-Pau Gasol or Paul Pierce-Ron Artest. It’s been Kobe Bryant vs. Tony Allen.
That’s right: Tony Allen.
Allen is only averaging about 4 ppg, but he’s not in there to score — he’s in there to prevent Bryant from exploding. And he’s done just that in the first five games, including last night’s 92-86 win.
Going into Game 5, the C’s had held the Lakers to an average of 94 points, 20 points less than L.A.’s average against the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference finals.
An all-world scorer, Bryant has had one 36-plus-point game in the Finals; he had 36 or more four times vs. Phoenix.
Allen credits his relative success to watching everything Bryant does on the court while on the bench.
“I definitely have my antennas up, considering the fact that I’m a sub player and I see what he’s doing to Ray [Allen] before I go in,” Tony?Allen said.
The defense he’s played against Bryant in the Finals is up with there with some of the best the Lakers star has ever seen. Bryant had a nice third quarter in last night’s contest, but most of that came with Ray Allen guarding him.
“[Tony Allen] has been great,” Kendrick Perkins said. “I think after the first game, Doc put it in his mind that he needs to be a stopper. Come in and think defense and nothing else and the rest will take care of itself.”