BOSTON – Ray Allen made his first shot of the game, then kept missing like it was Game 3 all over again.
Until the fourth quarter.
He and four reserves were on the court together for the first 9:09 of the period and helped the Boston Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers 96-89 and even the NBA finals at two wins each Thursday night.
“That stretch right there was probably the most important segment of the game,” said Allen, who finished with 12 points that included two key fourth-quarter baskets. “We have a lot of guys that can help on both ends of the floor. It’s just a matter of them getting out there.
“We still have two games to win and it does require all of us. This is not about the starting five. This is about this whole team.”
When the game was over, Allen led his teammates through the tunnel and toward their locker-room, slapping palms with fans as Tony Allen followed with both hands on his revived teammate’s shoulders.
“Ray Allen was out there with them and showed great leadership,” point guard Rajon Rondo said.
With the Lakers leading 64-62, the 14-year veteran tied the game when he drove the baseline from the right side and made a reverse layup with 10:31 left. Then, after Glen Davis hit a layup, Allen connected from the free throw line for a 68-64 lead.
It was 71-66 when he passed the ball to Tony Allen for a layup that put the Celtics up by seven points with 7:46 remaining.
Ray Allen, who set a finals record with eight three-pointers in Game 2 then had the worst shooting game of his career by missing all 13 shots in Los Angeles’ 91-84 win in Game 3, was contributing again.
After his big game, the Lakers were determined to stick close to him on the perimeter, keeping him from catching the ball and quickly releasing a shot. So he tried to shake off the worst shooting game of his career and find another way to help.
“They’re putting their all-out effort to keep me from shooting the ball so I’ve got to go past that and force somebody to step up and help,” he said, “and then the next guy gets the shot. It’s just an adjustment.”
Allen endured a long dry spell for much of the game.
He made a layup for Boston’s first basket exactly one minute into the game.
Was it a relief?
“Not really,” he said. “I just have to adjust to how they’re playing me. They’re definitely going to run me off shooting the three.”
Then he missed his other five shots in the half as the Lakers took a 45-42 lead.
He didn’t score again until making a 20-footer with 4:24 to play in the third quarter and ended the period having missed six of his eight shots for the game.
But in the fourth quarter, he went 2 for 3, ending his on a high note. For the game, he was 4 for 11 with five rebounds, one assist and a steal.
“I’ve been in this situations hundreds of times,” said Allen, who has played 1,022 regular-season and 98 playoff games. “This is the finals. This is the biggest stage that I will play on in my life, but the game is the same. So I try to look at it that way and try to minimize it at the same time, knowing that we’ve rehearsed this. I’m overprepared to an extent.”
Allen kept preparing during Wednesday’s day off. He studied film, practised shooting and never lost his teammates’ confidence.
“Ray’s one of the best shooters in the league and we tell him to keep shooting,” centre Kendrick Perkins said. “We’re behind him.”