BOSTON -- It was like watching
That's how startling it was Tuesday to see
"I am concerned with the quick turnarounds and his legs," acknowledged Celtics coach
Two of Allen's shots were blocked by off-the-ball defenders
"I give them all the credit in the world," he said of the Lakers' defenders. "They got back out to my shots very quickly. They had an outstretched arm in front of my ball all night."
A theme of this series has been the improvement in the Lakers' defense, and how much they've learned -- since losing to Boston's suffocating defense in the 2008 Finals -- to target and convert one or two Celtics strengths into weaknesses. Team defense neutralized Allen in Game 3, while
Pierce had similar troubles against the overbearing size and strength of
"I don't really see anything he's doing that any other teams haven't done throughout the course of the playoffs," said Pierce.
It is difficult to isolate the importance of either Pierce or Allen as the Celtics approach Game 4. Consider that Boston held a short six-point lead at halftime of Game 2 after Allen had hit a devastating seven threes; he finished with 32 points overall and yet that game was tight into the final two minutes of the fourth quarter. In Game 3, Allen was hopelessly ineffective, but his team had a chance to prevail in the final minutes.
But the combined ineffectiveness of Allen and Pierce -- who together produced 17 points on 5-of-25 shooting in Game 3 -- was too grave for Boston to overcome.
If the Celtics are going to avoid tumbling into a practically hopeless 3-1 hole, they have to control the backboard. The Lakers outrebounded them 43-35 in Game 3, and 6-foot-11
"The team that's won the glass so far in this series has won the game," said Rivers, "and we have to do a better job."
The Lakers have reclaimed home-court advantage even though
"They're getting up underneath him on his shot, so he's got a hard time getting a clear lift," said Jackson. "It keeps him from turning his body, so he can't get the right turn a lot of times, and they've done a good job. He's got to get better productivity, and he knows that."
The Celtics must win the next two games at home to set up a 3-2 series advantage as they return to Los Angeles for Games 6 and 7. But right now, as the older team looks to regroup on just one night's rest, the defending champion Lakers enter Game 4 from a position of strength.