Posted by Sekou Smith
BOSTON — Tony Allen said he wasn’t interested in playing this game.
He said two days ago, long before he had to hit the floor with the Celtics’ season on the line Thursday night in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, that there is no such thing as a “stopper” for Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant.
Allen sold himself short. Because he filled that role to perfection, smothering Bryant during a crucial fourth quarter stretch that saw the Celtics rebound from a seemingly eternal hole to take control of a game they absolutely could not afford to lose.
Not only did he frustrate Bryant into a 2-for-6 shooting effort in the 10 minutes he spent on him from the end of the third quarter until late in the fourth, he provided a clear blueprint for the rest of this series on how to attack Bryant on defense, if there is such a thing.
“He does a great job,” Bryant said. “He plays hard, he competes and he’s a good solid defender. I’m enjoying it.”
Allen stayed on Bryant’s right hand, following the scouting report to the letter, and forced Bryant into uncomfortable spots on the floor repeatedly as the Celtics climbed their way back into the game, first, and then took control of it behind the play of their reserves.
“I think he steps on his right hand really well, makes him go left and keeps on the floor instead of getting up in the pump fakes,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “He does a good job of that.”
Bryant shot 10-for-22 from the floor in the game but was just 5-for-14 in the second half, most all of that coming with an Allen (Ray Allen spent most of the night Bryant) in his face. He scored 33 points but half of his shots were from beyond the 3-point line (he was 6-for-11) and he also had seven of the Lakers’ 16 turnovers.
Allen said his preparation started at shootaround Thursday morning, when he looked around and realized how focused the entire team was. “We knew this was basically the biggest game of the season,” he said. “So we had to be locked in on what our coaches had laid out for us and the plan they had in place to get this done.”
It showed in the way the Celtics’ reserves played. They were all over the floor during that late-game stretch where they took back control of the game.
“Tony Allen was phenomenal tonight with his energy,” Cetlics coach Doc Rivers said. “We want to make it tough, too. I actually thought we made it tough. The guy is Kobe Bryant. He made some unbelievable shots. But I thought, again, we did a great job on everybody else, and we felt that in Game 3 we didn’t do that.
“All the other guys really hurt us, and I thought our guys stayed focused on their man. They didn’t get mesmerized by Kobe. We’ve done that a couple of times where we’re watching Kobes and [Dwyane] Wades so much that everybody else is going off. I thought our guys stayed pretty disciplined tonight.”
No one more than Tony Allen. And while Celtics captain Paul Pierce refused to admit that Ron Artest‘s defense had any effect on him and his struggles in the first three games of this series, Bryant praised Allen and the Celtics’ for the way they are working to limit him.
“They’re a great scheming team,” Bryant said. “They have a strategy in place and they execute extremely well. I feel pretty comfortable. [I] wasn’t pleased with the way I took care of the ball tonight, I thought I did a horrible job of that. But it’s a great defense … it’s right up there with the best of them.”