Asked about Ray Allen's offensive explosion in Game 2, Celtics forward Kevin Garnett noted that, for the past two days, he's been telling Allen to simply play normally and avoid foul trouble. In hindsight, Garnett should have heeded his own advice.
Plagued by his own foul trouble that saw him pick up two fouls little more than two minutes into Sunday's game, Garnett registered a mere six points, four rebounds, and six assists over 24 minutes.
"Ray was huge for us tonight, he did a good job of getting open," Garnett said of Allen's 32-point outburst, which saw him score 27 points in the first half behind a whopping seven 3-pointers. "The big thing we talked about with these couple days was [Allen] staying out of foul trouble."
Garnett couldn't help but chuckle after that thought, knowing he surely could have helped his own cause by doing the same. Instead, he picked up his third foul with little more than eight minutes to go in the first half, forcing him back to the pine for the remainder of the second quarter.
After all the talk about whether Garnett would erupt for a big game given Pau Gasol's (rather innocuous) comments about him losing a step in recent years, Garnett never really got the chance. Playing with five fouls in the fourth quarter, he settled in as more of a facilitator, trying to feed his teammates when defenses collapsed on him.
"I do different things, man," said Garnett. "I would have liked a better flow, but, with fouls, it goes like that... When they doubled and were doing different things on me, I was finding guys open and it worked."
The Celtics went to Garnett in the paint on the first possession of the game and he generated an easy basket against Gasol. But Garnett finished a mere 2-of-5 overall, missing the hoop badly at times in the second half.
He already knows what he must do next time to atone: Avoid early foul trouble.
With shot off, Pierce finds a different role
Garnett was hardly the only member of Boston's Big Three that struggled Sunday. Celtics captain Paul Pierce connected on just 2-of-11 shots for 10 points with four rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block over 40 minutes.
“I struggled offensively, I think I rushed a lot,” said Pierce. "I don’t think it was too much about what [Lakers forward Ron Artest] did. I had about three or four open shots off the pick-and-roll, where guys got me open and I missed. I loved the looks I got. At the same time, I’m not going to force the issue on my offense."
Pierce couldn't seem to shake Artest throughout the night and the pesky defense likely limited his scoring total. But Pierce noted that the Celtics as a whole have yet to play their best basketball, and yet still found a way to win Sunday.
"We knew we had to play better basketball, there was nowhere to go but up [after Game 1]," said Pierce. "We knew we couldn't play any worse. Offensively, we got Ray [Allen] and Rajon [Rondo] so, me and Kevin might not really be shooting the ball well, but at least the other guys are stepping up."
C's lean on bench to offset Garnett, Pierce struggles
Celtics coach Doc Rivers heaped praise on his bench after a five-man unit -- a bigger rotation than Rivers typically employs -- combined for 24 points, including another serviceable effort from Nate Robinson, who scored seven points in six minutes, while making both shots he took.
"The bench was huge, all of them," said Rivers. "We were in foul trouble two games in a row now, and our bigs -- Kevin, really he only played six minutes in the first half, and the fact that we had a lead was huge for us. The rhythm for us, offensively, is tough when all your bigs are in foul trouble. We have a certain rotation that we want our bigs to play, and obviously it was blown up within four minutes of the game because of fouls."
The Celtics even called upon Shelden Williams to fill minutes up front, but he endured a rough ending of the first half, which in part aided the Lakers in erasing a 14-point, first-half lead just minutes into the third frame.
Fortunately, Rasheed Wallace (7 points, 7 rebounds, game-best plus-15 in the plus/minus category) and Glen Davis (8 points, 7 rebounds), came up with solid efforts with 18 minutes apiece.
"I thought Rasheed was huge," said Rivers. "You could see him struggling with the back, but he gave us as much as he could give. And Baby was huge."
Rivers admitted the end of the first half wasn't pretty, but the Celtics survived.
"We had a chance to be up nine or 12 to end the half, but we weathered that storm, and I thought, in the second half, we played with great composure," said Rivers. "You knew they were going to make a run, and they did. They made several of them. For us to weather that storm with guys in foul trouble, we had to use every big. I'm just really proud of all of them.
"I thought the seven minutes or six minutes that Nate Robinson played for us was huge. Rondo was exhausted. We needed offense. Ray was exhausted in that [third] period, in that stretch, and we put Nate in and just one pick-and-roll and he scored, and he created scoring, so that was big for us."