Celtics' best shooter at his worst

BOSTON -- The NBA's great shooters never believe the problem lies with them. When shots aren't falling, they would sooner challenge whether the rim is straight before they doubt themselves.

So even after missing his first 12 attempts to open Tuesday's Game 3 against the Lakers, Celtics guard Ray Allen was certain No. 13 would drop.

With his team trailing by four with less than a minute to play, Allen pulled up from the left corner. It felt good off the hand, but it clanged off the rim like his previous attempts. Allen finished with two points, four rebounds and two assists in more than 42 minutes.

The Lakers hung on for a 91-84 triumph at the TD Garden that gave them a 2-1 series lead.

Two days after seemingly being unable to miss while setting a Finals record with eight trifectas -- the first seven of which came in a row -- in Boston's Game 2 win in Los Angeles, Allen nearly etched his name on a far more dubious distinction Tuesday.

Allen's 0-for-13 performance ranked as the second-worst oh-fer in Finals history, falling one miss short of the record of 0-for-14 shared by Seattle's Dennis Johnson in 1978 and Baltimore's Chick Reiser in 1948.

Allen missed all eight 3-pointers he attempted and a trio of bunnies. He missed five shots in the first quarter, six in the third and two more in the fourth.

How bad was Tuesday's performance? Allen had never endured anything even close. His previous high for consecutive missed field goals was nine on Jan. 4, 2008. You'd have to go all the way back to April 4, 1999 (8) or Feb. 26, 1997 (7) to find his other career lows.

"I just know the game doesn't owe anything to anybody," Allen said. "I can't just think that it's always supposed to be the way I want it to be. You gotta make your own breaks at both ends of the floor. Offensively, you have to find ways to get over the hump. Every game, every day, you gotta get out there and get your rhythm and work on your shot. Try to improve it."

But how do you improve on near perfection? Two days ago, the Celtics had to hose Allen down before he boarded the team bus, otherwise the seats would've been liable to catch fire.

On Tuesday, he was so cold the Celtics' training staff should have left an extra pair of socks in his locker stall.

"That's why you always have to be humble," Allen said. "When things go great, it's good to be a part of. You have to be sure to make good decisions. Moving forward, you have to continue to work on things you need to work on to be good in the future. Preparation is the biggest key.

"But I never hang my head. [Wednesday] is another opportunity to get right back on track. I gotta take my hat off to them. They took away a lot of the open, easier looks that I had from last time."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers didn't profess to have many answers as to how or why Allen could bounce from one extreme to the other, but admitted that he just looked off Tuesday.

"It's a hell of a swing, I'll tell you that," Rivers said. "It's basketball. That's why you can't worry about it. He'll be back in the gym [Wednesday] and getting ready for the next game. I thought he was pressing early on some of them, and, honestly, I thought all of his shots looked flat tonight.

"I didn't think he had any legs. I don't know if the knee and the thigh had anything to do with it, but I just thought he was short on most of his jump shots. Of the 13, I think eight of them were great looks, and all of them were short, all of them were flat. It happens to the best of us."

It rarely happens two nights after a player holds a 3-point shooting clinic.

Only one player had a worse oh-fer from beyond the arc in an NBA Finals game: John Starks in Game 7 against the Rockets in 1994, when he went 0-for-11.

"It's tough," Celtics guard Rajon Rondo admitted. "Ray is one of our go-to guys, so we're never going to lose confidence and stop going to him even if he's 0-for-20. He usually comes through in the clutch, but [Tuesday] was one of those nights. He didn't have it. Other guys had to step up."

Other guys did step up. In fact, of the nine players who appeared for Boston, Allen was the only one who didn't make a field goal. Registering two measly points, Allen produced his lowest career postseason scoring output besides a scoreless performance against the Cavaliers on May 6, 2008, in which he missed all four shots he took in 37:09.

Allen dished credit to the Lakers for making adjustments from Games 2 to 3 and noted that the visitors did a much better job of closing out on shots Tuesday, Pau Gasol most notably tipping a couple of shots and knocking them off line.

"We wanted to pick our spots to get a little bit more pressure, get Kobe a little bit closer to Rajon to take away some of the sharp passing angles where he can get the ball to Ray really fast right in his shooting pocket," Lakers guard Derek Fisher said. "And from there, it's just trusting that if you keep making him work, he won't necessarily hit eight out of 11 3s every night.

"We obviously didn't expect him to go 0-for-13, but it's a tough gig for him, to be honest, to run around offensively the way he has to and then have to guard Kobe on the other end. I mean, that takes anybody's legs out. It takes my legs out chasing him."

To be sure, Allen did a decent job of limiting Kobe Bryant when he guarded him. If nothing else, he made Bryant work for his points. But the difference is, although Allen didn't have the legs left to make those perimeter buckets, Fisher connected on 5 of 7 shots in the final quarter to lift L.A. to victory.

Allen refused to use an injury or ailment as a crutch. He spoke in calm and confident tones after Tuesday's game, as if there's no doubt in his mind he'll correct the issue at Wednesday's practice.

"I've been doing this a long time," Allen said. "You prepare your body, you get your rest. You do the things you have to do to be ready for the next game. The preparation is the biggest key, so I'll go back at it that way."

But don't expect Allen to toss up a couple hundred extra trifectas before Wednesday's practice session. The same strategy that failed him Tuesday had made him the hero Sunday. He won't change because of one night.

Said Allen: "I'll just go in there and get my shots up."

After all, there's no doubt in his mind that No. 14 definitely is going to drop.

Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.