When I tagged Tony Allen to be Boston’s most crucial X-factor in these NBA Finals, I was thinking more in the momentum-building, sparkplug-scorer role, with some solid defense thrown in for good measure. I wasn’t expecting TA to become this year’s Raja Bell.
The Celtics’ backup guard hasn’t done much offensively (4.3 ppg, 4-10 FG), but continues to earn playing time for his defensive efforts against Kobe Bryant. Going into tonight’s Game 4, however, Allen is already taking his lumps and could be ready to pledge the fraternity of guys like Raja, Bruce Bowen and Manu Ginobili who would probably call Kobe a dirty player.
Sporting a swollen lip and eight stitches in his mouth, Allen described an incident during Game 3 that caused him to temporarily stop breathing:
“I slipped and he actually kicked me in the neck,” Allen told reporters. “That’s what he did. I ain’t too happy about that, neither. But he kicked me in my neck and it is what it is.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Allen fell down while in the process of fighting through a screen set for Kobe. As Kobe went up for a three-pointer, his foot caught Allen in the throat. Allen left the game momentarily, but came back later and will play tonight.
Allen didn’t specifically say he thought it was intentional, but Kobe’s biggest critics won’t pass up the chance to add it to the resume of questionable acts Kobe has put together over his career — like karate-chopping Manu Ginobili and Marko Jaric, or elbowing Mike Miller in the throat, or throwing punches at Reggie Miller. Somewhere, Chris Childs is laughing.
“I mean, he’s always trying to draw the foul and he kicks his legs out a lot when he shoots those long threes to get contact,” Allen said. “I didn’t give him no contact because I slipped. Thank God I slipped, because I probably would’ve fouled him, but I took a kick in the neck and I couldn’t breathe for a hot second.”
And just to clear things up, Allen doesn’t attribute his busted lip and stitches to Kobe.
“Let’s get this straight: Kobe didn’t bust my lip,” Allen said. “It was a kick in the neck. That type of stuff happens throughout the battle. You’re going to expect stuff like that: kicking, punching, scratching.”
Do you think Kobe is a dirty player?