LOS ANGELES (AP) -Playing under the bright lights of the NBA finals is tough enough. Try shooting into them.
And don't waste time hoping for a lucky bounce when you haven't taken the time to study which way the ball will bounce, off the floor or the rim.
In a tight series between Boston and Los Angeles Lakers, where the Celtics brought a 2-1 lead into Game 4 on Thursday night, some of the most important adjustments happen long before the games start.
Like an outfielder sizing up the overhead lights in Minnesota's Metrodome or the caroms off the Green Monster in Fenway Park, the veteran players anticipate the challenges a building can present.
``Things change all the time,'' Lakers guard Derek Fisher said, ``and you have to be able to kind of roll with it and adjust to it.''
That's why Boston's Ray Allen was so much better in Game 3 than the Lakers' Sasha Vujacic was in Game 1.
Known for his attention to detail during a lengthy game-day routine, Allen recognized that the Staples Center lighting could be a problem when shooting from certain spots. Turned out to be no problem as all, as Allen made five 3-pointers and scored 25 points, keeping the Celtics in the game on a night when fellow All-Stars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett struggled.
``I just made the assessment when I was shooting how in the corners, the lights in the corner were real bright,'' Allen said. ``When I followed the arc of my ball I was looking into the lights, so it kind of blinds you. That's why I go to the gym as early as I do, so I can adjust to what I'm doing out there on the floor, and it didn't affect me at all.''
Vujacic scored 20 points in the Lakers' 87-81 victory, by far his best game in the series. He managed only eight in each of the two games in Boston, missing five of his seven shots in Game 1, when he said his problem was the basket was too far away.
``The baskets here are different than in any other arena,'' Vujacic said the next day. ``You can see that they are much farther, but that's not an excuse, we've just got to get used to it and make those. They're much farther from the usual baskets, you know, like in San Antonio. Longer, much longer. So the ball's going farther.''
Wait a minute. What about the scene in ``Hoosiers'' where Gene Hackman breaks out a tape measure to prove to his players from small Hickory High School that the baskets in the big arena in Indianapolis are the same as the ones in their arena back home?
Seems Coach Dale was only partly right. All baskets aren't created equal.
What Vujacic meant was the base of the backboard stanchion in Boston's TD Banknorth Garden is set further away from the baseline than in some arenas, with the goal hanging from the end of a longer neck than he was used to.
``The stanchions are different a lot of times in different places,'' Fisher said. ``In Minnesota the stanchion's built a certain way, it's a certain distance back from the baseline. There's some places where there's more room along the baseline under the basket where you can actually be under the basket but not be out of bounds. Other places it's a little tighter under there.
``They're all the same height, the diameter or whatever is the same as the rim, but balls bounce differently depending on how far out that extension is up there. They come off the rim a little different.''
When Fisher rejoined the Lakers this season, he quickly became a mentor on a young team. If the series returns to the East, his next lesson might be teaching Vujacic how to deal with Boston's parquet floor, and the basket hanging above it.
``You take all that in,'' Fisher said. ``You take in spots on the floor that may be dead spots, you take in how the ball comes off the rim. You take in the lighting.
``A lot of times they don't have the full game lighting up during the practice day, so you shoot when there's shadows and all of a sudden you show up for the game, it's like concert lighting going on, so then you shoot out of the corner and there's like a big spotlight in the other corner.''
Most changes wouldn't be noticeable to the average rec league player. Allen compared it to a pro golfer, who recognizes minor differences in equipment that a weekend hacker wouldn't.
``When you play in a building for so many nights that's your home building, you develop a comfort with everything,'' he said, ``with certain people in the building, the way the seats are, the baskets, the color of the baskets, the lights, everything. And when you go on the road you change, and when you get there you settle in and you find your own comfort zones in that building on the road and you notice the differences.
``And I think the good players that play on the road, they make those differences theirs. You just adjust to the new climate and you say, 'This is now my building.'''

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