Ray Allen in the Clutch: Can He Work His Magic Again This Year?
In Game 3 of this year's Eastern Conference Final between the Pacers and the Heat, Ray Allen went 4 for 4 beyond the arc in the fourth quarter to seal Miami's comeback win.
In Game 1 of the 2011 playoff series between the Knicks and the Celtics, Allen sunk a three to capture the lead with 11.6 remaining in the game.
In Game 2 of the 2009 playoff series between the Bulls and the Celtics, Ray Allen saves the game from going to overtime by hitting a three with 2 seconds left .
In a regular season game between the Suns and the Sonics (remember them?) in January 2006, Ray Allen hit eight threes in the fourth quarter and two overtimes, the most important one being at the buzzer for a 152-149 Sonics win.
But the one the San Antonio Spurs will watch (or avoid) over and over again in preparation of this year's NBA Finals? Allen's three to force Game 6 into overtime a season ago, which halted the preemptive Spurs' 2013 championship celebrations. For good.
Ray Allen's career is full of these anecdotes, spread out between his time in Milwaukee, Seattle, Boston and now Miami. And in truth, it actually took me longer to choose which game-winning stunners to highlight than writing any other part of this article.
The soon-to-be 39 year old has a knack for making his presence count in the final minutes of a game, and he's made a career out of it. He's mastered the arc of a pure shot, and the timing of a quick release - combine that with a clutch gene, and it's nearly impossible to defend him when he's heating up.
Bill Simmons broke down Ray Allen's heroics of last year's Game 6 on Grantland yesterday, noting that Allen practices blindfolded so he can't see the three-point line; he practices his footwork to perfection and he's practiced that specific Game 6 shot since his time playing with the Bucks. It's impressive, but really no surprise considering you can pull dozens of highlights from his 18-year career that mimic similar shots. Be it a skip pass from Paul Pierce or a toss from Chris Bosh after an offensive rebound, Allen is ready. He has been for 18-plus years.Catch and Shoot. One of the key and deadliest aspects of Allen's game is his quick release. According to NBA.com, Allen has scored 60 points just in this year's playoffs thus far from jump shots outside of 10 feet where he possessed the ball for two seconds or less and took no dribbles. He has been shooting with a 54.5% catch-and-shoot effective field goal percentage in the 2014 playoffs. For comparison's sake, Derek Fisher - another 39-year-old legendary clutch shooter -scored 22 points on 38% catch-and-shoot eFG% in the playoffs this year. Spot-up Shooter. According to Basketball-Reference.com, nearly 55% of Allen's clutch shots since 2000 to present (including the playoffs) are assisted. Clutch shots here are defined as any jump shot in the fourth quarter or overtime with less than five minutes left, with neither team leading by more than five points. This means that many of Allen's shots are created by his teammates. While some critics may see this as a weakness in creating his own shots, especially as of late, I see this as Allen knowing his role and being effective at it. In the 2012-2013 season, Allen hit 22 "clutch" shots, and 21 were assisted. While Allen's age will and has played a negative impact on parts of his game, being a token spot-up clutch shooter may prolong his career even more.
There's a lot to look forward to in tonight's NBA Finals' debut, as our own Russell Peddle broke down for us. And one of those is that Ray Allen is 11 three-pointers away from breaking the Finals record of most three-pointers, set by another veteran clutch shooter, Robert Horry. We know that the Spurs will do everything they can to stop Allen, the crusher of their 2013 spirits. But, really, how much can you really do to stop a guy who practices blindfolded?