Ray Allen caught the ball, lined up a 3-pointer from the corner that could have tied the game … and watched the ball nick harmlessly off the side of the backboard.
A little more than a minute later, Allen got a similar shot from just about the same spot and … splash.
It’s been a weird sort of season that way for Allen. He’s had his clutch moments, as he did in that game Sunday against the Houston Rockets, when he scored 10 points in a 14-5 run in the Miami Heat’s 113-104 comeback win. Yet he’s also having his roughest season by many measures.
With less than a month to go in his second season in Miami, Allen is shooting 37.9 percent from three, well below his career rate of 40.1 percent and his lowest accuracy beyond the arc in four years. His true shooting percentage of .597 is his lowest since his last year in Seattle, and his shooting percentage on corner threes, normally an automatic bucket, is its lowest since 2009-10. He could fail to average double-digit points per game for the first time in his career.
For all of Allen’s struggles, LeBron James and the rest of the Heat blame themselves.
“At the end of the day, it’s going to benefit us in the long run to have more balanced scoring,” James told the Miami Herald. “Obviously, I’ve been out of rhythm the last couple weeks, but other guys have stepped up, and I think that’s going to be great for our team.”
This is why Allen chose to leave the Boston Celtics as a free agent, and it’s why, two years on, it looks like he unequivocally made the right call. The Celtics are mired in a frustrating rebuilding campaign while Allen, despite arguably the worst statistical season of his career, in chasing a third championship ring with the Heat, who visit the Celtics on Wednesday.
Sentiments like those expressed by James — that every teammate pulls for each other, that one player’s struggles are a symptom of a weakness with the team as a whole — were once espoused by Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers in Boston. All of them are gone now, along with Allen, although he’s the only one still not universally adored by Celtics fans.
If that contrast bothers Allen in his quiet moments, it hasn’t bothered his play lately. Since the All-Star break, Allen is shooting 46 percent from three with an offensive rating of 121 points per 100 possessions in Heat victories. In nine games in March, he’s hit exactly half his 3-point attempts. The two-year, $6.2 million contract he signed in 2012 expires at the end of the season, so this could be his swan song in Miami.
If it is, he is providing every penny’s worth at the moment, giving the slumping Heat hope they will be able to turn it on when it counts, just as Allen has in the last month. And whatever sting he feels from losing a few fans in Boston would be mitigated by the joy of adding another piece of jewelry to his collection.