WALTHAM, Mass. — Just as Ray Allen was certain that the sun would rise on Monday morning, he was certain he’d have questions to answer later that afternoon about the three missed free throws that crippled the Celtics late in their 101-92 loss to the Miami Heat in Sunday’s Game 4.
When he showed up to the team’s practice facility in Waltham on Monday afternoon, Allen was ready to talk about the previous day’s trauma. Like a true professional, he addressed head-on the frustration of his crunch-time misses and of the Celtics’ loss, their first to the Heat this season.
“I actually wasn’t worried about the free throws themselves,” Allen said. “I was just thinking about the game and the things we could have done better. It’s all part of the game. You miss layups, you miss free throws. You can’t beat yourself up over it. It’s just one of those things — you have to try to figure out a way to be prepared personally, individually, for the game.”
Allen, one of the best free-throw shooters in the history of the game, was well aware that for him, his most pressing task was easing his worries at the charity stripe. Needless to say, he got to work quickly.
“I wanted to come in here [Sunday] night when we landed,” Allen said. “But I hadn’t seen my family in a couple days. I got in here [Monday] and I got plenty of free throws up.”
Allen said he took about 150 free throws in one day’s practice. He missed exactly five. He kept count. Allen became the shooter he is today through meticulous hard work, and he wasn’t about to let up during playoff time. On the practice floor, he took care of business.
“I take free throws after every different spot that I shoot at,” Allen said. “It’s just all a rhythm thing, timing. I just wanted to get in here and just shoot, just get a lot of free throws up. I hadn’t shot that many in a while. [On Sunday], I was thinking about it — I just had such a bad rhythm, and I was trying to figure out where it came from.”
The first of the three misses came with 2:35 left — Allen drove the lane and drew contact from Miami’s Dorell Wright, and he got to the line with his team down just five at 96-91, looking at chance to turn Game 4 into a one-possession basketball game.
He drained the first free throw — and bricked the second.
Two possessions later, Allen drew a foul from Dwyane Wade. There was 1:50 left to play, and with the C’s down 96-92, Allen had two shots to chip away at the Miami lead.
He missed both.
It was pretty shocking considering Allen, a 14-year NBA veteran, hadn’t missed three in a row since May 17, 2005. And here he was, doing it in crunch time when his team had a chance to finish off an impressive playoff sweep. But Allen wasn’t thinking about history.
“I don’t think about bad old stuff,” he said. “You try to put those things out of your mind. I’ve missed free throws, plenty of free throws. It’s part of the game.”
But Allen hasn’t missed that many. For his career, he is 3,863 for 4,321 from the free-throw line in the regular season, or 89.4 percent. That places him fourth all-time behind only Mark Price, Steve Nash and Peja Stojakovic.
When you’ve been that good for that long, it’s hard to avoid that stinging feeling when you come up short. But for Allen, it’s not about pouting or hanging his head — it’s about working hard and fixing past mistakes.
“Like when you lose a game, you hate that feeling that you have when you lose,” Allen said. “So any time you miss, like at halftime, if I missed a shot or a layup, I go right back out there and I try to make it just so I can tell myself it was a fluke, I can make it again. A free throw’s the same thing.”
Knowing Ray Allen, he can undoubtedly make it again.