By Harvey Fialkov, Sun Sentinel –
MIAMI — When Ray Allen, arguably the purest shooter in NBA history, misses 6-of-7 shots, including 4-of-7 free throws and 3-of-4 from three-point land as he did in Monday’s 93-79 loss to the Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, then something is rotten in Beantown.
Watching a hobbled, 89.4 percent free-throw shooter such as Allen clang open shots conjures up images of a 43-year-old Willie Mays staggering under fly balls, or Tiger Woods missing another putt or cut.
However in Allen’s case, his uncharacteristic bricks have to do with the painful bone spurs in his right ankle and little to do with his 36 years of existence or personal issues.
Although Celtics coach Doc Rivers told ESPN privately that he considered giving Allen a game off, he told reporters Tuesday after a video-only session at the team hotel that he’s not ready to pull his best shooter.
“Not yet, we’re good,” Rivers said. “We’re going to just keep rolling him out there and see what we can get and when we feel like he can’t give it to us, we’ll go with someone else. But I think right now, you got to give Ray a fighting chance everytime.”
The career 40 percent 3-point shooter is at 26.8 percent on 15 of 56 in the playoffs. Allen has converted just 18 of 30 free throws this postseason. In 2008-09 he missed the same 12 free throws on 249 attempts when he shot a career-best 95.2 percent.
“I’ve made 100 in a row and stopped because I believe if I kept going I could make 500 in a row,” Allen smiled. “Unless I’m doing it for a record or somebody challenged me, it’s like I’m Forrest Gump and I just stop running.
“I’m just trying to find my balance. I feel good over it, I’m just not in a great rhythm right now. I just know I don’t have good timing right now. The shot feels fine. If it’s short, I know that I do have less lift on it.
“I just take it day by day, trying to figure out what I’m dealing with. I do have restrictions. … It’s like a battle within myself, I have to try to win.”
Rivers, a career 78.4 percent free-throw shooter and 32.8 percent on trifectas, said it’s his job to create more opportunities and time for Allen to shoot.
“I always believe Ray will figure it out. Clearly, you never saw me shoot the basketball, so what the heck could I tell Ray?” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever said a word to Ray in my life about shooting, but we do have to try to get him open more and give him more time. You could see his release is not as quick probably because of his feet.”
Celtics forward Paul Pierce has complete faith in Allen.
“His shots not falling but his presence out there, you have to pay attention to him and at any given moment we feel like he can explode for us,” he said.
While Allen couldn’t hit his free throws, two of the Celtics most aggressive drivers, Pierce and Rajon Rondo, didn’t get to the charity stripe once. That’s only the second time that’s happened this season.
“That’s crazy. I have to keep attacking. I think (Heat center Joel Anthony) shot more free throws than me with 20 less shot attempts … so that’s a fine,” Rondo joked. “We’ve got to stay aggressive.”
Actually, Anthony was 1-of-4 from the line and took two shots, compared to Rondo’s 20.
Pierce, who averaged 5.6 free throws a game this season, said he has to be more aggressive, but credited the Heat for avoiding fouls.
“He has to attack more,” Rivers said of Pierce. “If he has no foul shots and only two rebounds then it wasn’t a physical game for Paul. Paul is as every bit as physical as LeBron (James) as far as body types, so he just has to do it.”