Will Ray Allen be a factor for the Heat come playoff time, again?
Let’s go back a little less than a year. Game 6 of the NBA Finals. The Miami Heat are on the verge of elimination. With less than half a minute left in the game and the Heat down by five, things look pretty much over. Lots of Heat fans had already left the American Airlines Arena, even some players believed that this was over.
And then it happened.
Ray Allen made the miracle.
He hit a tough, contested three-pointer. With Chris Bosh grabbing the rebound off a LeBron missed three, he quickly threw it to Ray Ray and primordially, he stepped back out of the three-point line and pulled the trigger.
That was it.
The Heat were the champions. Of course, this was not a game-winning shot, as it only forced an overtime. But everyone inside the arena, everyone watching at home and maybe the players themselves could feel the huge momentum change. Ray Allen had taken a dagger and stabbed it right to the heart of the San Antonio Spurs. Gregg Popovic’s veteran group was bleeding badly and it was a matter of time before they bled to death, one game later.
If there was any question why Pat Riley and the Miami Heat were so excited with Ray Allen’s acquisition, that shot solely proved why. There are not many players out there able to make such game-changing but also history-changing shots. There have never been. Ray Allen, Michael Jordan, Reggie Miller and a few others maybe.
Ok, but this was all last year, you may say. And it’s true. The Miami Heat are the defending champions but they are expected to three-peat this season. And they will surely need all their weapons lined up. Of course, Ray Allen is one of them. So how much of an impact can Ray Ray have to the Heat’s odds to win the third Larry O’Brien trophy in a row?
Simply put, a huge one.
It’s true that Allen’s shot has not been falling at the rates it used to this season. In fact, he experienced some periods of slump during the season. The 38-year old veteran is shooting 37.9 percent from three-point range this season, slightly lower than his career-average. In fact, he is shooting in a worse pace than last season, when he averaged 41.9 percent from beyond the arc. Nonetheless, there is absolutely no doubt that he still is one of the most deadly three-point shooters in the NBA. And his recent outputs confirm just that.
After playing for 28 minutes and scoring just one point in a game against the Brooklyn Nets, the sharpshooter combined for 47 points in the next two games. In a loss against the Denver Nuggets he connected on five shots from beyond the arc in seven attempts and then, in yesterday’s victory against the Houston Rockets in South Beach, Ray hit four of his six three-pointers to finish with 25 points. In a way, he reminded to all Miami fans what a quality player he is. He rang the bell, he won’t be a non-factor during the postseason. On the contrary, he seems to be in an excellent shape, ready to make those significant plays which will allow the Heat to move forward.
The truth is that the Heat have had some ups and downs this season. Especially as of lately, the Heat lost some games they should normally had won. However, they are expected to find their pace once again, as we enter the last month of the 2013-2014 campaign. Dwyane Wade is proving that his body is just fine and able to allow him to be the dominant player we all know he is. LeBron James is, well, LeBron James. And Chris Bosh has proven that he is reliable and consistent. In fact, the expansion of his shooting range is another significant factor for the Heat and it will help them in their championship course.
Ray Allen is just a valuable piece of Erik Spoelstra’s puzzle. Although he is starting off the bench, he is playing significant minutes, 26.9 per game. Coach Spo usually puts him on the court to close out games. In fact, Allen is considered as a member of the “good lineup” for the Heat, the one that is used when the game is on the line. And how could things be otherwise? How could Allen’s deadly shooting stroke be neglected and not used when it matters the most?
The truth is that Allen is not the player he once was. He is 38 years old and he has some flaws in his game. Although he is the best shooter in the Heat team, he is not the best defender and lots of people around the league believe the Heat have a whole in their defense when Allen is on the floor. This becomes more obvious when he has to guard quick and explosive guards, like Paul George or James Harden. Whilst Allen can’t really follow their pace on the legs, he uses his experience and his body positioning to try and get the most out of each defensive play. So, yes, he is not the best defender in the game, but he is not a liability either.
It’s really significant, however, how Allen has managed to keep his body fresh. We don’t see 38-year old players having as big roles in their teams like Ray Allen has in Miami. In general, we can say that the sharpshooter will be an essential member of the Miami Heat team and their chances to win the championship. The Heat will need all their weapons, all the members of the team to be at their best in order to win it all this season. The first and perhaps most difficult task they’ll face is to beat the Indiana Pacers. But even if they do, the NBA Finals won’t be an easy series this year. Look for Ray Allen to make his presence felt during Miami’s entire playoff run.