MIAMI – Maybe now Dwyane Wade is a believer on Ray Allen, having had a chance to witness up close and personal the struggles the Boston Celtics shooting guard had been going through.
Prior to Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, Wade had scoffed at reports that Allen was hurting from bone spurs in his right ankle and wearing down as his 37th birthday fast approaches. “I don’t believe none of that,” Wade had said. “No feet hurting. No tired. No nothing.”
No nothing is about what Allen had in the Celtics’ 93-79 loss in the series opener Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. He took only seven shots, missed six of them, shot an air ball, bricked a really uncharacteristic four of his seven free throws and looked slow and out of synch all night. It was the second 1-of-7 performance for Allen in these playoffs – he shot that against Atlanta on May 10 – and he is 12-of-42 (28.6 percent) over Boston’s last five games and 6-of-25 on 3-pointers.
A 19.4 ppg scorer in nine previous trips to the postseason, Allen is averaging 9.6 points this spring. No one gets that old, that fast. His health is unmistakably an issue.
“I don’t know for Ray if it’s fatigue,” was how Celtics coach Doc Rivers put it. “It may be something else. He got a bunch of wide-open shots tonight, and with him it’s just balance. When you have a bad foot, ankle or anything, your balance is off and you can see it on Ray. The ball is going left a lot.”
Said Allen: “I’m just trying to find my balance the best way I know how. I feel good, but I don’t have a great rhythm right now. … My shot feels fine. It’ s just timing, getting shots up and taking it day-by-day. I do feel restrictions [physically] but that’s why we have a great team here.”
A lifetime 89.4 percent foul shooter (91.5 percent in the regular season), Allen has hit only 18 of his 30 free throws in these playoffs. Boston was 11-of-21 from the line Monday. Having missed two of three on one trip to the line – he had been fouled at the arc – Allen came out early from the halftime break and worked on his free throws and from the corners. It didn’t much matter.
“He’s one of the greatest shooters of all time,” Rivers said. “Ray is going to try to figure it out. … We’re going to try to figure out a way or even maybe subbing him differently to keep him strong. Honestly, I don’t know yet with Ray.”
Just past midnight, Wade didn’t sound like a believer yet. “We always have to account for him. My job is to keep chasing him. … He’s going to be a big key to this series.”
Given his matchup with Wade, which can only make Allen ache, grind and struggle more, a series of throwback games – or even one – might be asking too much from him. The Celtics’ Big Three era is winding down and, in Allen’s banged-up case, it is happening before our eyes.