Corey Brewer’s defensive instincts have been honed across a lifetime of basketball. While that’s not so very long – he’s 26 – it is a big part of his identity as a frisky and capable defender.
But he got burned Saturday night in Miami by what he’s learned to do since entering the league five seasons ago: Help out against an attacking penetrator. Especially late, protecting a one-point lead. Especially if his name is LeBron James.
Brewer fudged to the inside for just an instant. Unfortunately for the Denver Nuggets, it was the same instant in which James knew Ray Allen would be taking his familiar and ominous spot in the left corner and switched from attacker to facilitator. As Ethan Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post wrote:
“Once I drove left and I got eye contact with Brewer, I knew Ray was going to slide corner,” James said. “We haven’t been playing together that long, but I’ve seen it on the other side. I know exactly what he’s going to do. I’m just happy I was able to put it on the money, and he took care of the rest.”
All it took was Brewer briefly turning his head.
That’s all it has ever taken for Allen.
“My guy had to make the choice,” Allen said. “I can’t say it was the wrong choice, but it ended up being the wrong choice for him.”
How wrong? Brewer had to scramble so hard to recover, he fouled Allen as the famous sharpshooter launched his 3-pointer. The free throw that followed left Denver with 6.7 seconds left to get three points, not two, and Danilo Gallinari’s try from 25 feet bounced away. That left the Nuggets at 0-3 and Brewer holding his head in the visitors’ dressing room.
But let’s get this straight: Leaving Allen at a time and a place like that is the wrong choice for everyone. Always. It not only has become one of basketball’s most famous trademark shots – somewhere after Kareem’s sky hooks and Jordan’s tongue-flapping dunks – but it remains one of the most lethal. Cobras rise up majestically when they’re ready to strike, Allen slides over to the left corner.
If the Milton-Bradley folks ever do an NBA version of the board game “Clue,” Allen in the left corner with a 3-pointer will be the prime suspect every time. Sorry, Col. Mustard.
Denver would have been better off pushing a potted plant onto that spot on the court and just taking up Ray’s space. If Brewer hears a few ” ‘Sheed left Horry” comments in the coming days – Rasheed Wallace late in Game 5 of the 2005 Finals neglecting Robert Horry, one of the all-time, clutch-shooting assassins – he will have earned them.