The setting: The Miami Heat are down 108-106 to the Cleveland Cavaliers with 26.2 seconds left. They have possession, two timeouts left, and are in the bonus.
26.2 seconds left: Ray Allen inbounds to Dwyane Wade at the top of the perimeter; Allen heads to the right corner.
21.8 seconds left: Wade delivers the ball to LeBron James, who catches the ball at the dotted line after Mario Chalmers set a screen on James’ defender on a roll. LeBron being so close to the rim attracts the attention of Chris Bosh’s defender, Anderson Varejao, and Allen’s defender, Dion Waiters.
20.8-18.2 seconds left: Noticing that his rookie defender has left the corner to harass James, Allen quickly runs to the right wing. LeBron sees him and immediately passes to Allen, who strokes a three-pointer over the passing Waiters.
Yeah, it was just that easy. And the scariest thing about it? It’s not supposed to be that easy. Did the Heat’s game-winning possession against Cleveland come solely as a result of LeBron James attracting the influence of a trio of defenders? Well, yeah. That’s the type of influence a three-time MVP holds when they get within ten feet of the rim.
The Heat simply took advantage of Cleveland’s defensive scheme, too. Cavaliers’ coach Byron Scott may have reconsidered his decision to have a rookie defend a 17-year veteran who almost always finds ways to get open at those junctures immediately after the play came to fruition. Waiters went to deny James on the baseline, which was the right idea since Varejao went back to defend Chris Bosh under the rim immediately after Waiters double-teamed LeBron, and it gave James and Allen a split-second to make a play happen.
I feel like I bring it up way too much, but that whole “pick your poison” idea of Wade’s is the reason why the Heat are 10-3. Opponents have to be extremely wary of every player on the floor in a Heat uniform in late-game situations. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade need a double-team at all times, unless you really trust your defender to stop either of those two, and Chris Bosh is arguably the NBA’s top dual threat in terms of a shooter who can also drive, as well as being an extremely underrated clutch player.
Allen will be on the floor with either Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier or Mario Chalmers as the fifth.
Every team is going to have it in their scouting report. It’s no secret that there is a strong likelihood of Ray Allen taking the most crucial shot of the game, yet on a few occasions this year, it’s Allen who is getting open and taking the shot that ends up either keeping the Heat around or ahead. You don’t think Byron Scott told his team to watch out for an Allen three-pointer coming out of the timeout?
Scott is a great coach and an intelligent person. Ray Allen was probably the first person he brought it up in that timeout. Everybody know that Allen was going to be the triggerman, but did that stop him from taking and making the game-winner? Obviously not.
Let’s go back to another crucial shot made by Ray Allen, courtesy of a LeBron James pass:
The scenario: The Miami Heat are down 116-115 to the Denver Nuggets with 14.1 seconds remaining
14.1-10 seconds: It’s Allen inbounding the ball. He gives it to LeBron James at the top of the perimeter, who has a mismatch with the slower Kenneth Faried. In the meantime, Allen runs to the left wing and is trailed by his defender, Corey Brewer.
10-8.7 seconds: James goes left and gets the first-step on Faried, immediately forcing Brewer to double-team LeBron in order to stop the drive. However, he turns his back on Allen for all but less than second, giving James and Allen more than enough time to create a play.
8.7-6.7 seconds: While James drives and Brewer steps out, Allen retreats to his sweet-spot in the left corner. LeBron delivers the ball, Brewer runs out and fouls the shooter, who makes the shot anyway.
Same ol’, same ol’. In the Heat’s overtime win against Milwaukee, Allen hit a similar shot when he converted a dagger three-pointer that stretched a six-point lead to nine with 1:08 remaining in the overtime period. While the play wasn’t nearly design, it still came as a direct result of LeBron James’ influence and Ray Allen’s ability to find his comfortable spots.
Allen was parked in the corner the entire play and once Brandon Jennings left him to deny a Shane Battier three, James found him and made the shot that may as well be a layup to Ray.
At the moment, Allen is having the best shooting year of his career. He’s averaging a career-low 12.8 points, but he’s also shooting a career-high 51 percent from the field as well as a career-high in his three-point percentage, which is at 53 percent and good enough to be tied for fifth in the league.
His PER of 19.5 is the highest it has been since his final year in Seattle, and his effective field-goal percentage of 64 percent is the highest of his career. The same goes for his true shooting percentage, which currently stands at 68 percent. A true shooting percentage basically takes every shot–2-point and 3-point field goals and free throws–into account. Effective field-goal percentage takes the fact that a three-pointer is worth more than a two-pointer into account.
The scariest stat, though? Allen has shot 20-of-40 in the fourth quarter, including 10-of-20 from beyond the arc. Want some more nightmare fuel? Allen is shooting 53 percent from the field and 54 percent from deep in games where the margin is only five points.
Allen has made the Heat one of the most difficult teams to put away. Opponents such as Houston, Milwaukee, and Cleveland can all look at the win-loss column and only think of what could have been if not for the Heat having Allen on the floor. Each of those teams had multiple opportunities to deny the Heat a victory, only to see that idea slip away because of the dreaded LeBron-Ray combination that is taking the world by storm.
Maybe there’s a reason why these games are so close. Perhaps the Heat are just testing their own resolve and seeing just how close they can get to the brink of disaster, before unleashing arguably the deadliest shooter to ever play in the NBA.