Dribble, dribble, dribble. Spin. Deep breath. Swish.
When I was playing, that was my foul shot routine (except, sometimes, minus the swish part). Shut the hell up Jay, you’re probably thinking. This is a Celtics blog, nobody gives a damn about your free throw routine.
Fair enough, but it’s not all about me. This is about Ray Allen, and this is about the mentality of perhaps the greatest shooter of all-time. And that’s why I’m talking about myself.
I never thought my next shot was going to miss. I was never a great shooter (even though I was a pretty damn good one), but I had the classic shooter’s mentality. I knew the next one was going in, regardless of how many I’d missed in a row (or made in a row) until that point. And, if I was open, I was going to let it fly every time. (I’m serious about letting it fly every time I was open; I was never confused for being gun-shy.) Even during deep slumps, such as the one Ray had earlier this season, I was always going to shoot the damn ball. My uncle always used to tell me a mantra I live by to this day: “When you’re hot, keep shooting. And when you’re not hot, you sure as hell better shoot until you are.”
That’s why I’m not worried about Ray Allen, and that’s why nobody else should be worried about Ray Allen. When you’re a shooter, you have bad games. That’s just how it is when most of your shots are on the move, 24 feet away from the basket, with defenders eager to give you no room whatsoever. It’s the territory that comes with being a shooter. There are going to be some nights when nothing falls, when even the open ones miss, when you think back on your game and wonder why in the hell you couldn’t get a single damn shot to fall. But, make no mistake about it, Ray always knows the next one’s going in.
I had no doubts during Game 3 that Ray was going to hit a clutch three to make us forget about his woes. When he caught the ball in front of the Lakers bench with the C’s down 84-80, and he was open, I knew it was going in. Just like Ray did. There wasn’t a doubt in our minds. Oh fer twelve didn’t matter. No numbers matter, not when shooters are shooting. And then, just like all 12 of his other shots, his 13th clanged off the rim. Was I surprised? Yes. Was he? Shocked. The next one’s always supposed to go in.
And that’s the glory of the shooter’s mentality: The next one’s always going in. It’s why you can count on Ray to shoot every shot he takes in Game 4 with confidence. Do you think one bad shooting performance, in a career filled with more swishes than you or I could possibly dream of, could ever derail Ray Allen’s confidence?
Hell no. Even if Ray has another bad game tonight, even if he misses his first twelve shots again, you know he’s going to let the 13th fly.
And you can bet your life he still knows it’s going in.