Ray Allen doesn’t remember his game winners. Yes, there is plenty of stock video footage to be found of Allen celebrating clutch shots, but he said those moments are all just a blur in his memory.
What does Allen remember? He remembers the misses.
Take Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2007, for example. Allen recalls that night vividly. He stepped to the free-throw line with 23 seconds left in a tie game (92-92) against LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers. Allen missed the first free throw and couldn’t believe it.
“The ball went in, rattled around and popped out,” Allen said. “And I was so surprised that I missed. And even when the referee gave me the ball back I was still surprised and actually angry that I missed. And I ended up missing the second one because I was still emotionally connected to that first one.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra delivered a simple question to his team Thursday, one day after a dramatic 103-102 Game 1 victory against in overtime the Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals: What could you have done better?
Taking Spoelstra’s message to heart, Allen stepped to the free-throw line after practice and went to work. He never forgets his misses.
“Everyone took an objective look at the game because we have to take that mentality like we can play so much better because we could be sitting here 0-1,” Allen said.
Allen won’t remember the second of two free throws that he made against the Pacers on Wednesday with 17 seconds left in regulation. He’ll remember the first attempt, the one that caromed off the rim and gave the Pacers a glimmer of hope at the end of regulation. Allen spent about an hour practicing free throws. By the end, he was alone in an empty gym with only a few reporters who waited out the shooting session.
Allen attempted 102 free throws, but he only remembered two — the ones he missed.
Were the extra free throws penances for the one miss near the end of regulation?
“Yes and no,” Allen said. “It’s a rhythm thing once you get in there. Even when I stood over them last night, I felt pretty comfortable, but you always have to revisit this floor. I call it the lab.
“You got to make sure you spend your time in here and make sure you do what you have to do, especially this time of year. You have important situations out there on the floor, and you have to be able to answer the bell.”
LeBron James, of course, beat the bell, or buzzer, with his game-winning layup in Game 1, but, like Allen, he was more concerned about the mistakes the Heat made during the course of Game 1. In particular, Miami committed 21 turnovers. Going into the Eastern Conference finals, Miami was averaging less than 15 turnovers per game in the postseason.
The practice day between Games 1 and 2 in a best-of-7 series are always about adjustments, and the Heat used a lengthy film session to deconstruct its errors.
“We can get better,” James said. “I think both teams didn’t play to the level they were capable of in Game 1. Both teams had chances to win.”
The Heat is now 9-1 in the postseason going into Friday’s Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals. Despite the impressive record, James, Spoelstra and Shane Battier reiterated a constant theme of Miami’s playoff run: The Heat has yet to play a perfect game.
“From start to finish, I don’t think we’ve played a great game in the postseason yet,” James said.
Said Spoelstra: “We have to continue to push forward and evolve. We improved a little bit in the last series, but we’re pushing for the next level or two that we feel we can get to. We haven’t gotten there yet.”
In addition to the high number of turnovers, the Heat shot 64 percent from the free-throw line as a team and was 5 of 18 from three-point range. Battier, who played 31 minutes off the bench, was 0 of 4 from three-point range.
“We know we didn’t play our ‘A’ game, and we have a lot of room for improvements,” Battier said.