Ray Allen's(notes) going to catch hell today. It's inevitable, and even those that love him can't stop it. The best any of us can do is tell it like it was, try to process it and bow our heads in silent recognition of a stinkbomb as remarkable for its complete unpredictability as its pungent aroma. And then it's time to get our Wittgenstein on, because whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.
(Sometimes, only 1920s Austrian philosophy can explain the NBA. It's why noted logical positivist Mitch Albom has had such a long, storied career.)
Just one game removed from a record-setting performance in which he drained an NBA Finals-high eight triples, poured in 32 points and keyed the Boston Celtics' series-evening 103-94 Game 2 victory, Allen - one of the deadliest shooters this league has ever seen - threw up a nearly incomprehensible 0-for-13 spot, including eight misses from long-range, giving Boston a goose-egg that went a long way toward allowing the Los Angeles Lakers to regain home court advantage with a 91-84 road win in Game 3. Of the stunning 180, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, "It's a hell of a swing."
But hey, it's not all bad, Ray! It could've been worse. As Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel noted, you could have wound up setting another record - an awful, awful record:
The only bright note is Allen didn't miss one more shot, which would've tied him for the worst shooting performance in Finals history and given him the most unlikely consecutive record-setting games in history - one at both ends of the spectrum.
"For me, I always think every one is going in," Allen would say.
Only this time not a single one did.
NBA.com's Steve Aschburner has the skinny on the ignominious oh-fer honors, writing of "Hall of Fame-bound guard Dennis Johnson's 0-for-14 [as] the worst shooting night in Finals history; Johnson, with Seattle at the time, clanged his way to the post-shot clock record against Washington in Game 7 of the 1978 Finals. (Baltimore's Chick Reiser shot 0-of-14 against Philadelphia in 1948 before the 24-second clock debuted.)"
Over at ProBasketballTalk, our buddy Matt Moore attempts to put the night into NBA Finals context and finds another silver lining, be it ever-so-slight, surrounding Allen's nightmare cloud:
There were four [players] to have hit seven three[-pointers] in a Finals game going into Sunday night. Scottie Pippen with the Bulls against Utah in Game 3 of the '97 series, Kenny Smith in Game 1 of the '95 series, and Ray Allen in the deciding Game 6 of the 2008 series. So I decided to take a look at how those shooters did in the games following those impressive performances. Obviously, Allen closed out the series with 7 3's in 08, so he didn't hit any threes in the next game as there was no game. But the other two?
Smith played just 19 minutes in Game 2, going 0-2 from the field and 0-1 from the arc on his way to 2 points. And Pippen? Though he went 7 for 16 from the field, he only went 1 for 4 from the arc in Game 4.
So at least we know Allen's not alone. If he needs to sit and drink a cup of coffee with someone who'll understand, he can ring up Pip and the Jet, and they can sort this whole thing out. Plus, they can share some other sunny news: Both Smith's 1995 Houston Rockets and Pippen's 1997 Chicago Bulls went on to win the NBA championship.
One last spoonful of sugar to help C's fans mask the bad taste in their mouths: As you might expect, a night like this is rare for a shooter as gifted as Ray Allen, but you might not know how rare it is. The record books indicate that the proper modifier would be "really, really, ridiculously" rare.
Over the course of his 14-year NBA career, Allen has suited up for 1,119 games - 1,022 regular season contests and 97 postseason matchups, as of this morning. In all those games, he's failed to make a field goal just eight times:
Jan. 11, 2006. Now a member of the Seattle SuperSonics, the normally even-tempered Allen shoots 0-for-1 after eight minutes of burn before being ejected for fighting the illustrious Keyon Dooling(notes) during a game against the Orlando Magic.
Jan. 4, 2008, March 5, 2008 and May 6, 2008. In the first year of Boston's "New Big Three" era, Allen turns in a small three of his own, with regular-season donuts against the Memphis Grizzlies and Detroit Pistons, as well as an Eastern Conference Semifinals oh-fer against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Celtics win all three games on their march to Banner 17.
March 9, 2010. Perhaps off his game due to an emotional overload on the 13th anniversary of the passing of The Notorious B.I.G., Allen is a non-factor in a loss to the Bucks, missing all three shots he takes, including two three-pointers.
And then, last night. Number nine with a bullet, at about as bad a time as you can imagine.
Mr. Dwyer always reminds us that this game we love will teach us something new every night if we open our eyes and let it. Last night, it taught us that everything can go wrong just as quickly as it goes right, that bad things happen to good people, and that when things take a turn for the worse, they can bank harder than you'd ever imagine. But with Game 4 looming on Thursday, we should also remember one of its oldest lessons - that all it can take for a shooter to get hot is seeing the next one go down.