The Smoothest Strikes Again

A Daily Babble Production

As I watched the Celtics muddle through a regular season finale victory over the Wizards last Wednesday, it occurred to me that Ray Allen might be the smoothest human being I've ever seen.

It's that one characteristic that so rarely seems to leave him.  On the odd occasion that he sits out of a game inactive - as he did that night against Washington - he makes sure to be the sharpest-dressed fellow in the building with nary a thread out of place.  When he gives an interview, he maintains a remarkably even tone given that he has usually just completed a high-adrenaline sporting event, and it isn't often that his mood seems to grow too high or too low.

And when he shoots a jump shot, well, wow.

There is no wasted motion, no unnecessary exertion in Allen's shot.  He curls, catches, rises and releases.  His legs go straight up and rarely seem to be splaying all over the place unless a defender undercuts him.  His right elbow bends at a right angle and remains locked tightly into his body.  His release is quick and to the point.  His wrist snaps just like it's supposed to, but it doesn't hang ostentatiously after the fact like that of so many others.  When the ball goes through the hoop - even from a distance at which many of the best are only successful on four of every 10 occasions - it seems as if it is merely what's supposed to happen.

On Saturday, we witnessed a rare day when Ray Allen wasn't Ray Allen.  It wasn't just that he was missing shots, but he didn't seem to be himself.  I couldn't tell you what it was about the mechanics, but even besides the ball not going in the net, he didn't look quite as comfortable, quite as unfazed as usual.  He looked like he was rushing.  On most days, even when Ray doesn't have a lot of time to get a shot off, he manages to appear as though he is shooting right in stride, not a moment too soon or a second too late.

Monday night, that Ray Allen returned.  Like The Guru said after the Celtics' 118-115 victory over Chicago, I can't tell you which part of his shot looked tangibly different, and it isn't just that the ball was going in the basket.  It was there in his body language: The smoothness had come off hiatus.  He curled, caught, elevated and released. 

When Ben Gordon chased him around a screen and got underneath him as he shot, Allen simply moved his right leg a bit to the side to avoid landing on Gordon and did everything else just as he always does.  Good.  When Rajon Rondo kicked an offensive rebound out to Allen with the Celts down one late, he calmly set his feet and took a shot that for him has become the equivalent of a batting-practice fastball.  Pure.  With the game hanging in the balance and 6-foot-11 Joakim Noah running at him, Allen looked as though he could have been taking a shot in the middle of the third quarter or in a pick-up game out on the blacktop.  There wasn't a single change to his routine that might indicate to an uninformed observer that he was shooting for the game and a chance to even a series in a way the Celtics desperately needed.  Bang.

Thanks for getting it done - again - Ray.  No matter what the last game or the last shot held, you'll always have this fan's trust with the game on the line.

***

Apologies to any looking for my standard recap bullet points today.  Given that it took about three hours for my pulse to return to a normal speed and that we've got an extra day between games thanks to the wonders of national television, we're giving Ray his own day in the Babble sun - except to say hats off to Ben Gordon for an incredible shooting performance of his own.  With what feels like a million more areas meriting comment from this game, we're back tomorrow with those residual Game 2 musings and a few rumblings looking forward to Thursday.

Enjoy this one, Celtics fans.

Believe.

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