Heat confident Ray Allen's shooting slump just a rough patch


Ray Allen hit one of the most famous 3-point shots in NBA history less than a year ago, and he has proved to be the most prolific behind the arc with more made 3-pointers in a career than any other player. 

So, when a shooter of Allen's caliber hits a rough patch, the assumption is that the minor struggle will be short-lived. As Monday rolled around, however, Miami was still waiting for Allen to come out on the other side of his slump. He showed signs that he could be done with one of the worst shooting slumps of his career in the Miami Heat's 121-114 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

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It had been a long road to that 4-of-4 game from the 3-point line for Allen, who ended the day with 14 points. Prior to Monday, Allen had only hit four from deep over the first nine games of the month.  

Allen started January by playing out three games and 63 minutes without making a 3-pointer, shooting 0-of-7 over that span. That pattern extended through the month, and he maintained a shooting average of 11.8 percent from deep before Monday. Encompassed in that nine-game span were seven games without a made three and only one contest with more than one conversion.  

When the Heat played the Bobcats on Friday in Charlotte, where Allen was 1-of-5 from the 3-point line, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra expressed confidence in Allen.  

“He’s a veteran player," Spoelstra said. "He knows how to impact a game and it’s not the first time he’s had a stretch where the ball hasn’t gone in.

"He’s know that. He’s not going to overreact to it. Our guys will continue to show faith in him. Hopefully, everyone else that we’re playing against will think this is a bigger deal than it is and maybe leave him open.”

Indeed, Allen has had shooting slumps before.

There was the time in 2008, along the road to the Boston Celtics' title win, when Allen could hit a shot and Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were left to take on the scoring load.

"Ray's a part of the Boston Celtics, and the Boston Celtics are winning," Garnett told The Associated Press at the time. "I'm sure it's not his first shooting slump, and it's definitely not his last.

"So I don't have any sympathy for Ray Allen. I think he's playing great basketball."

Allen had shot 16.7 percent from three in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers, but recovered to shoot 52.4 percent from the arc and average 20.3 points in the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. 

Another example came to start the 2009-10 season, when Allen began the first 17 games shooting 30.1 percent from the 3-point line, an average that was more than 10 percentage points lower than the one he maintained the season prior. As he had after each shooting struggle before, Allen eventually recovered. 

Miami knows it's only a matter of time before Allen returns to his old self from outside. In the interim, they are working diligently to get their shooter back in a rhythm.

In Charlotte on Saturday, Miami had Allen shoot technical free throws and hit him in the corners for shots on several occasions. At Atlanta on Monday, Miami set double screens to free Allen for shots on the wing and hit him with cross-court passes for open looks.   

James, whose now tasked with making sure Allen converts shots, said he always utilizes a specific approach to freeing Allen, even when he isn't struggling. 

“I’ve always tried to attack Ray’s defender and make his defender take one peek at me and just try to get Ray

an open look," James said.

Part of the reason Miami has such faith in Allen is because of his dedication and track record. Allen's pregame ritual is stuff of legend, and his shot is as technically sound as there is in the NBA.  

“It has nothing to do with work ethic," James continued. "He shoots more than anybody on the team. Obviously, we always think that every shot he takes is going in. He just needs to see the ball go in the basket and it’s my job to help him do that.”