Three's a charm: Ray shoots for record
Celtics' Allen on expedited pace to pass Reggie Miller as NBA's career 3-point leader
The students in John Williams' classes at Cheshire High School in Connecticut will arrive Wednesday to find a new number on the whiteboard. When they left Friday, the number had been 35. After four days off (three for the holiday weekend and another for a snow day), they will return to see the number now at 28.
And the number he writes on his whiteboard is the number of 3-pointers his son-in-law needs to overtake Reggie Miller as the NBA's career leader in 3-point conversions. Miller's record stands at 2,560.
"I noticed at the end of last year how close Ray was, and when I went to their exhibition game in Hartford, I turned to my wife and said, 'He's going to break the record. This [school] year. Do the math,'" Williams said in a telephone interview.[+] EnlargeElsa/Getty Images"My friends, they talk about [the record]. But once we get in the locker room, it's just all business," Ray Allen said about closing in on Reggie Miller's title as career 3-point leader.
"So, on the first day of school this year, I wrote the number 117 on the whiteboard," he went on. "After the first game, it was down to 112. And after each game, we usually change the number. He was on a pace to break the record in March, but now it looks like he might do it a lot sooner. He just keeps sticking them."
Indeed he does. Allen is on a 3-point binge right now, averaging a shade more than three per game in the month of January. If he continues at this pace, he will, as Williams said, pass Miller in early February. One possible date: Super Bowl Sunday at home against Orlando.
It would be yet another Celtic tie-in with the 3-point shot and its 30-year-plus history.
Allen set an NBA Finals record when he dropped eight on the Lakers in Game 2 of the 2010 Finals. He also holds the record for most 3-pointers in a six-game Finals series, making 22 in 2008. Celtics guard Chris Ford made the first NBA 3-pointer in October 1979, the night Larry Bird made his Celtics debut. And who can forget Bird in Dallas in 1986, asking his fellow participants before the inaugural Three Point Shot Contest, "which one of you guys is going to finish second?" And then going out and winning, proclaiming, "I am the Three Point King!" to everyone and anyone in the arena? Bird also won in 1987 and 1988, and Paul Pierce is the defending Three Point Shot Contest champion.
Allen won the Three Point Shot Contest in 2001, when he played for the Milwaukee Bucks. He holds the single-season record for most 3s (269 with Seattle in 2005-06) and is the only player to lead the NBA in 3s for as many as three seasons. He is second to Miller in career 3-point attempts.
Allen dropped in three 3-pointers in Monday's 109-106 victory over the Magic, the third of which had Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy slobbering all over the veteran Boston guard. It was an off-balance shot from in front of the Magic bench with Jason Richardson charging at him. Van Gundy called the shot "phenomenal" without so much as a prod from reporters.
"He's unbelievable," Van Gundy said of Allen. "The thing you need to remember about Ray Allen -- and it's a lesson for players in our league -- is all the work he has done to keep himself in shape and maintain such a high level of play. He's playing now at an unbelievably high level. There aren't many shooters playing who are better than Ray Allen. That's why he's going to the Hall of Fame."
Allen is shooting at a career-best 51.7 percent. He is knocking down 47.8 percent of his 3-pointers, also a career best. He recognizes what all of us are seeing -- that, at the age of 35, he is shooting better than ever while starting all 40 games and leading the Celtics in total minutes played.
"I looked at my percentages, and the one thing I can't control is how many points I score," Allen said after dropping 26 on the Magic. "But I can control how efficient I am. The Holy Land of shooting is 50-40-90 (50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3, 90 percent from the foul line), so that's been something that I've aimed for my whole career."
He's never gotten to that particular Holy Land, but he's two-thirds of the way there this season. (He's shooting 88.3 percent from the line.) And as the season progresses, and the 3s continue to drop, the focus on Miller's record, which has stood since 2005, will intensify. It's not a question of if. It's a question of when.
"My friends, they talk about [the record]. But once we get in the locker room, it's just all business," Allen said. "I don't want to be that guy that's running around trying to shoot a 3-pointer all day long. I don't want to be thirsty from behind the 3-point line. I just make sure that I play the game that I've always played."
Williams, meanwhile, said he spoke to Allen this past weekend and asked him whether he knew how many he needed to set the record.
"Early on this season, he had no idea," Williams said. "But this time, he knew. He said, '31.' Then he went out and made three more against Orlando. He doesn't like to talk about basketball off the court, but with this thing coming, that's going to be very hard to avoid."
Longtime Celtics reporter Peter May is a contributor to ESPNBoston.com.
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