Stat line of the night:
Arnovitz 1 0-1 0-1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Uber-usher Camron grabs me as soon as we walk through portal 18, asking if I want to be the Dodge Half-Court shooter. I immediately offer the honor to Luke, because I wouldn't want to brush my teeth in front of 17,000 people, much less heave a ball from half-court.
Only season ticket holders allowed. Luke is adamant, "Dude, you have to do it." I continue to protest, then realize that the worst case scenario is the compulsory serenade of boos, and a Benihana steak dinner for two. Also, taking the half-court shot is one of those totemic, kitschy sports rituals. It's a great sticker on the suitcase of life.
The staffer tells us to stay put for halftime, then someone will fetch me with about 9:00 left in the third. From the time he leaves until [3rd, 9:00], I proceed to get an endless stream of advice from everyone. First is the one-hand or two-hand debate. My first instinct is two, but Luke immediately points out that when an NBAer takes that half-court shot at the buzzer, he's always releasing the ball as he thrusts it from his hip, one-handed. Next, Neighbor Dave tells me that I need to get some arc on the ball, a hint repeated by Justin on the phone. Pushing off the left leg is vital. Everyone insists that the running start is crucial. And John wants me to remember that it's all about the lower body - the Roger Clemens Law. Finally, and most universally, from John and Luke, to the kid who greets us in the tunnel, to the entirety of Section 318, Row 1, everyone reminds me that "it's farther than you think."
Watching both free-throw shooters miss every shot in the second quarter, I realize that the half-court shot is clearly the best exhibition for me, because there's little expectation - from yourself and from the crowd - that you'll hit the shot. Whereas the couple of guys who goose-egg thirty seconds worth of free throws suffer total humiliation. We decide that my goal here is to draw glass and, at minimum, miss long. In other words, I'm to heave it as far as I can.
At halftime, Luke and I find an alcove behind the elevator, a little strip of floor, where I practice. I've got it down - the release off the left leg, the one-handed thrust from the hip, the follow-through. Everything.
After halftime, a staffer leads us to the elevator and down into the bowels of the arena. They give me a Spalding [new ball], and I take a few practice leaps in the tunnel, then spend the last few minutes of the third watching the game on the jumbotron.
With about 2:00 left in the period, Brad J - the Clippers' soul-patched emcee - introduces himself. John and I have spent the better part of two seasons ripping the guy, though I've come around in recent weeks to realize that the guy has a mortifying job. There's no likable way to perform that role - but he does it professionally every time out. And you know what? He's an extremely nice guy, sincerely encouraging, and generally good-natured. Same thing with the blond girl, Tracy - not at all ditzy while urging me to have some fun.
After that, I just embrace the Camp. Two Clipper Spirit members sidle up on either side of me for the arm-in-arm escort out to half-court, one of my richer moments of irony in recent memory. I make a goofy face back at Luke. I'm actually a lot less nervous than I was fifteen minutes ago. Tracy and Brad do the intro, then the drum roll, which is actually the most stressful element, because it screws with your timing. I take my time, then a dribble, then launch the ball. When it leaves my hands, I have no idea if I cleared the baseline. Then the ball bounces off the camera that's mounted on top of the 24-second clock. Perfectly on line, but insanely high. According to Luke, the comment in the tunnel among the staff is, "Daaaamn. Never seen anyone draw camera before."
In other words, it isn't as far as you think.
No Airball serenade, not much booing. I get to watch a Japanese guy flick chopped shrimp from a heaping pool of butter into the air. Mission accomplished.
The Clippers won this game with a stellar defensive set with about 25 seconds left in the game:
With the Clippers up 93-91, Watson dribbles up top. Jesus Shuttlesworth immediately gets a baseline screen from Weezie. Ross chases under and Allen can't get any room. We're at :19 now. Another screen from Wilcox on the baseline, and Allen runs back to the left corner where he started the set. Ross stays with him, until Allen cuts up to his spot out on the arc at the left wing. Elton immediately leaves Collison at the left middle-post to step out on Allen. The minute EB does, Collison dives toward the basket. Kaman moves quickly to pick up Collison, and Watson heaves the pass over Collison's head, out of bounds. The Clippers had decided that Ray Allen wasn't going to beat them under any circumstances. Great decision by Elton, good shift onto Collison by Kaman. It's an awful pass by Watson, but it's one of those play-good-team-defense-and-something-fortuitous-is-likely-to-happen situations.
Stat line of the night: