Ray Allen, the hero who makes it fall
June, 19, 2013
By Michael Wallace
Robert Mayer/USA TODAY SportsRay Allen launches the shot that tied Game 6 and forced overtime. It was his lone 3-point basket.MIAMI -- Ray Allen has made more regular-season and playoff 3-pointers than anyone in NBA history.
But when it comes to the biggest shot he's ever hit in a game, the veteran sharpshooter will have a hard time topping the dagger he delivered Tuesday to bring the Miami Heat back from the brink of elimination and keep their title defense alive.
“It's going to be the shot that I'm going to remember for a long time,” Allen said well after midnight as he spoke to reporters. “There are a lot of shots I've made in my career, but this will go high up in the ranks because of the situation. That right there was luck shining on our side.”
It involved a bit more than luck.
The corner 3-pointer Allen drilled with 5.2 seconds left in regulation brought the Heat back from a five-point deficit with 20 seconds left, forced overtime and set the tone for Miami's 103-100 overtime victory against the San Antonio Spurs to force Game 7 of the NBA Finals on Thursday.
So much of this remarkable series has been about the shooting exploits of Spurs guard Danny Green, who shattered Allen's record for most 3-pointers made during an NBA Finals series when his total reached 25 in a Game 5 victory that gave San Antonio a 3-2 series lead.
But Allen responded 48 hours later on Tuesday with what just might prove to be the most pivotal shot of the series.
It was the highlight moment in a game that saw LeBron James overcome a sluggish start by finishing with 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for his second triple-double of the series. Allen's shot also was the most regrettable moment for thousands of Heat fans who had filed out of AmericanAirlines Arena with 28.2 seconds left after Manu Ginobili's free throw put the Spurs ahead 94-89.
But then, the first of three miraculous, season-saving plays for the Heat unfolded to get the game to overtime. James made a 3-pointer with 20.1 seconds left to cut to lead to two. Then the Spurs' Kawhi Leonard split a pair of free throws, and James launched another 3-pointer but missed.
When Chris Bosh snagged the offensive rebound, Allen said his instincts took over and his feet got him in position.
“When I saw [Bosh] get the ball, I just backpedaled right to the 3-point line, and I was hoping I was where I needed to be. I wasn't quite sure. But from years of shooting, I got to my spot. We never give up. Just being able to be in that situation, where the ball bounces in our direction ...”
Allen's thoughts trailed off as he contemplated the moment.
These were exactly the kind of moments he came to Miami to be a part of as a free agent after he left Boston last summer following five productive seasons with the Celtics.
Miami's season started with Allen making game-winning jumpers on three occasions. But then there were moments when Allen struggled to settle into his role and find a consistent rhythm, despite the Heat posting a franchise-record 66 victories that included the second-longest winning streak in NBA history at 27 straight games.
Allen then bounced back with a solid first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks, when he passed Reggie Miller's mark for most career postseason 3-pointers. Allen has made 2,857 regular-season 3-pointers in 17 seasons, with another 352 coming in the playoffs. That list includes dozens of game-winning shots. Bosh, credited with the assist on Allen's shot, called this one a season-saver.
“You can't put it into words,” Bosh said of Allen's heroics. “He's the best 3-point shooter of all time. And the fact that he was open is just unbelievable. He kept our season alive.”
Allen said there was no chance he was going to pass up the shot in that situation -- even with James flailing his arms on the wing in an attempt to get Bosh to pass him the ball. Allen said he also saw James waving for the ball.
But passing up the moment simply wasn't an option.
“If it's not me taking the shot, I have no problem with Ray taking that shot,” James said as he laughed off the snub. “He's got ice water in his veins. Ray can be 0-for-99 in a game, and if he gets an open look late, it's going down.”
Allen wasn't exactly 0-for-99 Tuesday. But he had missed four of his first six shots in the game, including his first two attempts from 3-point range, before he got one to fall. He finished with nine points on 3-of-8 shooting.
But Allen's impact was spot-on in the clutch.
“Ray did what he's done for so many years,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And we've seen it on the other side so many times.”
After getting sporadic playing time over the past two series, Allen put himself in position to be on the court at the most critical stages based on his play in the previous game. He had 21 points off the bench in Sunday's loss in Game 6, but helped spark Miami's rally from a 20-point deficit. The Heat cut the lead to a point before falling 114-104 Sunday.
Even when his shooting has been off, Allen has tried to make plays on both ends of the court to stay in the rotation.
His persistence paid off Tuesday, and gave the Heat one more shot to defend their title in a winner-take-all Game 7.
“It's been a very unusual series,” Allen said. “There hasn't really been great momentum from one game to the next for any team. But now, we're in a situation where we have to make any play, whatever play necessary.”