Ray Allen faced a potentially awkward moment before he even played his first game with the Miami Heat. Not only were the Heat facing his old team, the Boston Celtics, his new teammates were receiving their 2012 championship rings.
Miami had won a hard-fought seven-game series over Allen’s Celtics on its way to the title, and both sides were a little bitter. That bitterness increased tenfold when Allen left Boston to sign with the Heat, and all those emotions could have boiled over before Miami’s season opener even began.
But Allen handled the moment with grace and class, waiting in the locker room and deferring to his Heat teammates who’d been part of the championship run.
“It’s their moment,” he said.
Tonight, Allen had his moment with the Heat.
Allen made a 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds remaining in regulation to send Game 6 of the NBA Finals to overtime, where Miami emerged with a 103-100 win over the San Antonio Spurs. If the Heat win Game 7 on Thursday, it will go down as one of the greatest shots in NBA history.
The Heat knew they’d be getting the quiet dignity Allen showed before the opener, but they were also counting on shots like these – clutch 3-pointers – and Allen delivered all season. Nobody made more 3-pointers with the game separated by five or fewer points in the final five minutes during the regular season.
In the playoffs, though, Miami has turned to its biggest superstar a little more. LeBron James has made and attempted twice as many such shots as Allen this postseason.
But in Game 6, hardly Allen’s best game – he shot 3-for-8 and scored nine points – the Heat were seemingly waiting for him to reward their trust him. Allen played 40 minutes, including the final 23 – in all, the most he’s played in a game with Miami aside from a double-overtime win over the Sacramento Kings in February. Only LeBron and Mario Chalmers, who was without a backup in the Heat’s tightened rotation, played more tonight.
At 37 years old, Allen was getting every chance make be on the court to make a big shot. He made the biggest.
Allen has spoken throughout the season about how much he enjoys playing for the Heat, but the experience has come with difficulties. Before the season, he even complained playing with LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh sometimes left him uncomfortably open.
But in the final moments of the fourth quarter of Game 6, Allen used all three of those stars to spring him loose. Wade set a hard screen to give Allen space and force Manu Ginobili to switch off Allen. LeBron drew the Spurs’ attention by attempting a 3-pointer. Chris Bosh grabbed the offensive rebounded and kicked to Allen, who was scrambling to get behind the 3-point arc and certainly wasn’t too open anymore.
Allen was backpedaling when he caught the pass, but as he stressed when he signed with the Heat, he’s moving forward. And thanks to his shot, the biggest of the NBA Finals, the Heat are moving forward, too.