By Lang Whitaker, NBA.com
MIAMI — Chris Bosh stepped out of the Miami Heat shower room and stopped short with one glance at the crowd of media assembling in front of one locker. It wasn’t the stall of LeBron James or Dwyane Wade or even Bosh himself, the cogs of Miami’s big three. On this night, after the Miami Heat beat the Brooklyn Nets 94-82 to take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the player the assembled media couldn’t wait to hear from was… Ray Allen? ”
Damn, Ray!” said Bosh, in mock amazement. We can safely assume Bosh was putting on a bit, because Allen’s contributions were obvious. Coming off the bench, Allen logged 28 minutes and scored 13 points, including shooting 3-for-5 on 3-pointers. He also finished with eight rebounds, good enough to lead the Heat in the category, including a crucial offensive rebound to prolong a possession and basically seal the game. Add that to Allen’s 19 points in Game 1, and it’s safe to say Allen has been one of Miami’s biggest performers in the Conference semifinals.
“A veteran guy who has been in these moments — he had a sense for it, a feel for it, what we needed,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. A bit more succinctly, Wade noted: “Ray does what Ray do.” “You have to read situations, and you have to be patient and let the game develop,” Allen explained. “For me, I just move around, and defensively, try to have an impact and create offense from there. On the offensive end I try not to stand. My guy is watching me, he doesn’t want to leave me, so I just keep moving and you get the easy one.”
Allen’s endurance gave him the motor to keep moving throughout the game. But what was it that made Allen so elusive along the baseline and allowed him to grab so many boards throughout the night? “Because I’m elusive,” he joked. “You’re watching LeBron and D-Wade so much when they’re driving to the basket. I had an opportunity to get behind the defense, when I get the offensive rebounds.
“Then defensively, really I’m the low guy under the basket the majority of the time. The way their offense is set up, I’m the guy that’s down there, so I have to make sure that nobody crashes. They got a lot of second-chance opportunities tonight that we have to clean up for next game, but it was my night to get those rebounds.”
While Allen’s terrific shooting touch is well documented — Nets coach Jason Kidd said after that game that Allen should be considered “one of the best shooters of all-time” — it was an offensive rebound with 3:07 left that might have been Allen’s biggest contribution. The Nets had cut Miami’s lead to 87-79, with 3:39 left in the game. The Heat ended up getting the ball to LeBron for an emergency three-pointer as the shot clock was running down.
“Bron, I knew he was going to have to get up a 9-1-1 shot,” Allen recalled. “And everybody was watching him. And you figure, ‘Hey, he’s not gonna make that,’ if you’re on the other team. But I said, ‘Hey, let me get under the basket and try and make something happen.’ A lot of times I run, and I was just fortunate it fell in my hands. If I was taller I would have dunked it back in.”
Allen did not, however, dunk it back in, and instead the Heat re-set for another possession. After two more James misses and two more Heat offensive rebounds (these by Wade and Bosh), James finally got a lay-up after slipping a screen-roll with Wade with 1:09 left to play. All told, the entire possession took 100 seconds, and the Heat went from an eight-point lead with 3:09 left to a 10-point lead with 1:59 to play, leaving the game effectively out of reach for Brooklyn.
“That was a killer,” said Nets guard Joe Johnson. “We couldn’t come up with the rebound. It was almost as if we didn’t have the energy or effort down the stretch. I thought we fought so hard to stay within reach, to stay within the game. Those last few possessions killed us.”
Looking forward to Games 3 and 4 in Brooklyn, Allen pointed to getting off to faster starts and better finishes in each quarter as keys for the Heat. Although it’s probably worth noting that in franchise history, the Heat have held a 2-0 playoff series lead a dozen different times. They have gone on to win all twelve of those series.
The Heat’s deep bench has been terrific for them throughout the postseason, getting big performances from different players on an almost night-by-night basis. But through two games against Brooklyn, the 38-year-old Ray Allen has shown that he still got game.
“Ray’s amazing,” said Bosh. “He’s awesome. I want to be like him when I grow up.”