What’s not to love about Ray Allen?
Best three-point shooter in NBA history. Actor. Ten-time NBA All-Star. Jesus Shuttlesworth. Two-time NBA champion. Olympic gold medalist. Jesus Shuttlesworth. Future Hall-of-Famer. Jesus Shuttlesworth. The second-most important player on the Miami Heat.
You read that last part correctly– Allen is the most important player, behind LeBron James, on the Miami Heat. Not Dwyane Wade. Not Chris Bosh.
Wait!Don’t stop reading! Please let me explain:
If you watched Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday night, you saw the impact Allen had in the second half. Allen scored all 16 of his points after halftime and gave the Heat the lift they needed to secure the win after trailing as many as 15 points early in the game. Despite not having taken a three-pointer in the game until the fourth quarter, Allen connected on all four of his three-point attempts in the fourth as the Heat held on for the 89-77 victory.
It’s no coincidence the winning margin of 12 points matched Allen’s total points in three-pointers in the fourth quarter. While James and Wade did most of the damage offensively for the Heat, scoring 26 and 23 points, respectively, Allen was the difference in the game.
Since the “Big 3” joined forces in South Beach, James, Wade, and Bosh have been able to find an offensive groove within almost every playoff series. In the last three seasons, Miami has won 11 playoff series and lost just one, the 2011 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks. Allen was still a member of the Boston Celtics at that time, and he joined the Heat after the 2012 season, after the Heat defeated the Thunder in the NBA Finals. Although the Heat were good enough to win one title without Allen’s help, Miami, however, was not good enough to win their second championship without Allen’s overtime-forcing, step-back, miracle three in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs.
Take a moment and imagine the drama that would have been created in Miami. Without Allen’s season-saving three, the Heat would have gone one-for-three in the NBA Finals. LeBron may have never recovered from losing in three NBA Finals. Who knows what would have happened to the Heat…
But, fear not, Heat fans, for Ray Allen was there to save the day and, possibly, LeBron’s legacy and future in Miami.
If you look even closer at Miami’s trips to the Finals and individual games in the Finals, Miami’s offensive success has revolved around making threes. In the 2011 Finals against Dallas, Miami made 45 three-pointers in six games, but the Heat only shot 35 percent from three-point range in the series.
In 2012 against Oklahoma City, the Heat made 42 three-pointers in five games, and they shot nearly 43 percent from three. Shane Battier led the team with 15 three-point makes in five games, Mario Chalmers made eight, and Mike Miller chipped in seven three-pointers, all in the championship-clinching Game 5. In 2013 against San Antonio, the Heat made 64 threes in seven games and, again, shot 43 percent from three in the series. Mario Chalmers led the team with 13 threes in seven games, but the Heat made three-pointers by committee James, Battier, Miller, and Allen all making more than 11 threes in the series, one of which being Allen’s series-saving three.
When Miami makes threes, they are incredibly difficult to guard and nearly impossible to stop. Unfortunately for the Heat, they no longer have Mike Miller, one of their three-point assassins in the playoffs. Rashard Lewis has been Miller’s replacement this season, but let’s be honest, Lewis doesn’t have any business on the floor in the NBA Finals. It’s not 2009 anymore. That leaves it up to James, Chalmers, Allen, Battier, and the newest member of the three-point bunch, Chris Bosh, to carry the Heat from long range. Against Indiana, the Heat may get by with limited three-point shooting because the Pacers can’t score. But, against San Antonio or Oklahoma City, Miami better be able to make threes to run with the Spurs and Thunder. As Allen has made the most threes in NBA history, a lot of the pressure to make shots will fall on his shoulders.
Obviously, Miami has a ton of weapons, so it doesn’t all depend on Allen’s ability to make shots. Any one of the Heat players are capable of adding a scoring punch at some point. Of the group of role players, Allen is the best and most experienced option the Heat have, and he’s one of the only players who can’t be game-planned against. Regardless of how a defense plays him, Allen can always get open looks because he fits so well in Miami’s offense. Coach Eric Spoelstra doesn’t have to draw up plays for Allen. He’s just as deadly waiting in the corner for a kick-out or finding open spaces in transition as he is running off screens. Plus, he only needs fractions of a second to get his jumper off, so defenders can’t give him an inch of space.
In Miami’s offense, Allen is the perfect weapon. He’s the kill-shot, just ask the Pacers.
Hold up… Did I really just try to convince people a guy shooting 37.5 percent from three-point range and averaging 9.6 points per game this season was the second-most important player on the favorite to win the NBA championship? Unfortunately, I did. I’m ashamed of myself, honestly, but I stand by it.
In terms of consistent impact, Allen isn’t the second-most important player because without Wade or Bosh playing well, the Heat will have a very difficult time moving forward in the playoffs. The best player in the world can only carry a team so far in four consecutive seasons. However, if Wade and Bosh are making their usual contributions, Allen is the X-factor for the Heat on this deep playoff run. And to win the NBA title, everyone needs an X-factor, a wild card who can be there when the team needs him most.
There’s a reason “Big Shot Bob” Horry has five rings, just sayin’.
In his older age, Allen’s consistency has been a problem, but he definitely isn’t as washed up as his numbers might suggest. He’s found the role in which he’s the most comfortable: the shooter. He doesn’t have to do it all like he used to in Milwaukee, Seattle, and his first few years in Boston. Some guys never figure out how to change their game as they age.
NBA history is filled with guys who could never take on another role than the role they played in their prime. Allen wasn’t one of those guys. He’s made the necessary adjustments to play as long as he possibly could, even when that meant switching to shoes two sizes too big to relieve his foot pain. Could Allen have played a few more years in Boston or for another team, made more money, and took on a much heavier load than what he’s been used to in Miami? Of course he could have, but what was the point?
Allen has “a very particular set of skills,” and he found the best place to use them. If you leave Allen open, the Heat will find him, and he will kill you.
What’s not to love about that?