MIAMI — He was the center of attention yet again, like the old days in Boston when he was a part of that historic trio that resurrected championship basketball. His membership in that Big Three will never be denied, but it ended abruptly last summer. Now on center stage again, Allen is on the verge of winning a second title, with the Miami Heat.
The reason the Heat are entering Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs Thursday is Allen’s amazing ability to hit clutch shots. Replays of him gathering a Chris Bosh pass, stepping back to the 3-point line and firing the tying shot have been played countless times the past 36 hours.
Allen’s 3-pointer sent Game 6 into overtime, capping an improbable Miami comeback from a 5-point deficit with 28.2 seconds left. The NBA had ordered yellow tape to surround the court and the championship trophy was there with Celtics great Bill Russell ready to present it Spurs owner Peter Holt.
Those plans changed dramatically. The Heat enter Game 7 with the momentum and confidence, and the Spurs might be feeling like the 1986 Red Sox entering Game 7 against the Mets. Allen was asked repeatedly about his latest long-range feat.
“I realized this morning probably how much it affected this whole situation, obviously we wouldn’t be here right now,” he said before Miami’s practice Wednesday. “From the people around the world, friends of mine watched it and even people who aren’t fans of me or this team. Sometimes you forget because you live in a fishbowl, the magnificence of this situation, so it’s an amazing situation to be part of.”
Allen is the lone Heat player to participate in Game 7 of an NBA Finals. It was three years ago with the Celtics, who came to Los Angeles leading the Lakers, three games to two. They essentially gave away Game 6, losing, 89-67, as Kendrick Perkins tore his left anterior cruciate ligament.
The Celtics geared up for Game 7, playing stellar defense through the first three quarters and leading, 57-53. But the their aging lineup fatigued as coach Doc Rivers essentially played six players. The Lakers broke through for a 30-point fourth quarter en route to an 83-79 win.
The circumstances surrounding those two games in Los Angeles still annoy Allen. The Celtics shot 33 percent in Game 6 and trailed by 20 at halftime, hardly a passionate performance from a championship-caliber team.
“I don’t remember our strategy going into it,” Allen said of 2010. “I know we had two games to win one and we took the moments too lightly. Now obviously I’m concerned with what [the Heat] need to do. Being home, we can’t rely on what our crowd is going to bring, we have to bring this juice and electrify this building.”
The memories of 2010 still resonate with Allen. Losing that series is probably what separated the Big Three from a potential dynasty. They won the title in 2008, fell short in ’09 when Kevin Garnett was felled with a knee injury, and lost to Miami in ’11 and last season in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
“[I learned] that you can’t expect things to be the way you think they are going to be,” he said. “We have to make them. Whatever luck we hope to get, we have to create it. The ball bouncing the way it did to [Bosh] and then having the wherewithal to get the ball to me like he did, we created that luck. We weren’t in the best of situations with under two minutes to go.
“Game 7 is here for us to take, but we can’t think it’s going to come to us.”
With a new opportunity to make amends for 2010, Allen said he doesn’t swallow his failures easily. He shot 3 for 14 in that decisive Game 7. Garnett grabbed just three rebounds in 38 minutes, an exhausted Rasheed Wallace fouled out after 36 minutes, and approached the referees’ locker room after the game to tell them he was retiring.
It was a painful night for the Celtics because they felt as if they let a title slip away because of an apathetic Game 6 effort, and fatigue.
“It’s something that I’ll talk about forever,” Allen said. “We’re tied to that. Any time you bring up any situation about the Finals, Game 7s, that game will always come up on the screen no matter where I am, whatever I’m doing, they’ll always talk about that and it will be 2010 Boston and you’ll have that sick feeling that will come back. I have it in the pit of my stomach.
“I don’t know if it’s regret because I felt like I did everything I could and you hate to have to deal with that sickness. So now I have an opportunity to be part of a tide to change that so I can say as much as I lost one, I was able to get one back.”Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe