MILWAUKEE -- He didnt have to start, but, before he put pen to paper and signed with the Heat, Ray Allen wanted to know that he would be on the court for important minutes in playoff games.
In an hours-long meeting during his recruitment to Miami, Allen sat down with Erik Spoelstra and listened to the coachs plan for the upcoming season. Spoelstra charted out his rotations in detail, explaining that point guard Mario Chalmers was an entrenched starter and that Allen would be backing up Dwyane Wade. Ultimately, Allen accepted a lesser role and lesser money for a promise that, come playoff time, he would be in a position to make an impact.
On Thursday at Milwaukees Bradley Center, Allen delivered on his end of the bargain.
With Wade limited offensively by a sore right forearm and injured knee, Allen poured in 23 points to lead the Heat in Game 3 of its best-of-7, first-round playoff series against the Bucks. Allen was 5 of 8 from three-point range, played every minute in the fourth quarter and scored eight points in the final period.
In other words, its nice having a future first-ballot Hall of Famer in reserve when another future first-ballot Hall of Famer is having an off night.
Its big time and thats part of the reason we went after [Allen] in the offseason, said LeBron James, who had 22 points in Game 3. We knew what he was capable of doing. Not only in the regular season but we know how many big-time games he has been in in the postseason and when D-Wade has an off night and to have someone behind him to back him up and pick up offensively, its a big boost for our team.
Last summer, James was in Las Vegas hosting a basketball camp for talented up-and-comers when he got the call that Allen had agreed to play with the Heat. James called Allen immediately to celebrate the news. For years, James had been begging Allen to join him in the pursuit of an NBA championship, and it was finally happening.
Its time, James recalled Allen saying during the phone conversation.
More than anything, this first-round playoff series has been about the Heats depth. The Heats bench is averaging 40.7 points per game entering Game 4 on Sunday. For perspective, consider this: The Heat has played 165 postseason games in franchise history and two of the three highest-scoring postseason games by the bench have been in this series.
The bench scored 43 points in Game 1 and matched that mark in Game 3. The Heat postseason record for bench points is 45. Allen is averaging 16.6points per game in the series and Chris Andersens contribution in relation to his minutes on the floor has been staggering. Birdman has played 42 minutes 37 seconds during the series and has scored 31 points and pulled down 19 rebounds. He went 5-of-5 shooting Thursday and is 13 of 15 from the field in the series.
It has been our calling card all year, the depth that we have, Allen said. We have so many sitting on our bench that are so productive when they get in the game, whether you played the last game, the last two or three games or youre in there for two minutes, guys come off the bench and are ready and its a great testimony to this team and how we have grown from Day One until now.
Allen emphasized after Thursdays game that sacrificing minutes and coming off the bench isnt an issue, given that everyone on the team has made sacrifices to the play for the Heat. Its a mantra Spoelstra has hammered into the fabric of the team and that easy team chemistry has no doubt contributed to the benchs overall production.
Its probably, in my 17 years, the one season that went by the quickest, Allen said. We had so many fun moments so when we said the playoffs were here, it was incredible that it went so fast, and thats a testimony to how much fun I had personally being with this team.
So, coming off the bench was I look down the bench and I have Rashard Lewis, Mike Miller, James Jones, Juwan Howard, Birdman we have so many great players on that bench and everybody has sacrificed to be on this team, so, it makes it so easy for me to just come off the bench and figure out ways to help this team.
Wade received two hours of treatment on his sore right knee and sore right forearm Friday at Marquettes Al McGuire Center. Spoelstra called Wades status day-to-day Friday. If Wade rests Sunday, Miller probably would start at shooting guard.