It wasn’t so long ago that Ray Allen was tormenting the Heat by dropping in one long-range shot after another.
Last June, despite being dogged by an injured right ankle, Allen hit at least one three-pointer in each game of Boston’s seven-game series against the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.
A few weeks after the Heat finally rid themselves of the Celtics and beat the Thunder in five to win the NBA title, Allen gave into LeBron James’ pleas to come south as he signed a three-year pact with the Heat.
Said James, “It’s still kind of weird seeing him shoot the ball for us after all those years of being on the other side. We love the luxury of having him.’’
Was there any worry about Allen fitting in with a championship team he had battled against?
“I didn’t have apprehension. My whole life I’ve had to travel and had to fit in somewhere,’’ said Allen, who faced off against the Heat in the playoffs three times as a member of the Celtics.
“It wasn’t unusual coming here. This is a pretty good group of veteran guys. We share a common goal, and everyone looks to see where they can help. Sometimes you have to sit back and get out of the way. Knowing when to be passive and when to be aggressive comes from all of us playing all these years of basketball. Being a team requires sacrifice.’’
Allen might not have started a single game for the Heat this season, but there’s no doubt of his importance as Miami gets after another championship.
“There’s no surprise here,” James said. “Ray was brought here to stretch the floor for us, to add another champion to our team, a professional. We know what he’s capable of doing, especially in the postseason. He’s always raised his game.”
With Allen gone — and Rajon Rondo injured — the Celtics struggled in the final weeks of this season and were eliminated in Game 6 by the Knicks on Friday night.
Boston had not been knocked out in the opening round of the playoffs since before Allen joined forces with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in 2007-08.
For Allen, watching the Celtics sputter wasn’t really much of his concern anymore.
With Dwyane Wade hurting in Game 3 of the opening-round series against Milwaukee — and missing Game 4 completely — Allen had bigger things on his mind.
Allen, 37, helped make up for the lack of scoring from Wade (just four points on 1-of-12 shooting although he had nine rebounds and 11 assists) in Game 3 by scoring 23 points.
In that victory over the host Bucks — whom Allen spent seven seasons with — Allen hit five of his eight three-pointers and scored eight points in a fourth quarter when he played all 12 minutes.
In Miami’s 88-77 win in Game 4 to close out the Bucks, Allen went 4 of 7 from beyond the arc and scored 16 points in 29 minutes.
“We have been on the other side of that pain when he’s knocking down threes,’’ coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Everything he’s done for every team over the years speaks for itself. We’re so grateful to have him on our side. He is a true professional and is a champion for a reason. You see his game elevate at this level.’’
Allen, despite averaging a career-low 11 points this season, is the headliner of a Miami bench which is deep and talented.
Aside from Allen, Spoelstra has the likes of Chris Andersen (31 points off the bench in the opening three games against Milwaukee), Shane Battier, Norris Cole and former All-Star Rashard Lewis to call upon.
Allen knew he would be coming off the bench when he signed with the Heat last summer, but he also was assured he was going to be a big part of Miami’s run to another championship.
Things are going as originally planned.
“We want things to fit here so we make them fit,” Allen said. “When certain guys in sports move and assemble a collection of talent, you have to learn how to win on the team’s terms and not on your own terms.’’