In life, sometimes you’re lucky, sometimes you make your own luck and sometimes a 21-year-old misses a free throw with a championship in the balance. Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard missed the front end of his first of two free throws with 19 seconds left after being fouled by Miller. It gave the Heat the slimmest of chances. After the miss, Spoelstra subbed in Bosh for Miller, and Popovich put Diaw in the game once again for Duncan.
Allen inbounded the ball Mario Chalmers, who raced up the left side of the court while being closely defended by Tony Parker after Leonard’s make. Chalmers crossed the timeline with 16.2 seconds on the clock and immediately dribbled to the left wing, and toward James, to set up the Heat’s desperation play.
James raced toward Chalmers, hoping to induce a defensive switch. It worked. Leonard left James to pick up Chalmers and, in the confusion, Parker hesitated momentarily, leaving himself in no man’s land, and giving James an open look with 11.6 seconds remaining.
James let it fly from the left wing, 26 feet from the basket. When James’ shot caromed high off the rim, Chris Bosh was under the basket along with one other teammate, Allen, who had crashed the glass from the right corner.
Allen: “At that point, there’s no guarantee who is going to get the ball or what may happen.”
But Bosh found his way to the rim without resistance and positioned himself unimpeded for the biggest rebound of his life. Bosh had three options when he came down with the ball — but chose the best option without hesitation. After all, if you’re in need of a miracle, best go with Jesus Shuttlesworth — Allen’s character in the movie He Got Game.
From his initial position in the paint, Allen ran backward six steps in 1.7 seconds. He caught the ball with his right hand in between his fifth and sixth steps while at the same time glancing down in the briefest of moments to ensure his feet were behind the three-point line.
1/2 hours before games to practice his three-point shooting. Why is he the best three-point shooter in the game? He practices the most. His shot — the iconic elevation, the arms, the elbows, the wrist, the release — is hardwired into his muscle memory after many thousands of hours of work. With Ginobili on the ground and Leonard on the far side of the paint, it was the Spurs’ defender who contested James’ three-pointer 2.7 seconds earlier, Parker, who somehow managed to be the defender closest to Allen. Parker is fast but, slowed by his strained hamstring, he wasn’t fast enough to get a hand in Allen’s face.
Spoelstra: “And Ray did what he’s done for so many years. And we’ve seen it on the other side so many times.”
Shane Battier: “We were in trouble. We were in serious, serious trouble. If you do the math of with the time on the clock, it took a miracle for us to win that game. And the miracle occurred.”
Here’s the math: “Since the mid-1990s, 122 teams have been down five with between 20 and 30 seconds left in a postseason game,” wrote Miami Herald columnist Dan LeBatard on Sunday. “And before Allen’s shot, those teams that were in the Heat’s position were 0-122.”
Manu Ginobili: “It’s a tough moment. We were a few seconds away from winning the championship, and we let it go. A couple of rebounds that we didn’t catch, a tough three by Ray, a couple of missed free throws, it’s very tough …. I’m devastated.”
Allen: “It’s going to be a shot that I’m going to remember for a long time. There are a lot of shots that I’ve made in my career, but this will go high up in the ranks because of the situation. Just the way that whole last minute and a half unfolded, it wasn’t looking good for us. … When it went in, I was ecstatic. But at the same time I was expecting to make it.”
Dwyane Wade: “I actually had the benefit of being underneath the rim when Ray shot it. And when he shot it, I was looking at the ball and I said, ‘Oh, my God, that’s going in.’ It was kind of like I couldn’t believe it in a sense. But also, ‘Oh, my God, it’s going in.’ When it went in, it’s new life.
“We have a saying on our team … in our thing before the game. We say, ‘To the last minute, to the last second, to the last man we fight.’ And that’s what we did. We fought to the very last second and were able to come back and get probably the best win that we’ve had outside of winning the championship last year, but the best win we’ve had as this unit this season.”