Ray Allen is 38 years old and he is playing basketball with the energy and legs of a player 10 years his junior.
It’s one of the more remarkable physical feats in this league of physical freaks, this third act by the actor who played Jesus Shuttlesworth. While his former teammates from Boston appear to be fading in Brooklyn, Allen is only getting stronger in his sixth-man role with the Miami Heat. In his most active game of the young season, Allen finished with 17 points in 26 minutes on Monday in the Heat’s 107-92 blowout of the Phoenix Suns at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“It’s pretty incredible, especially how skinny he is now,” Chris Bosh said of Allen’s longevity. “It makes him look a lot younger, but he’s just been an athletic freak. He takes his nutrition serious and he takes everything serious and you can tell that hard work really pays off for him.
“I want to be just like Ray Allen when I grow up.”
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Allen, whose fitness is legendary in the NBA, added a new “paleo diet” to his lifestyle. He weighed about 192 pounds this summer, which was the lightest he had been since his college days at UConn.
Allen, who entered the game averaging 10.5 points per game, flashed his signature two-finger salute following his third three-pointer of the fourth quarter to give the Heat a 16-point lead with eight minutes to play. From there, the Heat (11-3) cruised to victory after a competitive third quarter against the young Suns.
It was the seventh consecutive victory for the Heat, which hasn’t lost a game since Jeff Green of the Celtics made that game winner in the same sacred spot Allen salvaged Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals. LeBron James led the Heat with 35 points, going 11 of 14 from the field.
Allen’s sharpshooting off the bench put points between the Heat and Suns and then James’ late-game turnaround fadeaway jumper took over all offensive duties. James scored the Heat’s final 12 points of the game, going 3 of 3 from the field and 6 of 6 from the free-throw line.
All of James’ fourth-quarter points came in the final four minutes, and a 16-foot fadeaway jumper started the barrage. James connected on another fadeaway with 3:09 left to give the Heat a 103-90 lead. His final fadeaway came with 2:15 to play.
Playing without star point guard Eric Bledsoe, the Suns (7-7) shot 39.8 percent from the field and 25 percent (8 of 32) from three-point range. Eighth-year pro Channing Frye led the Suns with 16 points. Guards Gerald Green and Goran Dragić combined to go 10 of 25 from the field.
“That’s a good, young basketball team, so we had to work for this one,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They’re a good defensive team and they put you in some compromising positions.”
The Heat led 50-47 at halftime after James made a three-pointer with six-tenths of a second on the clock. The Heat shot 49.4 percent after entering the game shooting over 51 percent from the field on the season.
Dwyane Wade had a productive game, going 9 of 13 from the field for 21 points. He also had 12 assists and six rebounds. Guard Norris Cole, filling in for Mario Chalmers in the starting lineup, was 1 of 6 from the field. Chalmers missed the game with a strained muscle in his leg.
Wade looked lively and spry the entire night. After the game he even delivered a pair of cartwheels in the background of James’ post-game interview with Heat courtside reporter Jason Jackson. With a slight variation on a running gag between the Heat’s Big 3, Wade’s cartwheel was one of the more creative “photo bombs” of the past three years.
“He’s has been practicing that with his sons,” Spoelstra said. “I think it started out as a yoga move.”
Said Wade: “I did it in practice one day and Spo looked at me like I was crazy. It’s on now. You can’t just throw a towel anymore.”
Post-game cartwheels by the Heat’s starting shooting guard are all the easier with Allen as a backup. The 18-year pro was 6 of 11 from the field and 3 of 8 from the three-point line to go along with an assist, three rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot.
“It always happens with the new guy in the system,” Bosh said of Allen last year. “It takes time and you could see the frustration in his face a little bit last year and we just had to encourage him and told him everything would come. And he was a lot more prepared coming into this year because he knew everything that was going to happen.
“He is more comfortable within the system now and I think it is really showing.”