By the end of this crazy multi-year run of heart-pounding drama, Ray Allen might have memorable postseason shots from every corner of the Heat’s home court.
Allen, the savior of the 2013 NBA Finals, made another classic corner three-pointer Wednesday night to close out the Brooklyn Nets in five games and send the Heat to the Eastern Conference finals for the fourth consecutive year.
The Heat defeated the Nets 96-94 at AmericanAirlines Arena and won its Eastern Conference semifinal series, 4-1.
Allen didn’t make his three-pointer Wednesday from the same corner as his magical shot in Game 6 against the San Antonio Spurs, and the stakes weren’t as high.
But his three with 32 seconds left in Game 5 against Brooklyn was another postseason moment a city now flush with them will not soon forget.
The Heat went on to win the 2013 NBA Finals after Allen’s shot against the Spurs. This time his clutch effort knocked his old Celtics teammates Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett out of the playoffs.
There has been a rift between Pierce, Garnett and Allen ever since Allen left to join the Heat, but after the game Allen refused to acknowledged any notion that ending his old friends’ postseason runs moved him emotionally.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade wouldn’t touch the subject, either. Asked whether Allen received any individual satisfaction with the victory, James and Wade paused and smiled at each other on the dais after the game before offering a politically correct answer.
“Nah, we’re just excited we’re able to move on,” James said. “I’m going to answer for both of us.”
James did offer the Pierce, Garnett and Allen a hefty compliment, though. The Heat’s superstar said those old Celtics teams forced him to leave Cleveland and join Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.
“When I was in Cleveland, it was a hump that I couldn’t get over, and I knew from that point that I needed some help,” James said. “I seen the way that they played the game with Ray, and K.G. and Paul Pierce and [Rajon] Rondo, and with the chemistry that they had and the weapons that they had, and I knew from that point that I needed some help.
“I don’t know if they thought I would go seek help, but I did and for me to be in this position today where those guys challenged me, they helped me become the person and player I am today and helped our team become the team we are today.”
James set up Allen’s three-pointer by feigning a drive to the basket. The four-time MVP instead turned and kicked a pass to Mario Chalmers, who was positioned across the court and behind the three-point arc. Chalmers bobbled the pass, but rather than of forcing a poor shot he pushed an awkward assist to Allen.
Allen stepped back and drilled a three-pointer over the leaping outstretched right arm of Nets forward Joe Johnson.
“[Chalmers] could have shot it,” Allen said, “and I was ready to go crash after he shot it, but then it kind of came off weird where he didn’t really throw it to me. He was like in between where he was throwing it to me to drive, but then I was like, ‘This ball is going up.’”
Allen finished with 13 points and he went 1 of 7 from three-point range. He was perfect in final minute, though. As a team, the Heat went 9 of 29 from three-point range, and began the game by going 1 of 16 from three-point range in the first half.
“We did what we needed to do when we had to do it,” Allen said. “I think all of us had more work tonight because they were doubling LeBron with different looks.”
Said Wade: “Ray is unbelievable. We’re so glad to have him on our side.”
James led the Heat with 29 points and Wade had 28 points, including 20 in the first half. Chris Bosh had 16 points and was 4 of 6 from three-point range. Joe Johnson led the Nets with 34 points.
The Heat won despite shooting 43.3 percent from the field and going 9 of 29 from three-point range.
“D-Wade helped me out tonight with how aggressive he was,” James said.
Johnson, the Nets talented forward, made a three-pointer from the corner with 11.4 seconds left, and things got tense when James missed the first of two free throws with 9.5 seconds remaining. The Nets had a chance to potentially win the game with five seconds remaining, but Brooklyn couldn’t get off a shot.
“It’s always been like that for us,” James said. “It’s never been easy. It has always come down to can we get a stop to win it.”
The Nets led by nine points with 4:49 left in the fourth quarter, but the Heat responded with a series-clinching 12-0 run.
A step-back baseline jumper by Wade cut the Nets’ lead to 91-88 and James delivered a timely block on the Nets’ Johnson moments later. A pair of free throws by James then pulled the Heat within a point of the Nets’ lead with a minute remaining. Johnson went for the knockout three-pointer with 48 seconds left, but missed.
Johnson was 5 of 8 from the field for 12 points in the fourth quarter despite being guarded by James, who Wade called the Heat’s defensive “closer” after the game.
“In the fourth quarter, Joe gave me everything I wanted,” James said. “He was torching me.”
Said Wade: “We put our closer on their best player, but he just kept hitting shots.”
Rashard Lewis started the fourth quarter and made an immediate impact. His three-pointer cut the Nets’ lead to 75-69 and appeared to give the Heat a quick boost of confidence from the outside. James followed with a three-pointer to slice Brooklyn’s lead to a single possession.
But the Nets are a proud, proud bunch of veterans and they made it clear they weren’t bowing out of the playoffs without a fight. Johnson made a running 14-foot jumper and Pierce followed with a three-pointer from the corner when the Heat’s defense failed to track back quick enough in transition.
From there, the Johnson went to work and scored seven-straight points for the Nets. His turnaround, 20-foot jumper following Bosh’s fourth three-pointer of the game put the Nets ahead 91-83 with 4:49 to play.
“It’s tough because obviously we thought this was a game we should have won and gone back to Brooklyn,” Johnson said.