MIAMI -- Oh to be Ray Allen. To be 38 years old and have the body fat of a teenager. And not a Cheetos-eating, soda-swilling teenager either. To be the subject of good-natured ribbing from teammates about your age before the game -- "Hey Ray, you play with Moses Malone?" is a favorite -- and be marveled at for yet another spectacular performance after it.
To be able to play a quiet, scoreless first three quarters and then bury Indiana, the NBA's best defensive team, under a barrage of three-pointers in the fourth.
"My playground" is what Allen calls the final 12 minutes, and on Saturday night Allen's 16-points sent the Pacers skulking off it, on the wrong end of a 99-87 Game 3 defeat.
If Spike Lee ever wanted to roll camera on some B-roll for He Got Game II, this was the night to do it.
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"You can ask anybody in that (Miami) locker room," Erick Spoelstra said. "There are so many years of pain that he caused a lot of us. It is great to have him on our side."
In his 18th year, we are running out of superlatives to describe Allen. He is the NBA's preeminent clutch shooter who, in the twilight of his career, remains nearly as effective as ever. He spaces the floor flawlessly, runs his defender ragged and has the complete trust of his most prominent teammates.
"[When] he's got it going," LeBron James said, "We just want to continue to find him."
There is no secret to Allen's success. He shot 100 to 150 jump shots before Game 3, just as he did before Game 2, just as he has before every game he has played in Miami, Boston, Seattle and Milwaukee.
"So if it doesn't go in," Allen said, "you are surprised." He keeps himself in pristine condition. He doesn't smoke or drink. He follows a strict diet and, says Allen, listens to his body for adjustments. Before every game, he weighs himself. The goal is to be between 203 and 205 pounds. Two weeks ago, Allen tipped the scales before a game at 198. He started replacing salad with pasta as his pre-game meal and was back on weight quickly.
Standing in front of his locker, Shane Battier, who at 35 has said this is likely his last season, laughs when asked about Allen's longevity.
"Ray takes impeccable care of his body," Battier. "I don't. If Ray really wants to play another three or four years, he could do it easily."
Allen smiles at the thought of a career that could go on indefinitely. But really, what's stopping it? Shooting is the NBA's most sought after commodity. Where would Indiana be if it had Allen? Or Oklahoma City? San Antonio has built a dynasty surrounding Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili with elite shooters. Allen says he talks about his future with his family regularly and he can't see himself playing past 40. But this summer, when Allen will be an unrestricted free agent, there will be no shortage of teams lining up to sign him.
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Allen owns a strong sense of self-awareness. He bristled at a reserve role toward the end of his time in Boston but has embraced it in Miami. When he's not involved in the offense -- like in the first three quarters Saturday -- he looks for other ways to contribute. When Indiana switched David West onto him, Allen made sure to run West all over the floor. When he sees the defense collapse on James or Wade he runs to a familiar spot on the floor -- usually a corner, which has been dubbed "Allenville" by team officials -- to be in a position to bail them out.
Behind closed doors, Allen is a respected voice. Teammates refer to Allen as "The Committee." Whenever there is a dispute or something in question, Allen is called on to resolve it. And when Donald Sterling's racist comments were made public last month, Allen was there to remind the team this wasn't just a Clippers problem. This was a league problem, too.
As the Pacers regroup for Monday's critical Game 4, they will have a lot to think about. They will have to think about containing James, who after a sluggish start finished with a game-high 26-points. They will have to think about Wade, who picked up his fourth straight 20+ point on 50+ percent shooting night and has erased the memory of a hobbled regular season. And they will have to think about Allen, whose shooting turned a seven-point third quarter lead into 17 in the fourth, and who is fully capable of repeating the feat.
"This is my favorite time of year," Allen said. "This is when it's the most fun."
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