Who could blame him for asking? Allen had already made all four of his 3-point attempts in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, and No. 5 was about to leave his hand. The shot settled into the net, just like the four before it. Allen’s eyes caught those of his heckler, and he broke into a wide smile, giving these Finals a signature moment that could last well beyond the series.
“Those are the things that are rewarding,” Allen would later say. “When I got that three, it was a sense of calmness and reward that I knew I had that moment.”
Allen had several moments in the Celtics’ 103-94 victory on Sunday. He made a Finals record eight 3-pointers, including seven in the first half, on his way to 32 points. It was quite the turnaround for Allen, who spent most of Game 1 on the sideline in foul trouble without making a single 3-pointer.
“I don’t think I played enough to have an impact on the game,” Allen said after Game 1.
Turns out he was right. Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Allen took “a million shots” in the two off days before Game 2 to get his rhythm back. As is his custom, Allen arrived at Staples Center more than three hours before the game in order to shoot alone. His rhythm carried over to the game when he made back-to-back threes midway through the first quarter. By halftime, he had 27 points.
“We were playing on the edge, but Ray pulled us through it,” Celtics guard Rajon Rondo(notes) said. “We got through the first half. We took over the game. For me personally, it was fun to watch. I just tried to give him the ball on time and on target when he needed it.”
Said Rivers: “We needed every one of them, I can tell you that.”
While the Lakers adjusted their defense on Allen after the half, they couldn’t stop the momentum and confidence he gave the Celtics. Allen more than made up for his lost time in Game 1, playing 43 minutes while providing steady defense on Kobe Bryant(notes). His eight 3-pointers broke the previous record of seven shared by Scottie Pippen and Kenny Smith.
Allen has had a lot of remarkable performances during his respected career, but Sunday night had to rank at or near the top because, he said, there is “no better place, moment, time to play, time to win a game” than the Finals.
“It’s great to be able to look back on it and say I did that,” Allen said. “This is definitely the time. This is definitely our time.”
Not long ago when Allen was considered one of the NBA’s best players with the Seattle SuperSonics, it was Bryant who would always guard him. With the Lakers more worried about containing Rondo’s penetration, Bryant has defended the Celtics’ point guard for much of the two games while the 6-foot-1 Derek Fisher(notes) is assigned to Allen, who is 6-foot-5. Allen is the only Celtic with a mismatch to exploit, which Rivers reminded his team.
“Teams have done that all year,” Rivers said. “So it’s nothing new putting a big guy on Rondo and a small guy on Ray. And every time we do that we feel we can give Ray shots, and that’s what happened.”
Allen had just completed his junior year at Hillcrest High in Dalzell, S.C., when Michael Jordan memorably lit up the Portland Trail Blazers during the 1992 Finals. After burying a 3-pointer, Jordan ran past Portland’s Clifford Robinson(notes) and shrugged for one of the most famous moments in NBA history.
“Yeah, I do remember that,” Allen said. “Mike, I’m going to tell him that his was a lot easier. It definitely looked like … he wasn’t running off screens, he was shooting the ball and he had it going. I think, as a child, those are some of my favorite memories, just being a fan of M.J., and the things he did and the playoffs and the Finals, that’s something that’s going to stand out in my mind the rest of my life.
“I know we have a great challenge as players now to imprint these good things on kids growing up in the world.”
Who knows, maybe 17 years from now another shooter will come along and break the record, reminding everyone of Allen’s smile, still frozen in time.