MIAMI — Ray Allen was hobbling. LeBron James was offering no sympathy.
Playing with bone spurs in his right ankle, which would require surgery following the season, Allen wasn’t himself as his Boston Celtics faced James’ Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals last June. Allen did what he could, but his Celtics lost 4-3 to the eventual champion Heat.
“I was happy he was on a bad wheel last year,’’ James said. “He wasn’t my teammate.’’
Well, Allen is now James’ teammate in Miami. And James sure is pleased his flat has been fixed.
Allen concluded his five-year Celtics tenure last spring with his most trying postseason ever. He averaged a playoff career-low 10.7 points while also having playoff career lows of 39.5 percent shooting and 30.4 marksmanship from 3-point range.
But Allen, who signed with the Heat last July as a free agent, is much healthier this postseason. It certainly showed in an East first-round sweep of Milwaukee in which the sharp-shooting guard averaged 16.5 points while making 13 of 28 3-pointers (46.4 percent).
“It was playoff time and I had so many people that were relying on me to be out there on the floor,’’ Allen said about being hurt last spring. “So I wouldn’t rule myself out until I gave it every last-ditch attempt to try to figure it out if (the ankle) was going to be better or if it eased up as as game went on. And it never did. … I dealt with any pain I had.’’
Allen, 37, still isn’t at full strength. But, although he won’t give a percentage now, the 17-year veteran looks better than a month ago when he said his ankle was at 80 percent.
During the regular season, Allen, taking on a new role as a reserve, averaged a career-low 10.9 points over 25.8 minutes while shooting 41.9 percent on 3-pointers. His numbers have increased during a postseason in which he’s averaging 28.8 minutes.
One reason for Allen beefing up his stats is having picked up some of the load from guard Dwyane Wade, who missed the final game of the Bucks series due to a sore knee after having a disastrous 1 of 12 shooting night in Game 3. Another is he’s Ray Allen.
“That’s who he is,’’ said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “You’re talking about a Hall of Fame player. You get to this time of year, he has an inner sense or urgency that he knows he has to do more.’’
Before last season’s drop-off, Allen had raised his scoring average during five of his first eight playoff appearances. In two of the three years he didn’t, he was within two-tenths of a point of his seasonal average.
Spoelstra said he didn’t necessarily always have a plan to increase Allen’s minutes when the postseason arrived. But he did expect Allen could help play a key closing role for the Heat.
“The one thing we’ve always had a pretty clear picture is he would have an impact in the fourth quarter,’’ Spoelstra said. “That’s what we talked about last year when we recruited him.’’
In the series against the Bucks, Allen averaged 7.8 points in fourth quarters. That included in the fourth quarter of Game 3 last Thursday, passing Reggie Miller to become the NBA’s all-time postseason leader in 3-pointers.
Given his recent play, Allen wonders if he could hang around a few more years. Allen has a Heat option on his contract next season worth $3.23 million, although he has said he won’t make a decision on that until after the playoffs.
“Where I am, it’s like imagine what I can do if I just keep being healthy and continue to push forward,’’ said Allen, who is the NBA’s all-time regular-season leader in 3-pointers with 2,857 and now has 326 in the postseason. “If my body allows me to (Allen could play a few more years).’’
Allen remembers how frustrating it was hobbling through last season’s playoffs. He said he learned from it, and paced himself more deliberately this season.
“Where I was last year just helped me move into this season and just make sure I take care of my body even better than I did,’’ Allen said. “And knowing the playoffs are so long, you got to rest when you can.’’
It wasn’t as if the loss to the Heat last spring was a total disaster for Allen. After shooting just 1 of 7 for 6 points in Game 1, he did rebound to have games with 16 and 15 points and two with 13. But with Boston up 3-2 and playing at home with a chance to advance to the Finals, Allen was among many cold Celtics, shooting 3 of 7 for 10 points in an ugly 98-79 loss.
“It was very tough for him, I’m sure,’’ center Chris Bosh said of Allen being hampered by injury. “But they still made it to within one win of the NBA Finals.’’
Unlike James, Bosh didn’t offer being pleased about Allen’s injury. When told about what James had said, Allen did wonder if it might have made a difference against the Heat had he not been hurt.
“It could have swayed things so much differently,’’ Allen said. “But that’s sports.’’
What matters now is Allen is with the Heat and operating for the most part on two good wheels.