MILWAUKEE — LeBron James was working at his high school basketball camp in Las Vegas when he heard the news: Ray Allen was coming to the Miami Heat.
James dropped what he was doing and picked up the phone immediately to call Allen. His persistent badgering of the Celtics free agent had finally paid off.
“I was very excited,” James said. “I knew what he was able to do against me in the past, and I knew that threat could add an added dimension to our team that we haven’t had the first two years here in Miami.”
The reason James was so excited showed Thursday night in the building where Allen’s NBA career began. The 17-year veteran scored 23 points to help Miami to a 104-91 victory, becoming the NBA’s all-time leader in postseason 3-pointers made in the process. Because of contributions from Allen, Chris Andersen and Norris Cole, Miami’s trio of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh haven’t had to do a whole lot to ease to three straight playoff wins in a best-of-seven first-round playoff series. Sure, it’s against the eighth-seeded Bucks, but Miami’s role players have been the ones putting Milwaukee away.
Wade had one of the worst shooting nights of his career Thursday, going 1 of 14 from the field and scoring just four points. For James, his 22 points in Game 3 were pedestrian; same with Bosh’s 16 points and 14 rebounds.
The three stars haven’t had to be great in order for the Heat to make this look easy.
“That’s been our calling card all year with the depth that we have,” said Allen, who played his first six-plus seasons with Milwaukee. “We have so many guys sitting on the bench that are so productive when they get in the game, whether you’ve played the last game or last two or three games. Guys come off the bench, and they are ready. That’s a great testimony to this team and how have grown from Day 1 until now.”
Not many players who have accomplished as much as Allen has would have accepted the role he plays with Miami. In a league full of egos, Allen dropped his at the door when arriving in Miami. But he’s not just chasing a ring. Allen has a lot left in the tank at age 37, and he proved it Thursday night.
“It’s probably the one year that went by the quickest,” Allen said. “We had so many fun moments, from off-the-court things, supporting each guy in their charitable foundation on off days, team events that we do, to traveling on the road, we’ve had such great times. When we looked up and saw the playoffs were here, it was incredible that it went so fast. That’s a testimony to how much fun I’ve had personally with this team.
“Coming off the bench, I look down the bench, and I have Rashard Lewis, Mike Miller, James Jones, Juwan Howard, Birdman, we have so many good players. Everybody has sacrificed to be on this team. It makes it so easy for me to come off the bench and figure out ways to help this team.”
Surprisingly greeted by a chorus of boos from the fans who used to worship him, Allen kept Miami around during the first half and put the game away when his 3-pointer with 8:38 left gave the Heat a 90-73 lead.
On the bench at the time, James jumped up in celebration, not because Miami was up big, but because he knew Allen had just passed Reggie Miller to become the NBA’s all-time postseason leader for 3-point field goals.
“It just came out of nowhere, just thinking about it over the last couple of games when I was made aware of it,” Allen said. “I think about all of the guys that came before me and I think about what I’ve been able to do playing this game. There’s so many great players and great shooters, great athletes in general, and I’ve been able to come in and leave my mark. Those guys set the bar. Reggie (Miller) set the bar. Craig Hodges, I looked up to. I played with Dale Ellis and Dell Curry. I looked up to those guys and Ricky Pierce. I’m just carrying on their torch. There’s kids looking up to me, and one day they will be looking at one of my records to hopefully take down.”
While up 3-0 in the series, Miami is bothered by the fact it hasn’t played as well as it expects to. But against the Bucks, that doesn’t matter. As everyone expected, Milwaukee is so overwhelmed talent-wise that just one burst or one run will win the game for the Heat.
But that doesn’t mean Miami will coast in Game 4 on Sunday. The Heat want something they haven’t had in the Big Three’s time in South Beach: a sweep of a postseason series. “We’re not a content bunch,” James said. “We are going to continue to push the envelope and do the things we are least capable of doing. Not take the moment for granted. Teams and personalities are hard to come by in professional sports, and we have a special group. Does that guarantee a championship? It doesn’t, and we understand that.
“I think it is important to close them out because it’s our next game. That’s what our team is about, what our next game is. And that’s Game 4. It’s going to be different. It’s going to be its own game. If we come in with the same mindset and even more desperation than we did today, we’ll have a good chance to win.”