MIAMI—Something remarkable happened Thursday night inside AmericanAirlines Arena, even more remarkable than Heat fans mostly showing up on time for a 7 p.m. start, the Nets' $98 million man going missing again and the NBA's least prolific offensive rebounding team grabbing three on a Game 2-sealing 100-second possession.
It happened afterward in the visiting locker room.
"We got to slow down Ray Allen," Garnett conceded.
Roughly 15 minutes later, Allen was found moving at the slowest pace that he had all evening, shifting ever so slightly in front of his locker stall, carefully measuring his response to the revelation that his Boston buddy turned distant rival had actually uttered his name.
Is that gratifying at all?
"I mean, he and I, he knows when I get going, it helps everybody, and it gets the team going," Allen said. "And there's an impact out there [that's] felt. So I know he feels it. But now I'm on the other side, and I've got to make sure I keep doing it. Because it's helping [Chris Bosh] get shots, and it's helping clear the paint for LeBron (James) and D-Wade. I'm not going to slow down. I'm just going to keep moving."
He has already moved to the forefront of stories in this series, following a 6-of-28 struggle against Brooklyn in the regular season and a subpar first round against Charlotte by averaging 16 points, six rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting 61.1 percent from the floor.
He has scored seven more points, in 46 fewer minutes, than Garnett and Paul Pierce combined.
"I'm not happy with my play right now," said Garnett, who is 2-of-10 in the series. "I'm trying to get a flow and a rhythm, trying to bring something, and it's just frustrating."
Yes, Allen's older than both—older, in fact, than every other player on the floor.
And yet, only the newest technology has kept up with him so far.
According to SportVU, no Heat player averaged a faster speed (4.3 miles per hour) than Allen did Thursday.
It was Allen who, in the second half, got the Heat off and running. As James said later, he's the one who unstuck them from the mud.
"We got our bodies moving and got a better rhythm," James said. "Ray Allen made that happen, he's always in constant movement, and that helped us all out."
Scoreless in the first half, he entered with Miami trailing 58-57, inbounding in the backcourt, jogging through the left edge of the Nets' paint, planting hard to sprint across the baseline, curling up behind two screens, taking a feed from Mario Chalmers, then gliding in for a lefty layup. Shortly, after he came off a staggered screen, he pulled in another Chalmers pass just left of the key and splashed a three-pointer over Shaun Livingston. Thirty seconds after that, he violently switched direction, leaving Livingston lost behind a Chris Andersen pindown to camp out on the left side, where Chalmers found him again.
Catch, turn, fire.
"We were probably getting our best actions off him running around," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Essentially, Spoelstra used a lot of Celtics-style plays to get the best of two of Allen's former Celtics mates. He did so with the approval of his primary superstar.
"One thing we can't take for granted is Ray's ability to attract defense," James said. "At times, in the regular season, we kept Ray in the corners. And through our penetration, we hoped that a guy would just take one eye off of him, and then he'd be able to get a shot. I think Ray's biggest asset is getting him on the run, and making the defense shift from one side to the next. Just like, if you want to move the ball from one side to another. With Ray, you can shift the defense without moving the ball, because him coming off pindowns, him coming off wide screens, it really attracts so many guys. It's big time for our team to have that trigger."
For it to work, though, Allen has to be up to it at this late stage.
And in the first two games of this series, he seems fresher than at any point of the season.
"It does," James said, smiling. "For some odd reason, it does."
The eight days off between series certainly helped. Yet as expected with Allen—who thrives on order and structure—this was also part of the plan. The paleo diet he started in the offseason. The work he continues to do before, and even after, many games.
"Yeah, you build habits throughout the course of the year, but now, playing so long, the strength, the weight room, the running, all this stuff comes in where you've got to be strong, you've got to hold up now," Allen said. "It comes into play very heavily because you get tired bodies and tired legs the end of the year, and this is where we start getting better. ... For me, I always have to tell myself when to back down, too. You don't want to overdo it because you wear yourself down."
Instead, it's worked well enough that he's wearing out the Nets—not just with his scoring, but with his rebounding, including a critical offensive rebound on the aforementioned putaway possession.
"On the offensive end, I try not to stand," Allen said. "My guy's watching me, he doesn't want to leave me, but just keep moving, and you get an easy one. ... Because they get to looking, and somebody gets hit by a screen, and I'm wide open. The last couple of games, I've had good looks, but it does set into motion, their defense then has to make a decision, and then somebody else gets open. I also know that movement is always going to start something."
The Heat have started 2-0 in a series that, because of who's on the other side, may feel a little more special.
"I tell Spo all the time, if he asks me do I need a break, I'm like, 'No, this is what I'm built for,'" Allen said. "At all times, I'm ready."
Ready for anything.
Except, perhaps, for Kevin Garnett to deign to say his name.
Ethan Skolnick covers the Heat for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @EthanJSkolnick
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