Super Sub Ray Allen Reminds Pacers He'll Always Be an Offensive Threat

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Super Sub Ray Allen Reminds Pacers He'll Always Be an Offensive Threat
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He's been doing it for 18 seasons. Why would now be any different?

The Miami Heat don't need Ray Allen to be quite as good as he's been for all those years. They just need him to rise to the occasion when the occasion comes calling.

That's exactly what he did on Saturday night en route to a 99-87 victory over the Indiana Pacers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Allen scored 13 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, burying four three-pointers in the all-important period and clinching the game for Miami. The 38-year-old struck from both corners and nailed a pull-up trey after a nifty pass from LeBron James.

The Pacers looked like they'd forgotten about Allen, leaving him wide-open throughout the quarter as the defense remained collapsed to the paint. When asked about Allen's performance after the game, Vogel told reporters, per ESPN's coverage, that, "It's extremely difficult to guard."

Apparently that translated into his Pacers not even trying.

Indiana should have been more prepared for something like this going down. It was Allen who put the San Antonio Spurs away in the pivotal Game 6 of last season's NBA Finals. And it's been Allen coming up big in the playoffs once again, averaging 13 points a game in the semifinals against the Brooklyn Nets.

Allen dropped 19 in Game 1 of that series, drilling four of his seven three-point attempts.

As is to be expected, the shooting guard's production dropped off over the course of the regular season. He averaged a career-low 9.6 points after only playing 26.5 minutes per contest. This clearly isn't the same Allen who led the way for the Milwaukee Bucks, Seattle SuperSonics and Boston Celtics.

But it doesn't need to be.

Miami has the superstar factor covered with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. When it needs some additional heroics, though, Allen is its man. He's one of the purest shooters the game's ever seen, a lethal spot-up weapon with a quick release and uncanny accuracy.

For his career, Allen has made 40 percent of his three-point attempts.

After the game, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra told the media, per ESPN's coverage, "There are so many years of pain he caused us. It's good to have him on our side."

He also noted that Allen is good for more than buckets alone: "It's not necessarily just the makes...it's the spacing, it's the movement. He gives us another level of offense even if those shots weren't available."

That's an important addition. After all, Allen scored just 13 combined points in the entirety of Miami's first-round series against the Charlotte Bobcats. He was still finding ways to make the Heat better, though, spreading the floor and opening up lanes for James and Wade to get their penetration.

Allen has always been a master of moving off the ball, running off screens to get open for a crack of daylight. That keeps him especially relevant against a strong defensive team like the Pacers. When Indiana is watching the ball, there's always a chance someone's not watching Allen.

After the game, James said Allen is "always in constant motion," per ESPN's coverage. He increasingly makes a living off of defenders losing track of him. Without the ability to beat anyone off the dribble, this is what he's come to. 

Allen thrives off of being forgotten.

He also thrives when games are on the line.

Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes breaks down the numbers:

You might not suspect Allen's late-game baskets are an endangered species, especially not when you consider the fact that he hit a cool 40 percent of his three-point attempts in "close and late" (defined here as coming in the final minute of a game in which the score is separated by five or fewer points) situations this past season, per NBA.com

In 2012-13, that figure was 50 percent. In 2011-12, Allen drilled 66.7 percent of such attempts.

Though Game 3 wasn't especially close during the waning moments, it had gotten out of hand precisely because of Allen's poise late in the game. The Pacers kept things interesting early in the quarter, but Allen's three-point barrage ultimately put the contest out of reach.  

That's what we've come to expect from a guy who makes the most of pressure situations. As CBSSports.com's Zach Harper put it:

Ray Allen's hand is steady; I'm not sure anybody would ever argue that it shakes when he has to take a big shot.

His feet set to spring his still body into the air. His hands calmly and quickly move the ball to the top of his release. His squared shoulders and feet provide the solid base of rhythm on his shot. And when he's flicking his wrist, you're surprised if the ball doesn't rip through the net.

Much as Allen likes pressure, he also appreciates a mismatch when he sees one.

That's part of what makes Allen great. He isn't just a talented shooter. He's an intelligent one. He knows when to pick his spots and when to lie low. Though Allen wasn't much of a factor throughout the first three quarters of Game 3, he was more than ready to take over when the moment presented itself.

Allen isn't the athlete he once was. He won't defend at an especially high level. But as is often the case with crafty veterans, he makes good decisions, and he makes them at the right times. 

It's hard to overstate how important Allen will remain going forward. Bosh had just nine points in Game 3, and his lack of production has become par for the course in this series. With Indiana having an edge in the paint, Miami has to exploit the perimeter. No one is better positioned to do so than Allen.

Should the Heat advance to the NBA Finals, they'll face one of two high-octane offenses. The San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder both score in bunches, and Miami will have to fire on all cylinders. Allen's ability to serve as a consistent third or fourth option will prove pivotal.

In the meantime, Indiana will look to better cope with Miami's adjustments. When the Heat went small, the Pacers elected to put David West on Allen. That probably won't suffice going forward. 

Whoever winds up on Allen, he'll find a way to make a difference. He always has, and—as long as he's still suiting up—he always will.

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