With under 40 seconds to go in Game Four, the Celtics held a three-point lead and the Lakers needed a stop.
Paul Pierce was worn out, Kevin Garnett went to set a screen, and Ray Allen had the ball. Allen quickly called off the screen as to avoid drawing more defenders toward him and Garnett instantly retreated. He trusted Allen, who had been struggling throughout the playoffs, averaging only 14 points per game.
Allen had been bothered by Sasha Vujacic's pesky defense all game long, but knew he could take him one-on-one when it came down to it. The Celtics spread the floor, allowing Allen to isolate Vujacic. He hesitated for a dribble or two, and then blew past the young Slovenian for an uncontested, left-handed layup, making it look all-too-easy.
It was a drive that pierced the heart of the Lakers, completed the Celtics comeback, and nearly brought Sasha Vujacic to tears (literally).
The basket put the C's up by five points with 16 seconds to go, and the Lakers couldn't overcome it, succumbing to Boston's unbelievable 24-point comeback (I still can't believe it).
Yes, Allen made the game-clinching basket, but that's not all he did in Game Four of the NBA Finals. With three minutes left in the game, the Celtics had just taken their first lead after scoring five straight points on clutch baskets from Eddie House and James Posey.
Up by one, Boston put the ball in the hands of Allen, who hesitated for a second from behind the three-point line, forcing Kobe to pull up for a possible shot block attempt. Allen then drove past Bryant through a clear lane to the hoop until he was met by L.A. defenders at the rim. He was forced to hang in the air with the likes of Jordan and Dr. J, and put up a reverse layup that kissed of the backboard and into the net. It increased the Celtics lead to three, and Boston never looked back. Kobe Bryant missed a late trey and finalized the monumental collapse.
After being widely criticized for his inconsistent play through the first three rounds of the playoffs, Ray Allen might be the most consistent player in the Finals, averaging 20 points per game.
In Game Three, Allen's 25 points were the only reason the Celtics' loss was even close. In Game Four, Allen finished with 19 points, and also went airborne to pull down nine rebounds.
And at a point in the playoffs where it looked like the Big Three was down to the Big Two, Ray Allen has stepped up in the Finals—a huge reason why Boston is on its way to hoisting its 17th championship banner.