Allen sizzles in Heat debut
Miami recruit Ray Allen gets in a tangle with former Boston Celtics teammate Paul Pierce on opening night of the NBA season. Photo: Reuters
IT was just like old times – rather than old-timers – for Ray Allen.
Wearing a jersey without a trace of green for the first time in his Hall of Fame pro career, it didn't take long for Miami's new sharpshooter to make an impression. And when the dust had settled, as far as openings go, it was as close to the ideal debut that anyone could expect.
In a more-than-expected 31 minutes, Allen poured in 19 points, including two trademark triples, and even helped run the point as the NBA champions made an emphatic opening-night statement over the Boston Celtics.
The former Buck, Sonic and Celtic entered the game with a tick under three minutes in the first quarter, pausing at the scorer's table long enough to embrace Boston's coaching staff and to tap a stone-faced Kevin Garnett on the shoulder.
Naturally, Allen's first shot was a shot clock-beating triple from the corner in front of the Heat bench. Naturally, it went in.
Miami used him in the first half much the way Boston did over the previous five seasons, employing multiple down screens to let the tireless Allen run off Jason Terry or Courtney Lee.
And one play encapsulated perfectly the value Allen will bring to a champion Miami squad that has been crying out for a dependable long-distance threat.
With 30 seconds remaining in the half, a Chris Bosh block triggered a Heat fast break led by reigning MVP LeBron James.
Having Allen running the lane next to James meant Boston's Paul Pierce was forced to stay at home on his former teammate, lest James find his new sniper for a back-breaking transition three.
The result? An open lane for James, who gleefully grabbed the opportunity to throw down a thunderous slam and take an eight-point lead that Miami would never relinquish despite a late Boston resurgence.
Interestingly, there was little apparent interaction between Allen and noted protagonist Rajon Rondo, although Allen pointedly switched lanes on a free-throw sequence to prevent standing next to his former quarterback.
In the second half with James off the court suffering from leg cramps, Heat fans were treated to several sightings of Allen successfully running pick-and-roll and pick-and-fade sequences, something Boston coach Doc Rivers had publicly questioned Allen's ability to still do at an elite level.
And a running half-hook, half-layup over Garnett would no doubt have left the Big Ticket gritting his teeth and looking for something to break later in the locker room.
Defensively, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is discovering there are times he will need to hide Allen on defence, something Rivers increasingly had to do last year. But there was little need for that in this game, Miami's decision to aggressively send multiple defenders at Rondo on pick-and-rolls paying off in spades.
And then it was all over, Miami withstanding a late surge from a Celtics outfit still feeling its way with a host of new players to claim a 120-107 win. Allen embraced Rivers again, glanced around, and with no one else willing to acknowledge him, headed away from his past, walking towards what Miami hopes is a glittering future.
Ready to help defend a title he didn't win.
In the other games on opening night, Dallas upset the Lakers in Los Angeles 99-91 while Kyrie Irving led the Cavaliers to a 94-84 triumph over Washington.