Win or lose, there are times when you just have to take a step back and appreciate the big picture. Appreciate that the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls have given us a series for the big books, and that when you flip through those pages years from now, there will be a bold subhead for Game 6.
The Ray Allen Game.
Thursday night, with the Bulls trying to hold off elimination, Allen offered up a 51-point performance that transcended Boston's 128-127 triple-overtime loss. In a game where three of his fellow starters fouled out, Allen came three short of tying a career-high, not a playoff career-high but a Hall of Fame career-high. His dazzling, 18-of-32 performance was a display of such all-around shooting mastery that the game tape is a ready-made instructional video.
Chicago saw plenty of this stroke Thursday night, as Ray Allen scored a playoffs career-high 51 points on 18-of-32 shooting.Jonathan Daniel/NBAE/Getty
"He was phenomenal, just unbelievable," Doc Rivers said.
Yet at some point, the shadow of Game 7 forces the eye to refocus on the more immediate details. Like the loss, for example, but also like Allen's back-to-back sniper shots to force the third overtime. Or the one miss that missed everything, and that Allen did not get a shot after tying the game with 1:57 to play in what would be the final period.
"It definitely was not easy. As a player, I try to do whatever I can do to help the team win. Tonight the shots were there," Allen said. "After the game I was thinking about all the plays I missed. When you are on the losing end that's what you remember."
It was also a bounceback game of sorts. Not like his return from a 1-of-12 Game 1 to crunch-time hero in Game 2, but from a foul plagued Game 5 in which he scored 10 points, fouling out with 5:27 left in regulation.
"We joked with him on the plane on the way here that he was the only guy with legs because he only played 26 minutes last game," Rivers said.
Those fresh legs helped Allen convert on floaters, pull-ups, catch-and-shoot's, leaners and even a veteran quickjump over the much taller Joakim Noah. All of which played no small part in what was, for some involved, the game of their lives.
"That was the best game I've ever played in," John Salmons said.
Once Game 6 gets digested into the annals of hoops lore, it just might be remembered as the best game Allen played, from a shooting standpoint, period.