The 2013 Finals culminated in a classic Game 7, with LeBron James (37 points) and the Heat finally vanquishing the Spurs in the final minute to clinch their second straight championship.
Great as that contest was, however, it couldn’t help but take a distant back seat to Game 6. In that game, the Heat staved off more championship heartbreak with one of the most memorable shots in NBA history.
That basket came courtesy of veteran sharpshooter Ray Allen, whose game-tying corner 3-pointer capped the Heat’s miraculous comeback from a five-point deficit with 28.2 seconds remaining in regulation. The Heat still had to survive overtime -- they did, winning 103-100 -- and then a white-knuckle Game 7 that James clinched with his own clutch jumper.
None of it would have mattered without Allen, who had been preparing for just such a moment for years.
A diligent worker to the point of mania, Allen devised an unusual drill early in his NBA career with the Milwaukee Bucks: Lay down in the middle of the key, spring to his feet, backpedal to the corner, take a pass and shoot. More than a decade later, he was still working on that shot when he joined the Heat before the 2012-13 season.
“It was the first time I ever saw anybody do that,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told Sports Illustrated. “He said, ‘You never know when you’ll be in a situation where you have to find the 3-point line without looking down.' ”
That’s exactly where Allen found himself as the seconds ticked away in Game 6. James’ 3-point attempt off a second chance had cut the deficit to two with 20.1 seconds left. Kawhi Leonard then missed 1 of 2 free throws for the Spurs, leaving the door open for a Miami miracle.
Thousands of fans had already left AmericanAirlines Arena. Ushers ringed the court with yellow twine, ready to keep the floor clear for a Spurs celebration. Allen ignored it all, shuffling back to the right corner and drilling the tying shot after Chris Bosh rebounded a miss by James. Even after the Heat held firm for one last defensive possession, and then again in OT to complete the win, they still couldn’t believe what had just happened.
Except, of course, Allen.
“When it went in, I was ecstatic,” he said, as recounted by SB Nation. “But at the same time, I was expecting to make it.”
Spoken like a true shooter, honed by years of obsessive, meticulous practice.