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Allen's crucial NBA All-Star heroics nearly never happened


Agence France-Presse



NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana -- Ray Allen almost never had the opportunity for his late heroics that sparked the East's 134-128 victory over the West in Sunday's National Basketball Association All-Star Game.

The Boston Celtics guard scored half his game-high 28 points in the final 3:14 of the game to thwart a West comeback, sinking three 3-pointers and the last five points to secure the third East triumph in four years.

But Allen would not have even been on the East roster if Washington's Caron Butler had not been sidelined with an injury, opening the spot to which he was named five days ago.

"I was supposed to be in the Bahamas this weekend," Allen said.

And Allen was nearly pulled from the game by East coach Doc Rivers, also Allen's coach at league-leading Boston, because Rivers wanted to insert lanky Chris Bosh for late help against a taller West lineup in the closing minutes.

"If the play stopped I was probably going to take Ray out and put Bosh in because I was getting worried about the rebounds," Rivers said.

"Right before we were going to do it, Ray makes a three. I decided it would be smart to keep Ray in. When he makes one there are usually two or three coming behind it," said Rivers.

Allen indeed sank the crucial shots from beyond the arc after the West had taken their first lead of the game thanks to a 17-2 run.

"The guys came back in the fourth quarter and gave us a great effort," West coach Byron Scott said. "We just left Ray Allen open a couple times too many."

And after LeBron James dunked the East ahead with the last of his 27 points, Allen -- one of the NBA's top free throw shooters -- made a lay-up and three free throws in the final seconds to ensure there would be no more rallies.

"Ray Allen just took over the game," West standout Carlos Boozer said.

Calling it his best All-Star showing and the best All-Star matchup he has seen, Allen saw how the tension mounted after the easy-going manner of the first half.

"In the beginning it's like a honeymoon," Allen said. ?Everybody is trying to show off their shoes. You throw alley-oops. Then everybody gets that second wind in them and by the fourth quarter, everybody is here for a reason.?

"Everybody has that same competitive nature. It kicks in and you want to win the game," said Allen.

Allen, who had told Rivers he would not object to spending most of the game on the bench, wanted to win it at the finish for his family, who gave up their Caribbean vacation for the All-Star circus.

"When I started rolling I was happier for them than I was for me," Allen said. "I knew they were excited. I could hear them cheering in the crowd. It feels good to play well for them."

Rivers was happy that Allen made a statement that he should have been selected for the All-Star Game in the first place not as a last-second fill-in.

"I was really happy for Ray," Rivers said. "He was not an original pick and he should've been. He is the guy who has had to sacrifice more for [Boston] offensively so we can win. He should have gotten more credit for that."

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