Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Ray Allen puts up a jumper on Sunday in Boston.BOSTON -- Ray Allen said he wasn't sure what kind of greeting he would get from Celtics fans during his first visit to Boston since taking his talents to South Beach this past summer.
His uncertainty was apparently justified, as a video tribute to Allen during a timeout minutes into the first quarter -- the first real acknowledgement of Allen's presence on Sunday -- was met with a hearty blend of cheers and boos. Some fans stood and applauded, while others remained in their seats, arms crossed. When Allen checked into the game several minutes later, the boos far outweighed the cheers, and it remained that way for the rest of the afternoon.
Celtics fans went home happy as their team downed Allen and the Heat 100-98 in double overtime.
"I didn't know what to expect," Allen said after scoring 21 points on 7-of-17 shooting over 38 minutes. "The one thing I was going to do is come into it and just focus on being prepared and getting the guys ready that were playing, that were starting the game. Early game is always tough regardless of the circumstances. I didn't expect to get booed the whole time, throughout the game, when I touched the ball. That was interesting."
Allen played five seasons in Boston, highlighted by his role in the team's championship run in 2008 and becoming the NBA's all-time leader in 3-point field goals in 2011. But he shook the faith of the Boston loyalists last summer when he turned down the Celtics' two-year, $12 million contract (which included a coveted no-trade clause) and accepted a two-year deal with rival Miami worth roughly $3 million per season (the second year is a player option).
Sunday's video tribute was a clear reminder of all that Allen helped the Celtics accomplish during his time in Boston, and he said the montage re-instilled in him a sense that he'll always view himself as a Celtic.
"When you see something like that, you know when I saw it, just all those emotions came streaming back from all the great things we did here, and that's why I say I'll always remember the big games we played in and won, and I always know I'll always be a Celtic in my mind, regardless of what anyone else says," Allen said.
Allen was clearly hoping for a warm reception during his return, as he acknowledged his appreciation for the cheers he got during the tribute.
"I thought after a while, once you say when people boo you, get to that moment of people clapping and I think the better heads prevailed and they said, 'Hey, this is our guy, regardless of where he's playing,'" Allen said. "We all have history together and that always comes to the forefront and always surfaces and people remember the great times. Those times are part of my life, they're part of my family, part of who I am, so that's always going to be at the forefront. When I finish playing, a lot of these days are going to be the days I remember."
The Celtics managed to escape with the win on Sunday, but Allen brought back memories of his frequent fourth-quarter heroics in the final minutes of regulation. While he made only two of his eight 3-point attempts, his second came with 25.1 seconds left in regulation and the Heat down four. Allen rose up in the left corner and drained the shot, opening the door for LeBron James to tie the game and force overtime with a 3-pointer of his own.
While the Heat, sitting atop the Eastern Conference, have fared far better than the Celtics this season, Allen admitted it's been an adjustment switching teams and cities. On top of getting the boos from the Boston natives, having to reside in the unfamiliar visitors' locker room on Sunday helped to reinforce that.
"It was very weird," Allen said of being in the visitors' facilities. "And then going to the other locker room. It's been a long time since I've been on that side of the hallway, and, again, it was an adjustment. The whole year's been an adjustment being in Miami after bring in Boston for so long. So, yeah, it was definitely a weird feeling for me."