The 2009 playoff series between the Bulls and Celtics will go down as one of the most compelling of the last decade. The seven-game series featured the Rookie of the Year in Derrick Rose, future Hall of Famers in Ray Allen and Paul Pierce (Kevin Garnett missed the series with a knee injury), budding stars in Rajon Rondo and Joakim Noah, and, of course, Brian Scalibrine.
The series included seven overtime periods in four different games, five games were decided by three points or less, and the teams alternated wins from Games 3 to 7.
A major part of the ridiculousness that occurred from April 18 to May 2 was Allen, who officially announced his retirement on Tuesday. The 18-year veteran made 10 All-Star appearances, won two championships and is a lock for the Hall of Fame in 2019. He played against the Bulls 60 times, the most of any opponent, and twice more in the postseason.
And that playoff series is what Bulls fans will remember most about the best sharpshooter of his generation. Consider that Allen averaged 23.4 points on 45 percent shooting in the series. Those numbers alone would have been impressive. But also consider that Allen had a dreadful Game 1, scoring just four points on 1-for-12 shooting while missing all six of his 3-point attempts.
In the final six games of the series, Allen averaged nearly 27 points per game on 50 percent shooting, while making 52 percent of his 52 3-point attempts. His true shooting percentage in those six games was a blistering 68.4 percent – last year Steph Curry’s true shooting percentage was 66.9 percent, to put that statistic in reference.
Here’s a look at Allen’s performance in those final six games, and how he helped the Celtics pull off one of the most thrilling first-round playoff series wins in NBA history.
Game 2 (30 points, 6-10 3FG, 5 assists): Allen’s struggles appeared to be continuing early in Game 2, as he missed four of his first five shots early into the third quarter. But he caught fire in that third quarter, scoring 16 points on 4-for-6 shooting and hitting all six of his free throws.
In the fourth quarter he connected on all four of his shots from deep. The first gave the Celtics a two-point lead with 8:07 to play. His second pulled the Celtics within one with 6:09 left. His third put the Celtics up two, 115-113, with 25 seconds remaining. And after Ben Gordon his a mid-range jumper to tie the game, it was Allen’s triple from the right wing over Joakim Noah with 2 seconds left that gave the Celtics the win and evened the series.
Game 3 (18 points, 6-12 FG, 3-4 3FG): It was another slow start for Allen back in Chicago. He started 1-for-5 with a turnover, but he was on the floor in the second quarter when the Celtics reeled off a 23-8 to close the half. He hit the final two triples of the period, effectively putting away the game. In the only real blowout of the series, Allen added eight more points in the third quarter and sat much of the fourth quarter.
Game 4 (28 points, 8-17 FG, 7-8 FT): When the series really turned up, so did Allen. He had nine points in a back-and-forth first half, then proceeded to miss his first four shots of the second half. But he was dominant down the stretch. His third triple of the fourth quarter with 9.8 seconds left sent the game to overtime.
He then scored six points in overtime, including two free throws with 9 seconds left to give the Celtics a 110-107 lead. Ben Gordon then hit a triple to send the game into a second overtime. Allen missed all three attempts in the second overtime, where John Salmons and Joakim Noah combined for nine of the Bulls’ 10 points that evened the series once again.
Game 5 (10 points, 2-4 3FG): Allen was hardly a one-man show in Boston, and it showed in Game 5. He struggled most of the evening, but still left his mark midway through the fourth quarter. With the Celtics trailing by 10, Allen was part of a 9-0 run – he found Rondo for a layup and then connected on a triple – that pulled the Celtics back within one, 83-82. Allen fouled out shortly after that run and watched from the sidelines as the Celtics stole the win on a Paul Pierce 19-footer with 3 seconds left.
Game 6 (51 points, 18-32 FG, 9-18 3FG, 59 minutes): So how would Allen respond from that dud? With arguably the best game of his life, of course. Allen scored 29 points in the first half, one more than the rest of his team did before halftime. He fizzled to start the second half, going just 1-for-6 with a pair of turnovers in the third quarter as the Bulls, looking to force a Game 7, took a seven-point lead into the final quarter.
But the fun was just getting started. Allen scored eight points on three makes during a 13-2 run early in the fourth that tied the game at 91 apiece. His jumper with 1:49 left gave the C’s a five-point lead before Brad Miller heroics sent the game to overtime. Allen missed his only attempt in the first overtime, then started 0-for-2 in the second overtime. Then Allen went back to work.
With the C’s down three, Allen’s foot was on the line on a long jumper over Joakim Noah, meaning Boston still trailed by one, 116-115, with 20 seconds left. After a pair of Miller free throws the Celtics had one last chance to push the game to a third overtime. Out of a timeout, Allen used a Pierce screen to free himself on the left wing, and his pull-up triple over Kirk Hinrich was good to tie the game at 118 apiece.
Allen made his only attempt in the third overtime, but the Bulls pushed ahead on Noah’s memorable strip of Pierce and fast-break dunk. That sent things to a Game 7 back in Boston, but Allen’s historic performance remains one of the best in recent memory. He played 59 of a possible 63 minutes.
Game 7 (23 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists): In the decisive game of the series, Allen was inefficient much of the evening. He scored nine points in the first half and shot just 6-for-14 in the game. But he grabbed a series-best seven rebounds and scored seven of the Celtics’ final 13 points to help them maintain the lead and get out of the first round with the win.
The Celtics bowed out to the Magic in seven games in the next round. Allen struggled for much of that series, averaging just 13.1 points on 34 percent shooting. He also made just eight of his 42 3-point attempts, including a 2-for-17 stretch in Games 3, 4 and 5. But as Jesus Shuttlesworth hangs up his kicks, Bulls fans will remember the fun (and anguish) he provided in the series before that.