Allen now 1 round away from a Miami ring

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MIAMI (AP) - This is why Ray Allen came to Miami.

Not for the money, because he already has plenty and could have gotten more by staying in Boston. Not for a long-term deal, because the Celtics were willing to guarantee him more years than the Heat could. Not for a starting spot, because the Heat have been doing just fine at shooting guard after drafting Dwyane Wade a decade ago.

No, Allen primarily came here for one reason _ the chance for another championship.

And that chance has arrived.

Allen is headed to the NBA Finals for the third time, with the series starting in Miami on Thursday night against the San Antonio Spurs. At 37, he’s the second-eldest player on either roster, nine months older than the Spurs’ Tim Duncan and three years younger than Miami’s Juwan Howard, who wouldn’t figure to get any time in the series barring some sort of huge change to the Heat plan.

“Pure joy, just getting back here,” Allen said. “This is my third time and this feeling, it never gets old. You always forget the magnitude of the situation. I actually thought about it and I compared it to the Super Bowl. … I think about the enormity of the situation for the people all over the world that watch and our peers, the people in the NBA circles that watch and obviously media.

“We’ve done something that people all over the world will pay attention to.”

For Allen, that’s not a new thing.

He was a college star at Connecticut, a fan favorite in his first two NBA stops of Milwaukee and Seattle, and then became part of a group in Boston that needed no time before becoming the league’s best. Allen and Kevin Garnett were added in the summer of 2007, the Celtics were champions in 2008, and Allen had a legacy that seemed complete.

It might look even better in a couple weeks.

“For us two weeks can be a short time or it can be a long time,” Allen said. “So we have to enjoy this moment.”

He’s already gotten to enjoy one moment that was particularly painful just 12 months earlier.

This time, he got to be inside the ropes.

When the Heat won the Eastern Conference championship by beating the Indiana Pacers on Monday night and someone handed him the trophy, Allen immediately had a realization. One year earlier, on the same court and in the same round, Allen couldn’t stick around for the party because he was on the Boston team that lost Game 7 of the East title series and would not be headed to the NBA Finals.

This time, he was part of the celebration.

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