BOSTON – The move is becoming as much a part of NBA lore as Kareem's skyhook, Jordan's jumper or Shaq's slam dunk: Ray Allen gets open off a screen, catches the ball and shoots a 3-pointer — all in one fluid motion.
With a total of 2,555 3-pointers in his career, Allen is on the verge of breaking Reggie Miller's all-time NBA record of 2,560. Heading into Sunday's game against the Orlando Magic, Allen needs five more 3s to tie the former Indiana Pacers star and six to surpass him as the shot's most prolific practitioner.
"I'm here because of the preparation that I put in my whole career," Allen said Friday night after hitting three more 3s against the Dallas Mavericks. "I actually truly am enjoying it. This is a moment that I've never experienced before. I don't know how many people can experience this type of moment."
Celtics fans have had an affinity for the 3-point shot since it was first used in NBA regular-season games in 1979, Larry Bird's rookie year, and the budding Boston star made it a key part of his Hall of Fame arsenal. Bird won the league's first three All-Star game 3-point shooting contests, and from 1985-86 through '87-88 he made more 3-pointers than anyone else — teammate Danny Ainge was second — and led the league twice.
Now that another Celtics star is approaching the record, the excitement in the TD Garden is rising.
"We're playing a team sport, but there's an individual element that's associated with me right now," Allen said. "I hear it in the building more than I have in games past. I think everybody knows, but you can (get) sidetracked if you worry about it. I don't want to press. I don't want to step outside of what we're trying to do here."
Dallas' Jason Kidd hit his 1,742nd 3-pointer on Friday night with 2.5 seconds left to give the Mavericks a 101-97 victory over the Celtics in Boston.
That left him third on the career list, a mere 800 or so behind Allen and Miller.
"I am?" said Kidd, who is known more for his passing than his shooting. "It's like a free throw for him. For me, it takes a lot of energy out. It's a shot that changes the game — defensively and offensively. In this league you're never out of the game because of that 3-point shot."
Allen is already the NBA's all-time leader in 3-pointers made per game, with an average of 2.4; Peja Stojakovic is second at 2.2 on the list, which includes players who've made at least 250 3-pointers or played in 400 games.
In other words, no active veteran is even close to Allen, and those that are early in their careers would have to pick up the pace to catch him.
"Ray's record will stand — maybe forever. The person who's going to break his record might not even be born yet," Miller said in a recent telephone interview. "At age 35, to still be getting it done. I mean, come on. It's great, but it's sad that a 35-year-old gunslinger is still our game's best shooter."
And that, he said, is because they younger players, like the fans, don't realize the work that goes into it.
"It's too easy to go to a gym and try to do crossovers and a fancy dunk," Miller said. "Rebound your own miss — that's too boring for kids. (They) need that instant gratification.
"Shooting is a lost art at the professional ranks. But it's like a left-handed bullpen pitcher: You will have a job when you are 40, 45."
Allen said he hasn't thought about how long he will play, but the fact that he has been in contention every season since arriving in Boston helps keep him motivated.
Miller knew he didn't want to go that long.
"I had 18 wonderful years," he said. "The basketball gods were good to me."
But making all those 3-pointers wasn't just a matter of God-given talent. For every shot he took in a game, there were hundreds more in practice, many with no one but a ballboy watching.
Miller estimated that he took 500-700 shots a day in practice. Allen said he doesn't count how many shots he takes to prepare, but that he wouldn't leave until he "dominates" every spot on the court.
"I think people believe you're either a shooter or you're not," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "The reason Ray's a great shooter is because he shoots more shots than anybody. And he continues to work hard at it."
Miller said he emulated Bird's work ethic when he entered the league, spending hours alone in a gym practicing his shot.
"I know what it takes to have reached this level, how much time it takes to be in the gym," Miller said. "Ray's along the same model I took when I emulated Larry Bird. This isn't just something that just lucked upon him. You're making 3s, the longest shot on a basketball court. That's not luck, that's someone who has worked."
And that's why Rivers said he always has confidence in Allen, even when he seems ice cold.
He showed that in Game 6 of last year's NBA finals when he chose Allen — as he usually does — to shoot the free throws after the Lakers were called for a technical foul. Allen was mired in what might be the worst slump of his career at the time, missing 17 straight 3-pointers over four games (this after he sank a finals-record 8 3-pointers in Game 2).
Last month against Detroit, Allen again went cold and missed five straight shots — including all four of his 3-point attempts, and a rare double-miss on a fourth-quarter trip to the foul line. But when the Celtics came out of a timeout with 31 seconds left, they found Allen for the game-winning basket (his foot was on the 3-point line, so it counted only for 2).
Allen said his goal isn't to take the last shot; it's to get open so that he is an option. If someone else has a better look at the basket, that's fine with him. But if the ball comes to him, he's going to be ready, no matter what's happened before in the game.
"It's not like it's from an ego perspective. It's because I think I can make it," he said. "If I was to make a hard cut so one of the other guys can be open, I'm all for that, too. I would still be doing my job."
AP freelancer Doug Alden contributed to this story.