Offensively, things could not have gone much worse for the Celtics in Game 6. Beyond a quietly efficient outing from Paul Pierce (24 points) and some hot shooting by Kevin Garnett in the fourth quarter, the team’s offense delivered one of their worst performance of The Big Three era.
Yet, despite the 17 turnovers and the 33.3 percent shooting the Celtics were still right there last night. After falling behind by 11 with 3:15 remaining, the Celtics strung together a quick 7-2 over the next 90 seconds, pulling them within six points with 1:40 remaining. After squandering an offensive rebound, Boston eventually got the stop they needed and had the ball down 6 with 52 seconds remaining. They would need to play perfect basketball the rest of the way to have a chance to tie, but they still had a chance.
From there, they went to a pretty familiar play, that you likely recognized. In fact, it’s a play they’ve had tremendous success in using at the Wells Fargo Center over the past few years, as seen here. The play starts as the video begins at 29 seconds, but feel free to watch the whole thing……it’ll make you feel better.
Over the years, the Celtics have gone to this Pierce/Allen pick and roll a lot, with Ray Allen slipping to the wing after a pick from a C’s big man. However, they started doing it so much and so well that teams started accounting for it. Check it out as seen in this game from 2010 against the Lakers, where Lamar Odom slipped off Kevin Garnett to challenge the Allen shot after the pick from KG:
So what did the Celtics do last night, when trailing by six points? They went back to old reliable, this time with a simple adjustment. Instead of running the pick and roll to the right, they sneakily ran it to the left side at the top of the key, and this time had Allen roll to the right wing. The result? A wide-open look, that would have made it a one possession game with 40 seconds remaining.
Now, even if Allen makes this shot, the Celtics’ still likely fall in this game. Boston would have needed another stop, and another 3 just to tie the final 40 seconds. Possible, but certainly not probable the way Boston was shooting all night.
If anything, this just goes to show you the value of a minor adjustment or twist to a play that will throw your opponent off guard. Boston has run this pick-and-roll set hundreds of times over the last five years probably, but that’s one of the first time I can remember them having Pierce take the pick to the left side of the floor (not his comfort zone) to get Ray open on the right wing. Nonetheless, despite the Sixers almost surely seeing this play on video, the subtle change to the setup alignment was enough to get Ray the wide open look.
Like 66.7 percent of the shots Boston had in Game 6, it didn’t fall. The good looks were there though for a lot of the game for this jump-shooting team. They just have to hope they will be there again for Game 7, and this time not rely on them so much.