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Celtics Take Down Pacers with Buzzer Beating Play


The Celtics have struggled with late-game execution all season.  Losing Rajon Rondo for the season didn’t make these situations any easier to carry out, but it has really been Ray Allen’s absence that has been most detrimental.  For many years, Allen served as the Celtics’ game winning binky.  If the C’s needed a three, you were almost guaranteed to see a weakside flare from Allen off an off-ball screen.  This play was lethal and extremely hard to guard.

The Celtics don’t have the luxury of the greatest three-point shooter to walk this earth any longer.  Instead, they have a smaller, more streaky shooter in Jason Terry.  Despite Terry being a proven winner, those same sets are just not going to work without Allen. Due to this reality, the Celtics were resigned to letting Paul Pierce take the ball and go win them games.  Isolation hero ball has such a low success rate to begin with, the few times Pierce’s shots would hit the bottom of the net were completely overshadowed by the slap-you-in-the-face inefficiency.

Which brings us to last night.  With just over 23 seconds to go, the Celtics drew up a play in which Avery Bradley accepted the inbounds pass and held it for the next 15.  Then he proceeded to pass to Jeff Green and move to the weakside wing.  Then, magic ensued:

Kevin Garnett establishes himself in the high post, accepts the pass from Green.

Green begins to curl around Garnett, using the big man as his first screener.  Simultaneously, Paul Pierce pinches up the high post and puts his body on David West who had gone under the Garnett screen.  Pierce ingeniously maintains contact with Paul George in a pseudo-attempt to make himself available for an entry pass from Garnett.  Because George is occupied by Pierce, he doesn’t see Green finishing his curl to the basket.

Couple Pierce’s occupation of both George and West with Roy Hibbert’s statuesque defense on Garnett, and you get Green wide-open for an alley oop. Garnett’s passing lane is completely unobstructed.

Garnett is so hyped about how wide-open Green is that he delivers a pass that is not quite on point.  Green is able to secure the pass anyway.

Due to poor trajectory of the pass, the Pacers have time to recover and create a complete cluster #$%* in the lane.  It’s too late, however, and for a brief moment the Pacers flash back to the first time they saw Mighty Ducks 2 and Russ Tyler, dressed in Goldberg’s goalie gear, sets up for the game-tying knuckle puck.  Ain’t nothing the Pacers could have done about it.

And there was much rejoicing.

  • NHBluesMan

    loved this breakdown- especially the D2 and Monty Python references. Well done

  • dslack

    Any chance KG was trying to throw an alley-oop?

  • Anthony

    Mr Jackson, your breakdown of the play is Gold!

    "AB accepted the inbounds pass…..; proceeded to pass to JGreen….; Then, magic ensued:"
    Mighty Ducks reference.
    "And there was much rejoicing."

    • janos

      is best site nba talk and fan and team

  • Phil725

    Numbers guys have preferred the 'best shot' philosophy over the 'star shoots no matter what' (hero ball,) philosophy for a while now, so I'm really excited by plays like this.

    At the end of the first half against Golden State, Pierce was dribbling for the final shot, and GS just threw three guys recklessly at the Pierce/Terry PnR because they knew it was coming. They ended up trapping Pierce and forcing a bad pass that they picked with the third guy, and it turned into a good look for GS in a situation where they should never get one. The point is that teams know what's coming with Pierce, it sets up the perfect misdirection whenever the Celtics want to go with it. There was a late game play earlier in the year when the Cs got a wide open 13 footer for Terry when he faked setting a screen for Pierce, then slipped out.

    The play last night doesn't work if everyone in the arena (including the Pacers,) don't expect Pierce to get the ball. Pierce is a great passer (as is KG,) so they can run all kinds of plays like this late game, even if they do set up 'lesser' players for the crucial shots.

  • KillerGymRat

    There were so many things to appreciate about this win: beating a conference rival…on a SEGABABA…on the road…against the best D in the league.

    And my favorite part was the execution down the stretch. 2 of those final 3 plays were basketball gold with chess-like mastery.

    This last play was awesome. Using Pierce as a decoy to set a pin down and simultaneous high screen is genius. No way George can do anything but play tight against Pierce in that situation.

    It did look like West completely blew the play. I'm sure the second screen would have got him if he didn't…but he was slow on getting around the first screen (so slow Green could've sliced straight to the front of the rim and West would have gotten hung up on Hibbert)…he then compounds it by slapping at the ball as he passes Garnett and completely loses sight of his man. He was so late you didn't even need that second screen to make the play. But when he hits it, his reaction is awesome because he knows he just lost the game.

    • Sophomore

      Exactly. So sweet, this finish.

    • janos

      hi rat
      those fool are not best D in the league that is home or own nba celtics come on man

  • KillerGymRat

    RE: KG's pass.

    It actually wasn't a poor trajectory. Green flared too wide on his curl and came in at a weird angle, putting himself almost underneath the backboard.

    If you look closely you'll see KG's pass was actually pretty amazing and the most impressive part of that play because nobody else currently on the team could make it. Though Green is wide open there is really no clean passing angle until he finally makes the pass. The first line of attack was over both Hibbert's and West's outstretched arms (the reason nobody else (sans Rondo) is making this pass – even KG is looking up and over Hibbert). KG could have tried to lob over. But that's risky at best. So he pump fakes and waits for a better (clean) passing angle on the other side of both their arms after Green completes the curl to deliver the preferred rifle pass.

    Had Green cut sharp and angled toward the front of the rim KG likely hits him in perfect stride or throws an alley oop. The pass was slightly behind Green, but I imagine KG expected him to stop the curl and finish at the side of the basket he was on. Green never stopped curling so he wound up nearly under the rim.

    I think Green actually is the one who got so hyped…mid-curl he sees its working and he gets all excited and drifts out further then he needed to and never stopped curling. If I were Green I'd be hyped too, knowing I'm about to hit my first game winner in a C's uniform.

    Still a great play. And a great finish by Green. But lets give KG some credit on this one.

    • Bostonian Canuck

      Doc and Green both said the pass was a bit off the mark. And KG praised Green for finishing a tough play. So I don't think Jeff Green screwed up; he just wasn't expecting KG to pump-fake before he threw the pass. The pass came a little later than he expected and as a result he couldn't stop himself until he was almost under the rim.

      That's not to say it wasn't a great pass. As KG said in his post-game interview, the pump-fake was an adjustment he made on the fly, because he saw Hibbert was able to blow up the play the first time they ran it. It was a great move on KG's part, but it threw Green's timing off.

  • janos

    thank you for post was go so fast on live but very good ending now is better keep focus memtums up for playoff. i love this team

  • cjkasino

    Actually which I strongly disagree. ..the pacers are ranked #1 in defense…last I checked…but again I strongly disagree…I couldn’t see this game live because I live in cali but had my espn scorecenter app on and was watching it that way play by play and once I got home and actually saw the play I loved it…but I remember seeing green get overlyhyped and almost miss the great pass… but anyway we won…he scored great play by doc… great execution by the team. .. great pass by kg and great finish by green… Lets go Celtics. .. its time to PLUCK the birds(hawks) on Friday.

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