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:
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.
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.