The Boston Celtics had the ball with 30 seconds left and the score knotted at 103 at the Oracle Arena on Wednesday night, needing a play that would get them a clean look at an open shot to take the lead over the Golden State Warriors. Luckily for the Celtics, they are coached by Doc Rivers, their roster features Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo, and even missing key contributors due to injury, Boston's business is grown-man business.
After stringing the possession out until late in the shot clock, the Celtics run a high screen, which the Warriors switch on the perimeter, putting center Andris Biedrins in the unenviable position of having to guard Pierce 25 feet away from the basket. Pierce makes his move with about five seconds left on the shot clock, driving left and gaining the paint with relative ease. Brandon Rush collapses to double Pierce as he picks up the dribble with 2.4 seconds left on the shot clock, which would make life super hard on "The Truth" ... if he was planning on shooting.
The problem is, that high-screen switch left Rush guarding Garnett, who was left wide-open when Rush doubled. (Seriously, run that clip back; there's like nine feet of space all around Garnett when Rush goes airborne on Pierce.) Pierce, wisely and just as it was likely drawn up, fires a pass right into Garnett's hands. Utterly unencumbered by defenders, Garnett raises up with that just-inside-the-line look — the one he loves so much, the one he makes so well — and lets it fly.
The result? String music, a 105-103 Boston lead with 5.1 seconds left that would stand as the final margin in a Celtics win, and yet another round of ruthless, precise late-game execution in the Big Three era.
We'll remember the Celtics' 2007-08 title. We'll remember the stretch of deep playoff runs and, most likely, we'll remember feeling like they probably should have won at least one more ring. (Especially those of us who were absolutely convinced it was theirs for the taking in Game 7 in 2010.) But I also hope that, sometimes, we'll remember just how good this Boston Celtics team was at doing things really well — how attentive it was to detail.
How the Celtics spread the floor, kept defenders honest, made opponents make decisions and then seamlessly countered them. How Boston seemed to move in waves and think five moves ahead, playing chess while everyone else was playing basketball. How its three signature stars all said that the guy who would take the shot at the end of the game would be the guy who was open and then actually meant it (even though we knew, mostly, it would be Pierce, especially against the New York Knicks).
How its coach relished the challenge of finding new and inventive ways of getting those stars open night after night, and how well it all worked. Share and share alike, not only for seven nights in June, but for hundreds of nights in January, February and March.
That's not to say this Celtics team is done — maybe they hang on to Ray Allen at the deadline, maybe they jump up a spot or two to avoid the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat in the first round, and maybe there's enough execution, guile and will to make noise this summer, too. But whenever it is done, I hope we remember moments like this moment, and the millions of others that preceded it, and salute. Real should be recognized.
Garnett led the Celtics with 24 points on 11-of-15 shooting to go with seven rebounds and five assists. Reserve swingman Mickael Pietrus, in the words of the immortal Paul Flannery, had "himself a night," hitting 5 of 6 attempts from long range to chip in 15 points and three assists off the Boston bench.
Three Warriors scored 20 points or more in the loss, led by rookie Klay Thompson, who led all scorers with 26 points on 16 shots in replacing the just-traded Monta Ellis as Golden State's top off-guard. Former Celtic Nate Robinson added a double-double with 20 points and 11 assists.
Is the video above not rocking for you? Please feel free to peruse the game-winner elsewhere, thanks to The Hoop Scene.