With 3:56 left in Game 5, the Boston Celtics were leading the Los Angeles Lakers 87-75. Three minutes and 10 seconds later, it was 87-82 and the Celtics had just watched Derek Fisher(notes) out-jump Kevin Garnett(notes) to win a jump ball in front of the Celtics' basket. It was a bad 190 seconds for Boston. Then things kind of made a turn for the better.
First, Ron Artest(notes), as he is wont to do, missed two free throws that would have pulled the Lakers within three, just a single Kobe Bryant(notes) dagger away from tying up the series' pivotal game. On the miss, Paul Pierce(notes) grabbed the rebound, couldn't find anyone to outlet the ball to and was saved by a timely timeout. Facing the most important inbounds play of the season, the Celtics went for "The Annexation of Puerto Rico." It worked out OK.
What an amazing play, every single thing about it. Kevin Garnett's totally ridiculous pass was amazing from a "whoa, why are you throwing that pass right now?" standpoint, but it led to Pierce's more amazing catch that looked like something from a Jay Novacek highlight tape. Then, somehow, Pierce had the awareness to realize he hadn't been fouled for some reason, leading to him finding a streaking Rajon Rondo(notes), who made a pretty tough catch while running full speed on a ball thrown behind him. It's hard to believe that Rondo's tough catch-and-reverse ahead of a trailing Ron Artest was the easiest part of this totally bananacakes play that put the Celtics up seven and effectively closed the door on a potential L.A. comeback.
As Celtics coach Doc Rivers said in a postgame news conference, the football aspect is something Pierce was more than happy to provide.
"Well, Paul has said that for years that he could play for the Patriots, and maybe we might have to believe him.
"We had a timeout. We had one timeout. I didn't want to use it because we could advance the ball with the timeout. So we were going to count to four, and if Kevin didn't have anybody open, I was going to call it. Before I could get there, I see the ball in the air, and it was a great catch. And then I thought the pass and the catch by Rondo in the finish was huge for us. And I told Rondo I was so happy that he attacked the basket on that. A lot of guys would have dribbled it out. If you think if you can get to the basket and get the lay-up, you take the lay-up in that situation, and I think he did that."
If you think about all the tiny things that could have gone wrong — KG's pass being intercepted or tipped, Pierce not having NFL-caliber hands, stepping out of bounds or hesitating to throw the ball, Rondo missing the layup or not catching the pass cleanly, et cetera — you'll realize that amazing just happened, right in front of our eyes. I'm no marketing genius, but I think something like "amazing is happening here" would be a pretty good campaign. Might need some workshopping to really iron things out, but it's a nice start.