Quick, picture this: The team is down one point. You are Doc Rivers and you have to call someone's number to take the last second shot. Who to you point to?
Ray Allen is a great, obvious choice but then again so is Paul Pierce. Then there's Kevin Garnett who has hit his share of clutch winners in his day. Oh, and for good measure, there is always Glen Davis who has a knack for hitting those everyone-else-is-covered-so-I'm-wide-open clutch shots that are John Paxon-esque in nature. In short, you've got options. Almost too many options actually - because a lesser coach would be crushed with indecision, worrying about who to keep happy and who "deserves" the last shot for alpha-dog reasons.
Lucky for Doc, he doesn't have to worry about any of that. He just draws up a play that has several options, puts the ball in the hands of Rajon Rondo, and sits back and enjoys the poetry.
Looking back to last night's game, it only makes sense to get the ball to Rajon in the closing seconds. He's in an absolute zone right now. The game has slowed down to a crawl for him and it doesn't even matter that he's got a pulled hammy, a tweaked knee, and plantar fasciitis. He's like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning out there, surveying the field, checking down his options, and finding his receivers in perfect rhythm.
The pick and roll with Pierce is covered? No problem, pull the ball back and patiently wait for Garnett to roll to the hoop. Then lob the ball up gently to where only he can catch it, with plenty of time to lay it gently into the basket. Beautiful. Unless of course you are the defense.
Think about how the 76ers must have felt. They battled all night long. They probably deserved to win the game based purely on their hustle throughout the game. Andre Igoudala hit two shots that against many other teams could have been the final nail in the coffin. But the Celtics just had too many options.
A broken play resulted in Ray Allen (of all the people) wide open for a dagger three. Another play found Glen Davis open for a midrange jumper. By the time the final possession rolled around, they must have been dizzy trying to figure out who to cover.
Then Rajon Rondo has the ball out at the 3 point line and they must be thinking "great, this is the guy we want to take the shot from that distance - our defensive plan is working." Oops. Try again.
Watching that last sequence I couldn't help but giggle uncontrollably (with my wife probably thinking I've finally lost it). So many times you've seen games won by superstar players hitting a jumper with a hand in their faces. Much respect to those guys (like Ray and Paul for example). But Rondo, non-conformist that he is, decided to do things his own way. Welcome to the Game Winning Assist.
Don't get me wrong, Kevin deserves much of the credit for catching that ball, turning in mid-air, and finding the hoop before the clock ran out. But ultimately Rondo deserves most of the credit for putting him in exactly the right spot. Which is exactly what he's been doing for the whole team for the whole year.
So the next time the Celtics need a bucket at the end of the game, you can feel a little less stress knowing that the Celtics have plenty of options and a great quarterback on the field making the right reads.