It never should have come down to this, but somehow it did: With 17 seconds left in the game and the Celtics down one, there was Brandon Bass, isolated in the left corner, standing there all alone, dribbling, thinking, waiting for a moment that would never come.
It lasted for about 12 seconds until Brad Stevens finally gave up and called a timeout. By that point, it was too late. The Celtics only had a few seconds to scramble for a game-winning shot, and it wasn't enough.
"I wanted to take the shot," Bass said postgame. "I wanted to let the clock run out and will us a win."
Yeah, good luck with that.
If that was the final moment of Bass' tenure in Celtic green, then it was the perfect final moment. Oh, the poetic justice. Everything we've ever criticized about Bass was embodied in one quintessential 12-second interval. He lacked the physical prowess to take over. He lacked the decision-making ability to make a real play. His potential "game-winner" was tentative, lazy and incomplete.
If Bass is really out of here, headed to Houston in a much-anticipated trade for Omer Asik, then this game was the perfect precursor. The final seconds showed why the Celtics can do better than depending on Bass in crucial moments, and the preceding 36 minutes showed why they need Asik. The C's didn't lose this game because of one play - they lost it because they were unable to give a consistent defensive effort for 48 minutes. A large rim-protecting Turkish man might help with that.
The Celtics blew this one in mind-blowing fashion, really. They managed to lose a game that they led 44-23 in the opening minutes of the second quarter. They started turning the ball over, they gave the Pistons a series of easy baskets, and they surrendered a 51-29 run midway through the game that would eventually prove to be their undoing.
"We got outplayed for 36 minutes," Stevens said. "In a 48-minute game, that's usually a bad sign.
"We all know, if we've seen a lot of NBA games, that 19 points is nothing. Especially with 36 minutes to go, and especially with the firepower and the athleticism and the talent that they have. I thought they got too many points off of our turnovers, and that was a key to the game. You can't just give them the run-outs and dunks and putbacks and all that stuff. That's a recipe for disaster."
No doubt, there was something missing from this Celtic team tonight. Not to say that bringing in Asik would fix everything, but as this team squandered that 21-point lead, you definitely got the impression they could benefit from a shakeup.
"We started out executing well," said Courtney Lee, the other piece of the rumored Asik trade. "We were playing for each other; we were getting stops. I think we started the game with four stops in a row. That was key. Then in the second half, they started making shots and getting whatever they wanted."
We've seen that movie before. This was the Celtics' second loss this season that they'd led by 20, following up an embarrassing home effort last month against Milwaukee. This C's team is looking stale.
"It's a tough one to swallow," Bass said. "All we can do is come back to practice, regroup and try to get better for Saturday."
If you make it that far, Brandon.
If this is the end for Bass in Boston, you can't say it doesn't make sense. This Celtics team looks ready for a change, and in a matter of hours, that change may come.