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About That Final Play

The execution on the Celtics' final play yesterday evening certainly left something to be desired. Technically, the player they wanted shooting the ball - Ray Allen - shot the ball, but the play, as a whole, was a mess. 

The play called for a pick-and-roll between Paul Pierce and Ray Allen up top, which occurred, with Pierce as the ballhandler and Allen as the screener. The Hornets switched, meaning Marco Belinelli was now guarding Pierce, while Trevor Ariza was now chasing Allen. Doc Rivers said afterward the Celtics wanted the Hornets to switch, so that Pierce could go to work on the smaller Belinelli. 

"We got the switch," said Rivers. "We wanted Belinelli to switch on Paul - smaller guy with a bigger guy. Try to force Ariza to maybe help and then you got Ray standing behind the three." 

After hearing that quote, it sounds as though the Celtics wanted Allen to flare to the left wing and have Pierce drive middle, otherwise what would make Ariza potentially help? If Pierce had driven right, Ariza would have had no business crossing to that side of the court to help and leaving Allen open along the left wing. However, Pierce did initially drive right as Allen made his way to the left wing, but my guess is Pierce was intending to cross back to his left on Belinelli after maybe one or two dribbles, which would have put him in a position to get his own shot easier, or - if Ariza did help the way the Celtics wanted him to - find a potentially open Allen. 

Also, it sounds like the Celtics were set on attempting a game-winning three-pointer, as opposed to a game-tying two-pointer. 

Unfortunately, in the midst of Pierce's initial move to the right, things went downhill rather quickly.  

Belinelli poked the ball away, and Pierce, looking to recover, nearly fumbled the ball out of bounds. At this point, the designed play probably wasn't going to work any longer, as Allen was forced to rush back towards the top of the key to received Pierce's possession-saving pass. 

While we probably have to credit Belinelli somewhat for disrupting the play at the outset, the Celtics made two critical errors of their own after Pierce saved it to Allen. Allen keeps the mistakes to a minimum, but I suppose you have to question the quality of the shot he took in the end, seeing as it was a hotly contested three-pointer (it might have actually been a really long two-pointer) and there were still eight seconds left on the clock. I mentioned before that the Celtics seemed determined to go for the win, and that appeared to be what Allen's thinking was. He probably took what he felt was his first decent look at a three-pointer (which actually was defended very well by Ariza). That was the first mistake - taking a highly contested shot with too much time left on the clock. I'll admit I'm not sure what the Celtics' timeout situation was at that point, but if they had one left, they probably should have used it once Pierce saved it to Allen to try and set something else up. 

The second mistake occurred after the shot did not go in and Chris Paul secured the rebound. Glen Davis was standing right next to Paul when he corralled the Allen miss with just under five seconds to play. However, instead of immediately fouling him (which would have most likely left the Celtics with roughly four seconds), Davis stuck his hand up in the air initially before turning and simply walking towards the other end of the court. Paul dribbled out the clock and that was that. Why didn't Davis foul him? Granted, the Celtics winning at that point would have been a long shot, seeing as they were already down two and Paul's shooting 91.5 percent from the free throw line this season. But crazier things have happened. Paul could have missed one and the Celtics could have secured the rebound and had one final crack at tying it. 

Unfortunately those two guffaws weren't the only ones the Celtics were guilty of in the final minutes. Davis's unwanted three-point attempt with 1:13 to play didn't help matters. 

Hopefully the Celtics can put this one behind them quickly. They take on the Toronto Raptors tomorrow night at 6:00pm. 

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