Keith Smith: The Celtics game in two tweets:
The Celtics should have traded for Paul George, just so the Pacers didn't get Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) December 19, 2017
Patriots yesterday. Celtics tonight. Enjoy the early Christmas gifts Boston!— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) December 19, 2017
Greg Cassoli: People will remember the crazy finish to this one, and they should, but let's not forget Jayson Tatum's highlight plays. On the offensive end, the Celtics' star rookie sliced through the defense for two big dunks, roaring his excitement for the Indiana crowd to hear.
Tatum brought the same energy to a particularly memorable block on Darren Collison, tossing his shot into the stands with a profanity accompanying it, and bringing his total number of emotional explosions up to three. Such swagger has been something of a rarity from Tatum this year. It's nice to see him playing with some edge. He's been plenty good enough to puff his chest out from time to time.
Matt Chin: The most interesting big-picture detail was Brad Stevens's decision to substitute Jayson Tatum and Al Horford shortly into the first quarter. The duo re-emerged with the second unit and effectively ran the bench offense. Staggering Boston's elite scorers is the newest experimental antidote to solving their recent bench-scoring woes.
If Stevens continues to run with this strategy, Kyrie Irving will have to carry the offense even more frequently. Keeping at least one of Horford and Irving on the floor for the entire game will equate to less of their blossoming two-man chemistry. Irving is already bearing a massive workload; Is this the right time to ask him to take on more?
Marcus Smart channelled Reggie Miller by going 4 for 4 from distance in front of the Indiana crowd tonight. His spot-up shooting will become critical if he begins to see less time as the second-unit quarterback.
Tonight's rotation change occurs just as Tatum's offensive role has shown recent meaningful growth. His footwork on his one-dribble pull-up is straight out of an isolationist's textbook, and his decision-making in the high pick-and-roll is improving each week. Marcus Morris is still without a timetable for return, so Tatum is poised to take on a larger offensive role. Moving forward, it might make sense to grow Tatum's offensive responsibilities against opposing second units and weaker defenders.
Bill Sy: There’s a lot to dissect on Rozier’s winning steal and dunk, but like Keith mentioned, it’s eerily similar to Sunday’s heroics. Just as a reminder, here was the end of the Patriots game in Pittsburgh:
And here’s the final play of last night’s nail biter in Indianapolis:
TERRY ROZIER WITH THE GAME-WINNING STEAL-AND-SLAM!!! pic.twitter.com/j0xwqLih3f— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) December 19, 2017
In both cases, the Steelers and Pacers are hoping for the same thing: keep the ball away from the defense and take the easy points (spiking the ball and kicking a field goal or getting fouled and going to the line respectively).
Narrator voice: “that didn’t happen.”
Brad Stevens’s strategy was simple. Here’s Rozier talking about their Diamond D formation coming off the inbound:
WATCH: Terry Rozier tries to explain how the Celtics took a page out of the Patriots miracle play book. pic.twitter.com/8Qv427Me2V— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) December 19, 2017
With that zone defense, Boston is basically trying to prevent anybody catching the ball and going to the rim. Here’s a good look at the play from the NBA’s “mobile cam”:
First of all, that’s former Celtic Quinn Buckner on the Indy TV call. That “oh, no...no...oh, no!” is priceless.
Second, that should have never happened. It’s just simple math. The Celtics were down 1 with no timeouts. All the Pacers (like, ahem, the Steelers) had to do was hold the ball, get fouled, and go to the line, but they panicked:
#Celtics guard Shane Larkin said this about #Pacers Bojan Bogdanovic regarding Monday's final play - "He didn't look like he wanted to dribble, and I ran toward him as he was looking to pass. Lucky for us, he didn't want any part of the ball and lofted it up there."— Clifton Brown (@CliftonGBrown) December 19, 2017
According to Rozier, the Celtics were supposed to foul Cory Joseph as soon as he touched the ball with 9.3 on the clock, but the ref didn’t blow his whistle on Marcus Smart or Kyrie Irving. Shane Larkin blitzes Bojan Bogdanovich—presumably to foul—and Bogdanovich air mails it to Victor Oladipo. The rest is Rozier’s closing speed and ups.
Stevens’s reaction is uncharacteristic gold:
You know it’s quite a win when you catch typically stoic Brad Stevens smiling as his player swam each other after buzzer. pic.twitter.com/WEu8Yfa04K— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) December 19, 2017
Stevens said he wanted one trap and a foul on last play, not two traps. But he’s ok with how it worked out.— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) December 19, 2017
And Danny Ainge was on the Twitter:
But there’s nothing better than Al Horford riding Aron Baynes out of the arena:
How unlikely was that win? Well...
Celtics trailed by 5 with 30 seconds left in the game tonight.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 19, 2017
Entering Monday, teams were 0-379 when trailing by 5 or more in the final 30 seconds this season