CLEVELAND – Marcus Smart wanted one last game in the Garden. Avery Bradley wanted one last chance at home.
As the ball bounced over the rim, with the clock ticking down to zero, Avery Bradley begged it to fall. The Basketball Gods relented, gifting Boston its first win in the series.
Down 21, the Celtics watched as Tristan Thompson snatched another offensive rebound to score at the rim. The Celtics had been beat up by Thompson all series, but he had reached a new level.
Then Jonas Jerebko checked in and the Swedish Larry Bird changed everything. The Celtics would erase the deficit and lock in a grinding battle, coming out the other end with a 111-108 on an Avery Bradley game winner.
Smart had the game of his life, scoring a playoff career-high 27 points and orchestrating the second half offense at his peak capability. Smart was operating as a quarterback out of the post tof ind backdoor cutters, or hitting rainbow pull ups to hit back at crucial moments.
Even with Thompson having a career night with seven offensive rebounds to go 12 for 15 from the line, Boston was able to answer for every blown opportunity to get a stop. They caught fire from deep in the second half as the Cavs went cold, with Jonas Jerebko hitting the dagger wide open on the weak side to take a 108-106 lead with 30 seconds left.
Brad Stevens saved three timeouts for the final minute and made them count, with the Celtics scoring on their ATOs to maintain the lead while having a two for one to close it out.
But on Cleveland’s final possession, Kyrie Irving shook Avery Bradley to get to the rim and hit a vintage up and under off the glass. That brought Boston down to one last possession with 10.7 seconds left. It was over before the play even started.
Marcus Smart caught the inbound and waited for LeBron to lock onto him. Jae Crowder then ran from the corner on a Horford screen to head to the rim. Bradley cut from inside to the weak side elbow, where Smart fired the pass and Horford held the pindown on Thompson.
Bradley had a mile of room and fired away. The ball bounced around, looking for a reason to clank out and go to overtime. But a light breeze flew through the stadium and the ball bounced in with 0.1 seconds remaining as the crowd fell silent.
The Celtics left behind the embarrassment in Boston, securing a shock win and putting themselves back in the series down 2-1.