BOSTON -- Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett shipped off to Brooklyn. Ray Allen took his talents to South Beach long ago. And Rajon Rondo is still missing in action as he recovers from his torn ACL.
Who, then, gets the final shot for the Celtics? Earlier this season, it was Jeff Green who hit a buzzer-beating three to upset the Heat. On Tuesday afternoon, it was Jordan Crawford.
The Celtics guard fell on a loose ball and called timeout with about 4 seconds left in the game and Boston trailing Atlanta, 92-91. Out of the break, Crawford caught the in-bounds pass, dribbled from the top of the key, and attempted an off-balance jumper to beat the horn.
It clanged off the rim and with it went the C's chances to salvage a game that they led by double-digits at two different points.
"I felt like it was a good opportunity," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "Jordan lives for that so I think he’ll probably beat himself up over it. But that’s okay. We play again on Thursday.”
Crawford ended the game shooting just 3-of-15 from the field for eight points. His last two points were Boston's last two points, coming on a high-arcing fade-away jumper to give the Celtics a 91-90 lead. Two free throws from Atlanta's Jeff Teague just seconds later gave the Hawks the win.
Crawford's intent with his final attempt was obvious -- “Make a basket so we can win the game,” he said after -- but the personnel decisions to make in the game's final seconds weren't as cut-and-dried for Stevens. He admitted after the game that it was an enticing option to bring Green off the bench for a final attempt, but the Celtics forward hadn't played for much of the final quarter.
"I think it's tough to put him in cold in that situation," Stevens said. "Yes it's tempting, but being able to give the ball to guys who've been playing at least 5 minutes each -- Avery [Bradley] and Jordan and then most of the fourth, if not the whole fourth, in Courtney Lee -- I think nine times out of 10 you lean towards that. Very rarely would you put a cold person in there in that situation unless it's to throw it in."
Here's another reason Crawford may have made for a good option at the end of the game: In the six games the Celtics have won in December, Crawford has averaged a team-best 4.8 points in the fourth quarter on 57 percent shooting.
Despite the miss to end what was an off-night for Crawford, Stevens' confidence in 25-year-old hasn't wavered.
“I think it all is how you look at it," Stevens said. "If we win the game, his growth as a point guard is expedited. And if we lose it, it’s still a growing process. And so I think he did a lot of good things. He missed some shots. But guys miss shots . . . I thought we got good looks late."