BOSTON -- The stage was set for another heroic victory by the Boston Celtics on the parquet. Down 2-1 to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, all the pieces were in place to reclaim momentum with a dramatic win in front of their home crowd on Monday night.
Nineteen-and-a-half seconds left in regulation.
A play drawn up out of a timeout.
The final possession of the game.
But the script had a different ending this time.
The Celtics, a team founded on chemistry and communication, failed to execute the final play. What was supposed to be a series of pick-and-rolls to get teammates open ended in a contested jumper by Paul Pierce that missed the mark as time expired. The game went into overtime, where the Heat outscored the Celtics, 12-4, for a 98-90 victory.
The final seconds of regulation looked like a flurry of confusion by the Celtics and left many scratching their heads wondering what just happened. After the game, the main components of the play broke down how the game was supposed to end if all had gone as planned.
Doc Rivers: We didnt execute the play, Ill just leave it at that. Ended up leaving Paul on the island. Its a play weve run several times and we just didnt execute it. It was supposed to be a pick-and-roll with a flare and none of it happened, which was unusual for us. But it happened.
Paul Pierce: It was supposed to end up with a fade for Ray Allen, then I was coming off a pick-and-roll for Kevin Garnett. I guess there was a little confusion right there and we never got into it, and I had to force a bad shot.
Ray Allen: We wanted to get a pick-and-roll with Paul and Kevin. We kind of screwed it up because we wanted Paul to get the ball, and Im at the free-throw line and I wanted to kind of fan off and create some misdirection and then Kevin go set the screen, and then from there see what we got. But I dont think we got a great shot. Paul still got a shot at the basket. Were kicking ourselves over that.
Kevin Garnett: The timing actually got messed up when he went and got the ball and miscommunication. Paul went with a couple seconds on the clock and felt like he had to be aggressive in that situation. But plays are all timing. If you dont come off at a certain time, clocks going, and Paul felt like he had to go. Its what it was.
Rajon Rondo: "It's a surprise but it happens, you know? Lotta talking in the huddle, but there wasn't enough listening, I believe."
Although the Celtics failed to connect on the final play of regulation, execution was a recurring problem that forced them to take a last-second shot in the first place. The Celtics committed 16 turnovers, including four in overtime, leading to 28 Heat points.
Rivers called the turnovers killers and pointed to missed opportunities on botched fastbreaks. The chances for the Celtics to win were there -- they just werent capitalized on.
Execution was poor down the latter part of the game, said Garnett. I thought we had opportunities to win, actually, and poor execution, good team, you cant do that.
The Celtics tried to reclaim the series with buzzer-beating heroics in Game 4. Now down 3-1 and facing elimination, they cannot afford to wait for a last second shot. Time in this series is running out.