The Celtics showed why coaches spend so much time on situational basketball Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami.
Trailing by a bucket with 0.6 seconds remaining, Boston captain Paul Pierce lofted a perfect alley-oop inbounds feed for Rajon Rondo, who layed the ball in before the buzzer to force overtime; from there, the Celtics topped the Heat 112-106.
Here's how it all played out: After the Celtics rallied from an 11-point, fourth-quarter deficit, they nearly gave the game away in the final seconds of regulation. With the score tied at 99, Ray Allen was stripped near midcourt by Dwyane Wade, who raced the other way for what seemed like a winning dunk with 0.6 seconds left. But the Celtics called time out and drew up the overtime-forcing play.
After the timeout, Allen popped to the top of the key, acting as a decoy, while Rondo ran off a screen from Glen Davis on the wing and curled hard to the basket. Pierce then delivered a perfect lob to the right-hand side of the rim, and Rondo easily caught the pass and layed it in to force the extra session. In OT, Rondo scored three more buckets to help Boston to victory.
"We've been working on that play for a long time, actually since last year," Rondo told reporters after the game. "As soon as Wade stole the ball, I knew exactly that was the play we were going to run. I just had to catch it and lay it in. [Pierce] wanted me to dunk it, but I didn't want to miss a dunk for the game, so I just laid it in."
"It worked against us in practice a couple of times," coach Doc Rivers said. "The tough part is the pass. We needed it. What a great win for us."
Miami's Mario Chalmers was the poor defender helplessly chasing Rondo on the play. He looked like a beaten defensive back when the ball landed softly in Rondo's hands.
"That play could happen to anyone," said Chalmers.
Added Quentin Richardson: "They scored with 0.6 seconds. That's tough to swallow. That’s the NBA."
In hindsight, coach Erik Spoelstra noted his team might have been better served with a big body in the paint, but that Rondo's athleticism made it easy to second-guess.
“It was a heck of a play," said Spoelstra. "It was a brilliant play there at the end. Probably, if we could do it over, maybe put somebody under the basket there, but then Rajon could have broken free a little bit easier. It just shows you what kind of athlete he is. He created space on a full sprint and then curled to the rim and showed his 40-inch vertical on the run with a perfect pass. It was great execution."