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Friday, December 10, 2010
Flipping switches

By Chris Forsberg

Comcast ScreenshotA moment before Rajon Rondo tossed the winning alley-oop to Kevin Garnett.
PHILADELPHIA -- The Celtics were so certain the 76ers would be forced to switch on a final-play pick-and-roll that it seemed they hardly considered a second option before Kevin Garnett caught an alley-oop lob from Rajon Rondo for the winning layup with 1.4 seconds to play in a 102-101 triumph Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center.

Watch the final play and it's hard to say what Philadelphia could have done to prevent it. In hindsight, it might have been best not to switch when Garnett approaches to run the pick-and-roll, but forcing Jrue Holiday to go over on a screen would have left Rondo able to drive and still might have resulted in a lob from another angle.

As 76ers coach Doug Collins explained, the only thing that might have worked was Holiday staying in Garnett's path to the hoop, but Garnett just muscled his way toward the rim way anyhow, ultimately forcing Holiday to chase.

"We were going to switch everything," admitted Collins. "With six seconds, you were going to have to switch everything on that play. They went small, so we came in with small. Thaddeus [Young] was on Garnett, so they ran the pick-and-roll. Jrue switched it and initially got underneath it. Then he got in front of him and, when he got in front of him, [Rondo] just threw it over the top of him. We would have liked for him to stay underneath him on the roll, but initially, he was there. He got on the top side and when Rondo saw that, he just lobbed the ball over the top."

None of the 76ers were going to help. Just a few plays earlier Philadelphia learned the perils of leaving Ray Allen alone (so Jodie Meeks was practically hugging Ray Allen in one corner). By subbing in Nate Robinson before the final play, the Celtics forced the 76ers to not only pull Elton Brand off the floor, but Louis Williams couldn't leave Robinson and couldn't help on the lob.

Paul Pierce set the whole series in motion by faking a pick to the other side of Holiday as Garnett inbounded the ball, then Pierce simply ran Andre Iguodala off the play.

The only thing that could have stopped Boston was a bad lob or a botched shot attempt. But knowing the switch was coming, the Celtics were aware of that before they stepped on the court.

"We had planed for the switch," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "We just thought, with a late clock, most teams switch. We figured with a small guard on Rondo, if they switched, we told Rondo just throw it up, we’ll get it."

Plan B would have had to have been improvised by Rondo.

"[Rondo] had no choice, just throw it up there and Kevin will go get it," said Pierce. "We were going to make it work somehow."