Play spoiled by execution
Pierce’s shot not how it was drawn
By the time Paul Pierce released his shot in the final seconds of regulation last night, he knew the Celtics had blown a golden opportunity.
With the score tied, 86-86, against the Miami Heat, the Celtics came out of a timeout with 19.5 seconds left. They had excelled at running clutch plays in the first round of the playoffs against the New York Knicks. But like so many things in this Eastern Conference semifinal series, nothing is going quite like the Celtics planned. What started off as a plan to create a shot for Pierce quickly fell apart and led to the Celtics letting a chance to tie the series at 2-2 slip away in overtime with a 98-90 loss.
“We wanted to get a pick and roll with Paul and Kevin [Garnett],’’ guard Ray Allen said. “We kind of screwed it up because we wanted Paul to get the ball, and I’m 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 don’t think we got a great shot, Paul still got a shot at the basket.
“We’re kicking ourselves over that.’’
In the moments after the loss, the Celtics tried to process falling behind, 3-1, in the series, and blamed execution for the loss. The Celtics ended the third quarter with a 73-69 lead but sputtered in the fourth quarter. They were outscored, 17-13, in the final period and failed to take advantage of the Heat’s 25 percent shooting.
The Celtics were beat on the boards, 45-28, and struggled in overtime with just 4 points. But what most frustrated the Celtics was not closing out the game at the end of regulation.
“We just messed the play up,’’ Rajon Rondo said. “We’re a veteran team, that can’t be an excuse. We have to find a way to execute down the stretch. That just affects the outcome of the game. We didn’t execute. They did what they had to do.’’
The play coach Doc Rivers drew up was a familiar one. What Rivers didn’t expect to see was the confusion.
“Yeah, we didn’t execute the play,’’ Rivers said. “I’ll just leave it at that. Ended up leaving Paul on the island. It’s a play we’ve run several times and we just didn’t execute 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.’’
The Celtics didn’t recover as Miami scored the first 6 points in overtime, and for an offense not able to find much of a rhythm, the Celtics were stuck.
“I think we had the right game plan but you understand there’s someone on the opposite end and they have a game plan also,’’ guard Delonte West said. “When it came down to the stretch, they were able to come up with timely buckets, offensive rebounds, and big possessions and we didn’t convert on the other end.’’
Monique Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.