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The Three-Pointer: One Celtics play says so much

12.10.10 at 12:29 am ET

It was just one play, lasting 5.2 seconds, yet it said so much about the 2010-11 Celtics.

Not many coaches have the smarts (or the cojones) to draw up a game-winning alley-oop with 6.6 seconds left. But the Celtics have Doc Rivers ‘€” one of the best coaches in the business at designing plays following a timeout ‘€” and he had the script that resulted in a 102-101 Celtics win over the 76ers in his back pocket all along.

“We worked on the whole timing of it last week,” Rivers told reporters. “We tried to run it earlier in the year, and we had bad timing, so it’s just funny how things worked out. It’s a low-clock play, the ball is in the best passer’s hands, and you have shooters on the floor. … It worked.”

Not many point guards can throw a perfect blind lob over a taller defender in the final moments of a game. But the Celtics have Rajon Rondo, who picked up his 14th assist of the night with 1.4 seconds left when he dropped a pretty pass over the heads of Thaddeus Young and Jrue Holiday that led to the basket that resulted in his team’s ninth consecutive victory.

Not many post players have the length and athleticism to get from the top of the key to the rim in a blink of an eye. But the Celtics have a healthy Kevin Garnett, who rolled to the basket, caught the lob pass and converted it all in one fluid motion to improve the C’s Eastern Conference-best record to 18-4.

“Last year, Kevin would’ve missed the lob,” Rivers added. “Actually, we wouldn’t have thrown it. We can do it now.”

And not many teams have three deadly shooters who opponents absolutely have to respect in the waning seconds of a one-point game. But the Celtics have Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Nate Robinson, who all hovered around the 3-point line ‘€” drawing Andre Iguadola, Jodie Meeks and Louis Williams from the basket and allowing Rivers’ design to play out on the floor.

“It was just a gutsy win for us,” said Rivers. “They played great, and we stole one.”

Yup, not many teams can steal a road victory when their starting center is in street clothes and their starting point guard is hobbled by nagging injuries on the second night of a back-to-back. But these Celtics did, which is something the 2009-10 team could not.


Two of the Celtics’ four losses this season came on the road on the second night of a back-to-back, which makes Thursday’s win over the 76ers all the more impressive. Boston appeared to recognize that fact, since their postgame celebration seemed more like a playoff win than a regular-season victory against a 7-15 Philadelphia team.

While the Celtics looked disinterested at the start, their effort couldn’t be questioned as the game wore on. Rondo totaled 19 points and 14 assists in 47 minutes, despite playing with a sore hamstring and aching feet (Celtics broadcaster Donny Marshall also alluded to a possible knee issue). Pierce had 10 points and eight rebounds in 40 minutes, despite feeling under the weather all night. And Robinson netted nine points in 21 energetic minutes off the bench, despite having sore feet himself.

“It hurts, but when Doc calls my name, I’ve got to be ready,” Robinson said after Wednesday’s win over the Nuggets. “I don’t even think about my feet then. When it’s in the game, it’s in the game. I tie my feet up as tight as I can, I’ve got tape, everything, I’ve got booties on the side and in between, so I mean, hey, whatever it takes.”

One guy who couldn’t play through injury on Thursday was Shaquille O’Neal, who sat out with calf and knee pain. Semih Erden started in his place, producing eight points and three rebounds.


It’s not easily quantified, but Rondo’s jump shot has looked improved this season. His 3-point shot could still use work, as he sits at 27.3 percent from beyond the arc this season, but he’s quietly added a pull-up jumper off the dribble from 15 to 20 feet to his arsenal.

Rondo finished 2-for-2 from that range against the 76ers. And at least one person is taking notice.

“I was telling Rod Thorn how much improved this kid is with his outside shooting, and he looked at me like I’m crazy,” said Celtics color analyst Tommy Heinsohn. “And you know how crazy I can be.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, NBA
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