Last night in Philadelphia, the Celtics found themselves down one with 6.6 seconds left on the clock. We have seen this situation many times in the past, where the ball always seems to find it’s way into the hands of either Paul Pierce or Ray Allen for the chance to win the game.
But last night, both teams played small lineups for most of the game, as Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal were inactive for the Celtics. With the game on the line, Boston had Nate Robinson, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett on the floor along with Pierce and Allen. The Sixers were very small, with Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, Jodie Meeks, Thaddeus Young and Andre Iguodala:
1. With KG set to inbound, the Celtics already have the floor spread with Ray Allen in the right corner, who is being blanketed for obvious reasons, Rondo towards the top, and Robinson and Pierce on the left side. You can tell there is going to be some serious movement here as the entire middle of the court is open.
2. Rondo is allowed to catch the inbounds pass without much trouble, which is the first bad sign for the Sixers. As the ball goes to Rondo, Pierce and Robinson exchange, which the Sixers play well and don’t switch. Pierce and Garnett are now lining up ball screens on either side of Holiday for Rondo to use to attack. Allen remains in the right corner occupying Meeks and Robinson stays left wing occupying Williams, which leaves the middle wide open.
3. Rondo chooses to use the Garnett screen to his right and the Sixers are forced to switch to keep Rondo from turning the corner. This now has Holiday on Garnett with no one remotely close enough to come help in the paint.
4. With Robinson, Allen and Pierce all around the three-point line, all KG has to do is roll down the lane behind Holiday. This is an easy read for Rondo, who throws a safe lob over the top to KG. Holiday is in a truly helpless situation as KG catches the ball with plenty of room to finish without anyone contesting him.
5. KG kisses the ball off the glass to put the Celtics ahead by one, as Philadelphia never had a chance to react. Thanks to three shooters spacing the floor, a terrific decision-maker in Rondo, and KG, the Celtics execute another terrific set out of a timeout in the clutch. This is a play they had been working on recently and last night it came up big on the road.