There were two key moments in this game, and neither of them favored the Boston Celtics.
A tremendous second-half comeback had put the Celtics ahead by as many as six points in the fourth quarter. They were in prime position to win their fourth game in a row despite the absence of point guard Rajon Rondo. However, Brooklyn wouldn’t go away and used a 9-2 run to take an 89-87 lead with 3:03 remaining in the game.
That isn’t one of the key moments we’re outlining, but what happened with 34.5 seconds left is.
Boston trailed by three coming out of a timeout and they went to the man who has bailed them out of so many of these situations in the past: Paul Pierce. Pierce could not have done anything better after he took possession of the ball out of the timeout and drove down the left side of the lane. He made a great decision, he beat his defenders off of the dribble, he found as good a shot as anyone could ask for in that type of situation, and he even drew a foul. All of that was great, but what happened after the ball came off of Pierce’s fingers was not.
Pierce’s point-blank layup had just a little too much English on it as it bounced off of the glass. It wound up rolling off the front of the rim and leaving every Celtics fan disappointed. Had he made the layup, he would have been sent to the line with an opportunity to tie the game with 34.5 seconds left in regulation. Instead, he walked to the stripe with a chance to slice Boston’s deficit down to one.
Although Pierce couldn’t tie the game from the line, he still had the opportunity to make this game even more interesting down the stretch by making both free throws. Unfortunately for the C’s, the unthinkable happened: Pierce missed both.
In a matter of seconds, the Celtics went from nearly tying the game up to leaving their end of the court without a single point added to their total. It was a tough pill to swallow.
That wasn’t the last overwhelming pill that was fed to Boston on this night. The refs handed one to the C's, too, with 23.4 seconds left on the clock.
Pierce had just given his team hope when he drilled a 3-pointer to cut Brooklyn’s lead down to two. Avery Johnson called for a timeout with 24.0 seconds left and opted to take the ball out in the frontcourt on the ensuing possession.
Brooklyn did what it should have done in that situation in trying to get the ball to Deron Williams along the sideline. However, as Williams streaked to the sideline to catch a pass in front of Boston’s bench, Leandro Barbosa stepped in to cleanly steal the pass.
Well, it sure looked clean to everyone watching on TNT, but a foul was still called on Barbosa. Williams wound up at the free-throw line, where he nailed both of his attempts to put the Nets on top by four with 23.4 seconds remaining.
It was a free throw contest from that point on, and Brooklyn won. The Nets hit five of their six free throws in the final 30 seconds to clinch the 102-97 win.
Key Box Score Line
Paul Pierce was key for the Celtics not only because his numbers kept Boston in the game, but also because they kept Boston out of the game.
Pierce led the Celtics with 22 points on an efficient 8-for-12 shooting night but missed out on three critical points in crunch time that could have changed the course of the game. He also pulled in seven rebounds, dished out four assists and grabbed two steals. The other number that affected Pierce’s night was his foul total. He finished with five and was in foul trouble for the majority of the second half.
The Captain helped to keep his team in the game Thursday night, that’s for sure. But as he attested to them on the bench as the clock ticked down to zero, he also puts the loss on his back after some critical misses in the final 35 seconds.
Box Score Nuggets
- Deron Williams and Brook Lopez tied for the game high in scoring with 24 points each.
- Brooklyn grabbed 15 offensive rebounds in the first half but only three in the second half.
- Paul Pierce scored a team-high 22 points.
- Chris Wilcox finished with a plus-17 in the plus/minus category in just 12:32 of playing time.
- Neither team surpassed 19 assists.
- Brooklyn took 10 more shots than Boston but made only one more.
- Courtney Lee led the Celtics with nine rebounds. He also scored 13 points, dished out three assists and grabbed three steals.
- Leandro Barbosa scored 17 points while starting in place of the injured Rajon Rondo.
- Brandon Bass led the C's in shot attempts with 14, but three other Celtics made more shots than he did.
- Brooklyn scored at least 28 points in three of the four quarters.
- Boston outscored Brooklyn 19-4 in fast break points.
Quote of the Night
I was thinking about the layup too much. I was very disappointed. It is very unlikely of me to miss two free throws, so I take a lot of blame down the stretch. I’m the guy that is supposed to make good plays, and tonight, I did not make good plays. Paul Pierce on his missed opportunity to tie the game with 34.5 seconds left