Doc Rivers spoke swiftly about the conclusion of Thursday night’s loss to the New York Knicks. His was asked about “the turnover” in the final minute that essentially cost the C’s any chance of winning the game. His response? Brief.
“Which one?” he asked. “We turned it over twice.”
He couldn’t be any more on the ball.
New York jumped ahead by five points after J.R. Smith hit a 3-pointer with 1:11 remaining in regulation. The Celtics had plenty of time to stage a comeback and Rivers called for a timeout to help his players regroup.
Boston came back onto the floor with a play drawn up to get the team a good look at the basket in crunch time. However, just five seconds after the ball was inbounded, the Celtics turned it over.
Jason Terry attempted a dribble-hand-off to Paul Pierce but the captain couldn’t hold onto the ball as his defender poked in. The turnover was credited to Terry but a mistake was made on both ends of the two-man party.
The C’s still didn’t quit. They came back down to the other end of the floor and forced a missed jumper out of Carmelo Anthony, giving them yet another shot to make it a one-possession game. Rajon Rondo, who scored 10 points in the fourth quarter alone, made it happen with a pull-up jumper from the elbow with 39.5 seconds left.
Now all Boston needed was one last stop and it would have an opportunity to tie the game up at the other end. The C’s knew that was the case and so they buckled down on defense yet again. Jason Kidd eventually missed 3-pointer and Jeff Green reeled in the rebound.
Rivers called for his final timeout with 13.1 seconds remaining in the game and his team trailing by three. He knew what the Celtics needed, and he drew up a play to get it.
The Celtics returned to the floor with a plan to either get Terry a corner 3 or Pierce a 3 from the wing. They inbounded the ball to Rondo and after a few seconds of dribbling, he whipped a pass over to Pierce on the left side of the court. That was the moment when Pierce’s hands came back to haunt him yet again.
Pierce didn't catch the pass cleanly and that allowed his defender to reach in and cause havoc near the sideline. Pierce continued to attempt to reel the ball in, but he couldn’t make it happen. He wound up knocking the ball out of bounds, and with that, the C’s lost their final opportunity to tie the game.
Rivers is one of the greatest coaches in the game when it comes to drawing up plays during timeouts, but on this night, the Celtics didn’t even give themselves a chance to use those plays to their advantage.
Key Box Score Line
Would the Celtics have been remotely close to winning this game had Rajon Rondo not played? Absolutely not.
Rondo was a monster Thursday night. He finished the game with his fourth career triple-double against New York by tallying 23 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. His 23 points led the Celtics, while the 11 assists not only led the game but also fell just one helper short of tying the Knicks’ team total. In addition to the main statistical categories, Rondo excelled in shooting (10-of-19 from the field) and defense (four steals).
Ten of Rondo’s 19 points were scored in the fourth quarter when the Celtics truly needed him the most. He did everything he could to put his team on his back and carry them to the win column, but it just wasn’t enough.
Box Score Nuggets
- There were 15 ties and 17 lead changes in the game.
- Paul Pierce scored 22 points, including 19 in the first half alone.
- Both teams shot less than 41 percent from the field.
- Carmelo Anthony scored a game-high 28 points, but he needed 28 shots to score those points.
- Kevin Garnett grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.
- Rajon Rondo recorded a triple-double with 23 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.
- Only two Celtics, Rondo and Pierce, scored in double-figures
- Both teams committed 12 turnovers. However, New York scored 19 points off of Boston's and the C's only scored eight off of the Knicks'.
- Garnett, Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire tied for the game high in blocks with two apiece.
- Rondo's 11 assits were just one shy of New York's team total of 12.
- The Celtics shot just 3-of-18 from downtown.
- Boston outscored New York 50-32 in the paint.
- The Celtics grabbed seven offensive rebounds but did not score a single second-chance point in the game.
- Boston scored 24 points in both the first and the second quarters.
Quote of the Night
Just down the stretch we had poor execution. Simple and plain. When you need buckets, when the game is tight, you can’t turn the ball over, and that’s what we did down the stretch. Paul Pierce on Boston's execution down the stretch