Could the Key Moment of Boston’s thrilling 71-69 victory over Chicago really be... free throws?
As anticlimactic as it may sound, free throws put Wednesday’s game in the win column for the Celtics. They needed every point they could get, including one that arrived via a couple of lucky bounces.
Boston led by just one point after Carlos Boozer tipped in an offensive rebound for the Bulls with 10.8 seconds remaining in the game. The Celtics called timeout and were set to take the ball out along the sideline in the front court.
It’s usually an elementary step to get the ball inbounded at that stage of the game but the Celtics have struggled in such situations against the Bulls this season. A failed inbound play lost them a contest against Chicago back on Jan. 18, and the C’s committed a five-second violation during this game with less than a minute remaining that kept the Bulls alive. This time, however, they did exactly what they needed to do.
Jason Terry streaked off of a screen and into the back court but he was defended well by Chicago. The next option was Paul Pierce, who sprinted to the ball and caught a pass just a few feet away from the inbounder, Jeff Green. Pierce went to the line with 10 seconds remaining and calmly cashed in on the first free throw.
The second free throw was a bit different. This was the critical one and the C’s truly needed it. Pierce, who had shot the ball terribly all night, tossed up his second attempt and it bounced around the rim for what felt like an eternity. The ball finally settled after one final bounce and fell through the net to put Boston on top by three.
The Celtics purposely fouled Nate Robinson on the ensuing possession and he headed to the line with 6.2 seconds left in the game. He made the first free throw but then intentionally missed the second. There were two reasons why he needed to do that: First, Chicago did not have any timeouts remaining to advance the ball on another offensive possession; Second, Pierce’s made free throws made Robinson’s second free throw worthless. Chicago needed three points, not two.
Robinson missed the second and Chicago actually wound up with the loose ball. Taj Gibson fired up a deep 3-pointer but it missed and the Celtics snuck out of TD Garden with a 71-69 victory.
Boston can thank its captain for coming through in the clutch and drilling two critical free throws. Without both of them, this game could have easily slid into the loss column.
Key Box Score Line
Brandon Bass put together his best performance in quite some time on Wednesday night. He nearly grabbed his first double-double since Nov. 25 by scoring a game-high 14 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Bass also contributed two assists, including the biggest one of the game that found Kevin Garnett for a clutch jumper with 19.8 seconds remaining in regulation.
The numbers that Bass built up during his season-high 40 minutes of play were fantastic, but his relentless hustle was what stood out the most. You know how you can watch a football game and after every offensive play it seems like there’s one guy who’s always in on the tackle? That’s how Bass looked when it came to loose balls and rebounds on Wednesday night. He may not have grabbed every loose ball but he sure was trying to.
Throw Bass’ pure hustle and his great numbers together and you may have his best overall performance of the season. Hopefully there are many more to come once we resume the season on Feb. 19 in Denver.
Box Score Nuggets
- In a low-scoring affair, Brandon Bass' 14 points were a game high.
- Jason Terry scored 12 points off of the bench for the Celtics.
- Chicago outrebounded Boston 49-39.
- Both teams shot less than 37 percent from the field.
- Joakim Noah grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds and also accounted for one of the game's three double-doubles thanks to his 10 points.
- Chris Wilcox finished with a minus-10 in the plus/minus category despite playing only 11 minutes.
- Paul Pierce finished with just eight points but did account for six rebounds and six assists.
- Kevin Garnett accounted for Boston's only double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
- Carlos Boozer also had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
- Although the game was so close, there were only six ties and eight lead changes.
- The Bulls did not score more than 21 points in a quarter, while the C's logged 24 in the second and 28 in the fourth.
- Boston scored just eight points in the third quarter.
- Five Celtics players attempted either 11, 12 or 13 shots.
Quote of the Night
It's coming at the right time. With the injuries we have... We knew this would be a tough game. We found a way to win. Paul Pierce on the All-Star break and tonight's game