Ray Allen and his teammates celebrate after his clutch 3-pointer to knock off the Bobcats.
When you're one of the sharpest shooters in NBA history, you just don't pass up open shots -- not even following an ugly airball. After coming up with nothing but air on a 3-pointer with 33 seconds remaining in double overtime, Ray Allen blew the roof off of TD Banknorth Garden when he swished a go-ahead trey with 2.1 seconds remaining.
That bucket wound up being the gamewinner that pushed the Celtics to a 111-109 double-overtime victory over the Charlotte Bobcats and vaulted them a game ahead of Orlando for the second seed in the East.
"That's Ray," Paul Pierce said after the emotional win. "He's a future Hall of Famer, and great players find a way. When Ray shoots and misses shots, it doesn't discourage him."
In a seesaw battle that the Celtics trailed for the majority of the second half, they somehow found an answer over the final six minutes of regulation to send the game to overtime.
"There were so many times when we were down and could've gave up, and just made big shots," Head Coach Doc Rivers said. "Our guys executed down the stretch."
The two biggest components of that clutch comeback were two of the smallest players on the court, Rajon Rondo and Eddie House -- not the customary guard combo of Paul Pierce and Allen.
"They have so many weapons, especially guys that can shoot from the outside but they move the ball and Rondo does a great job of penetrating and finding those guys," said Bobcats guard Gerald Wallace.
And boy, was he right. Rondo drove, dished, scored and stole while House torched the nets from the outside. The two guards combined for 17 points in the quarter, all of which came in the final 6:01. House started the run with back-to-back three-pointers, one of which was assisted by Rondo, to bring the Celtics to within eight. After that, Rondo took over and wreaked havoc on the Bobcats.
He scored all eight of his fourth-quarter points over the final 4:15, recorded two steals, an assist, and hit the game-tying free throws with 27 seconds remaining that eventually sent the game to overtime.
Boston made only three baskets in overtime, but two of them came from downtown. The first came off the fingers of House and the second, which sent the game to double overtime, was fired in by Allen.
But his heroics weren't done yet.
Allen had two more three-pointers in his holster and emptied the chambers in the second overtime.
After an Emeka Okafor layup with 45 seconds remaining in the game, Allen was found wide open behind the arc for the possible game-winning shot. It wasn't meant to be, and the shot came up well short of the basket, hitting nothing but air as he fell to the ground. But just seconds later, he went from a helpless heave to hopeful hero.
Paul Pierce drove to the basket as the clock wound down and found Okafor waiting for him in the lane. As he searched for an open teammate, he spotted Allen standing on the perimeter waiting for his pass. The ball was dropped off and the shot was fired up.
The rest, as they say, is history, and Boston was on their way to their third consecutive win.
It was a game that seemed as if it just wouldn't fall the Celtics' way. They began the third quarter on a 7-0 run to open up their lead to nine points, but the Bobcats answered right back with an 8-0 run of their own to cut the lead to one.
For the next 22 minutes, it was all Charlotte. They opened up a 12-point lead and as Boston tried to chip away, the Bobcats seemed to always have an answer.
Most of those big buckets came by way of Raymond Felton and D.J. Augustin, who combined for 17 second half points.
Then the final six minutes of the fourth quarter happened, and it was on to overtime(s), where the Celtics prevailed.
Pierce led Boston with 32 points, followed by Allen's 22 and Rondo's 21. Kendrick Perkins was quiet on offense but recorded a game-high 12 rebounds.
For Charlotte, seven players finished in double-figures, led by Gerald Wallace's 20 points and 10 boards. Felton finished with 14 points and 12 assists, while Boris Diaw notched 17 points, seven rebounds and eight assists.
The Celtics will be back in action at 7:30 p.m. Friday night when they play host to the Atlanta Hawks in TD Banknorth Garden.