MIAMI – The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word miracle as “a very amazing or unusual event, thing or accomplishment.”
If we’re taking that definition as truth, there was a miracle Saturday night in Miami.
AmericanAirlines Arena played host to a spectacle Saturday night, as the Boston Celtics upended the Miami Heat by a score of 111-110. Boston’s triumph defied all logic. It was improbable. It was crazy. It simply should not have happened.
Jeff Green celebrates with teammates after giving the Celtics a miracle victory.
Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images
But it did.
The Celtics shocked the basketball world by overcoming a four-point deficit in the final 3.6 seconds of the game. They were fishing for a royal flush, and they caught it on the river when Jeff Green completed the most exciting play the NBA has seen this season.
“Jeff made a huge shot,” Avery Bradley said after the game, with a smile that was accompanied by a hint of disbelief. “It’s crazy.”
It sure is, but before we dig into Green’s incredible shot, let’s set the stage for how we even arrived at ‘crazy.’
LeBron James put Miami on top 110-106 when he sank two free throws with 3.6 seconds remaining on the clock. At that point, winning the game was a near impossibility for the Celtics, but they somehow made it work.
Brad Stevens called for a timeout after those free throws and drew up a play that led to a Gerald Wallace layup. The bucket happened in an instant, as only 2.6 seconds ticked off the clock.
Still, though, Boston trailed by two points with only one second remaining in the game. They needed to commit a foul on the ensuing inbound play and hope that the Heat would miss at least one of their upcoming free throws.
That’s a lot to hope for, but the Celtics got everything they wanted – and then some – after Dwyane Wade was fouled with 0.6 seconds remaining in the contest.
Wade toed the free-throw line and clanked his first attempt. Then the All-Star’s mind began to race and he thought he came up with a brilliant idea. He decided that he’d purposely miss the shot, leading to a rebound that would likely drain out the rest of the game clock.
Problem is, he hit nothing but the backboard, and that’s not legal.
Wade’s ridiculous brain lapse led to him being whistled for a free throw violation. That infraction allowed Boston to gain possession of the ball without any time having come off of the clock.
Now things were beginning to get very interesting. Wade had just gift-wrapped a last-second possession for Boston to either tie or win the game.
Brad Stevens accepted Wade’s gift with open arms. The coach called for a timeout and drew up a play that his players had never seen.
“I just had it written down,” Stevens said of the game’s final play. “I’ve never run it before, but we’ve had some variations of it, but by then you’re freestyling a little bit.”
We soon found out that Stevens is on par with Jay-Z when it comes to freestyling, because what followed was pure genius.
Jeff Green fires up the game-winning 3-pointer from the right corner as time expires.
Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images
Stevens’ play called for Gerald Wallace to take the ball out of bounds in the front court along the left sideline. Away from the ball, Avery Bradley and Jordan Crawford were used as decoys while rookie Kelly Olynyk set a brush screen for Jeff.
Green ran off of Olynyk’s screen and drifted to the far right corner of the court. Wallace, doing his best Tom Brady impression, simultaneously tossed a cross-court pass to hit Green in stride in the very corner of the court. In one motion, Green caught the ball and pulled up from behind the arc to fire off a potential game-winning 3.
Bang. Cue the craziness.
Green’s shot went right over LeBron James’ outstretched arm and fell right through the basket as time expired. The Celtics had officially pulled off a miracle.
“I just shot my regular shot and just trusted that it would go in,” Green said after the game. “I’m 6-9 and I explode on my shot, on that one. So I had a great look at it.”
Funny thing it, that look wasn’t even supposed to win the game. Green took it upon himself to call an audible to Wallace as they made their way onto the court for the final possession of the night.
“It was for a 2,” Green said of the play Stevens had drawn up, “but I told Gerald I wanted to shoot the 3 to try to win it.”
Wallace was all for it, and after completing his pass, he knew something incredible was about to happen.
“When he let go I just had a feeling that it was going to go in,” said Wallace, who dished out a team-high seven assists. “It looked good, I felt good about it. It seemed like everything went right for us that last minute of the game, so it just kind of felt like this was our time and he was able to make it.”
The guy who fired the shot up felt the exact same way.
“I have confidence in every shot I put up,” Green said in the locker room. “When it left (my hand), I had a good feeling it was going in, and it went in.”
All of a sudden, Boston had knocked off the two-time defending champs – on their own home court, no less – in miraculous fashion. The Celtics had rattled off three consecutive victories. They had completed an unexpected two-game sweep of Florida’s NBA teams in a span of 24 hours.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. It was illogical. A five-point swing in a matter of 3.6 seconds? Now that’s an amazing and unusual event.
Call it the Miracle in Miami.