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INDIANAPOLIS – New England Patriots safety Duron Harmon sealed a miraculous 27-24 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday evening with a last-second interception in the end zone. The Boston Celtics must’ve been taking notes on the gridiron drama, because they took a page out of the Patriots’ book in similar fashion Monday night with a game-winning pick of their own.
The Indiana Pacers were ahead of the Celtics, 111-110, with 9.3 seconds remaining and possession of the ball. All the Pacers had to do was inbound the ball, get fouled, hit their free throws, and keep Boston from hitting a 3 on its ensuing possession, and the win would have been theirs.
Instead, the Celtics decided to make things interesting.
“We had the defensive back lineup out there with me as the safety,” said big man Al Horford, who was joined on the floor by guards Kyrie Irving, Shane Larkin, Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart. “We were poised for something to happen.”
Sure enough, the unthinkable happened.
Pacers forward Bojan Bogdanovic inbounded the ball to Cory Joseph, and Smart and Irving decided to trap him rather than foul. A flustered Joseph passed back to Bogdanovic near center court, who was then rushed by Larkin.
Bogdanovic, an 86.2 percent free-throw shooter, could’ve held onto the ball to take a foul, but he panicked and passed it out toward the Pacers’ logo where a wide-open Victor Oladipo was standing.
Rozier, however, was crouched down by the free-throw line, ready to jump the route. The 6-foot-2 point guard sprung toward the lob pass and tipped the ball to himself with a clear path to the basket.
“As soon as I stole the ball, I glanced up [at the scoreboard] and I saw it was like four seconds left,” said Rozier. “So I was like, ‘I know I definitely got enough time.’”
Enough time to deliver the most emphatic pick-2 of the Celtics’ season.
Rozier raced to the cup, rose up from the top of the restricted circle, and threw down the hammer with 1.6 seconds left in the game.
Darren Collison would go on to back-rim a half-court heave at the buzzer, allowing the Celtics to escape with a 112-111 win.
Much like the Patriots’ game, this contest was full of last-minute chaos. The Celtics were trailing by five points with less than thirty seconds remaining, but Kyrie Irving, the quarterback of the offense, connected on a pair of Hail-Mary 3-pointers in similar fashion to the way Tom Brady had led his offense downfield the night before on New England’s game-winning drive.
“We just have unwavering believe echoing down from our coaching staff to all of us,” Irving said of Boston’s refusal to give up. “We’ve been in some tough games this year, and to be in a tough situation like that is not ideal, but I feel pretty confident that we have some guys that we can confidently go to.”
One of those guys is Rozier, who was able to relive his high school football days by achieving basketball’s version of a pick-6.
“I always brag about my football skills,” Rozier said with a smile, “so I got to show that a little bit tonight.”
He sure did, as he and the Celtics matched the Patriots’ drama from the previous night, and brought another thrilling win to the city of Boston.