Doc Rivers and the Celtics stunned Indiana in epic fashion Wednesday night
The Celtics did something they hadn’t done all season Wednesday night, winning road games on back to back nights; and they did it in epic fashion. Impressive for such an old, banged up team? Of course. Unexpected? Maybe so, especially since the Celtics had one win this season after being down by more than 11 points, according to WEEI’s Sean Grande (Celtics were down 14 late in the 3rd).
The Celtics began the night in Indy struggling to stop Roy Hibbert, who had 10 points and 6 rebounds in the first 6 minutes of the game. Although Hibbert was unleashing his 7 foot 1 inch frame upon the smaller Celtics lineup, Boston was only down two early on, and it was when Hibbert received his 2nd foul that things started to get ugly for the Celtics. When Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were resting on the bench late in the first and early on in the second quarter, they watched their team get crushed rebounding the basketball and turning it over, and it led to a double-digit lead for the Pacers with 8 minutes left in the half.
Pierce and Garnett came back in for the rest of the half, and although Pierce was looking extremely fatigued and not his usual self all night, the Celtics were able to cut the lead to 7 going into half. Seeing how poor the Celtics were playing overall, and how well Hibbert, David West, and other Pacers were rebounding the ball, the Celtics were considered lucky to be down single digits at half.
This game had a gloomy feeling over it for the first three quarters. Other than Garnett, nobody was having a good, or even decent game for the Celtics. The Pacers had a double-digit lead the whole third quarter, and Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass were having absolutely abysmal games. Throw in Jeff Green, Courtney Lee, and Avery Bradley’s poor numbers, and 5 of the Celtics best 6 players were having below average games. Not exactly a recipe for a win. But then the fourth quarter happened…
The Celtics came out hot in the fourth, connecting on a KG jumper and a Terry 3. They cut the lead to 5 at least 3 times in the first half of the fourth quarter. With the Celtics down 1 with about 6 minutes left, George Hill, who had shot the ball extremely poorly in his two games against Boston this year, began to come alive. Hill hit consecutive three’s in between a Terry three, and then had a big dunk in transition to push the lead back to 6 with about 5 minutes left.
Here is where Doc Rivers makes his money and shows he is deserving of Coach of the Year. Rivers calls his first smart timeout of the fourth. Yes there are more to come, if you didn’t already see it coming.
The Celtics come out of the timeout firing, and are down 5 when Paul Pierce (3-13 FG at the time) pulls a Vintage Pierce move as he doesn’t hesitate in banging home a three with 2 minutes left, cutting the Pacers lead to 2. Interestingly enough, Pacers coach Frank Vogel does not call a timeout at this point (OR FOR THE REST OF THE GAME), and David West ends up turning it over, giving the Celtics a chance to complete the epic comeback. The Celtics have all the momentum in the world, so a timeout here wouldn’t be the move to make, right?
Well maybe for you, but not Doc. He calls that timeout because he knows his guys are gassed. He also knows this is where they can steal this game from the Pacers, and his team needs to know it.
The two teams trade possessions before Garnett finds Avery Bradley who ties it up at 81 a piece with about 1:20 left in regulation. The Celtics have comeback from down 14 in the game and 10 in the fourth, and have all the momentum in the world, having scored the last 9 points of the game.
In between a Paul Pierce miss, the Celtics play great defense and now have the ball and a chance to win the game. Doc Rivers calls a timeout with 22 seconds left and writes up an absolutely masterful play. Jeff Green has the rock at the top of the key. As Garnett comes up to the top of the key, Green gives it to him and begins to curl his way towards the basket. As Green is curling towards the hoop, Pierce sets an amazing back screen on Green’s man, and Garnett finds a wide open Green for the game winning layup. An amazing comeback by an amazing team that never ceases to amaze its fans.
To write-up a play for Jeff Green (4-13 FG before the game winner) not only shows the confidence Rivers has in Green these days, but it also shows the genius of Rivers. Who is expecting Jeff Green to take the Celtics final shot when they have legends like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett? Nobody. Rivers knew that, and had faith Green would make the play (which he did). Rivers put on an absolute clinic in the fourth quarter, and while Frank Vogel was showing everyone how to not coach a fourth quarter, Rivers was doing the exact opposite. Rivers is an extremely charismatic and confident man, and when he has confidence in you, you begin to have confidence in yourself. Doc is still the perfect coach for this team and is a top two coach in the league (Poppovich).
What does this win mean for the Celtics? Not only does it show that the Celtics can win without Pierce having much of an impact (something they couldn’t do in Denver two weeks ago), but it shows that the Celtics are still a contender. You don’t go into one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference’s court, go down 14 late in the third, and comeback and win unless you are a title contender yourself. The Celtics prove time and time again that you can not give up on them, because one thing is for certain, they aren’t going to ever give up on themselves.