After giving up the go-ahead basket with 0.6 seconds left and heading to the sidelines to muster some magic, Paul Pierce found Rajon Rondo with an alley-oop inbounds pass that forced overtime in what would eventually be a 112-106 win over the Heat on Wednesday night.
It's a play that may take its place alongside some of the more memorable ones in franchise history, complete with a great call by Mike Gorman ("Pierce … to Rondo … TIE GAME!"). For now, it stands as the biggest play in one of the team's more unlikely wins of the season.
"We had [the game in our hands], literally gave it back," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, citing Dwyane Wade's steal and layup with less than one second left that gave Miami a seemingly insurmountable 101-99 lead. "In the timeout they looked so dejected. Heck, I had to drag them to get them to the timeout. They thought the game was over."
"They" should know better.
Rivers has drawn up a succession of end-of-quarter plays that have resulted in baskets this season, several at the buzzer (Kevin Garnett's game-winner in Madison Square Garden comes to mind). While Rondo's was the most dramatic, each is the product of preparation.
"That's a play that we run numerous times in practice," said Pierce, who had 17 points in his return from a five-game layoff. "This is crazy because Doc works on these types of play with that exact time on the clock."
Once introduced to game action, it went a little like this:
Pierce took the ball on the sideline near the scorer's table. Ray Allen ran through traffic to the 3-point line, pulling his defender with him, while Rondo began to curl around Glen Davis, who was camped aside the lane.
After Allen's movement cleared some space, Rondo got a step on his man and headed toward the hoop just as Pierce lofted a picture-perfect pass to the back side of the rim, where Rondo snagged it and dropped it in off the glass as time expired.
"We knew Ray set it up by pushing Wade out, and Rondo came around, you know he's a freak athlete," Pierce said. "He just went up and got it. Overtime."
The Miami players looked as if their dog had died.
Perhaps the only thing that could make them feel worse would be a glance at the box score.
The Heat took 31 more shots than the Celtics. The Heat had 17 offensive rebounds. The Heat forced 24 turnovers. The Heat got a season-high 44 points from Wade. The Heat led by 11 points with less than eight minutes left.
The Heat fell victim to a play for the ages.
"We needed it," Rivers said, citing some otherwise ugly play. "What a great win for us."