Brad Stevens has earned a reputation as being a very well-prepared NBA coach. But sometimes even the best-laid plans go awry.
Such was the case Friday night, although the results certainly worked in the Boston Celtics’ favor.
By now, you’ve seen the ending: Avery Bradley’s 3-pointer at the buzzer lifted Boston to a 104-103 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. But what if we told you Bradley was supposed to take a 2-pointer instead? And that Marcus Smart also called an audible on the play before?
The C’s trailed Cleveland by two points with 4.9 seconds left after J.R. Smith inexplicably fouled Evan Turner while he made a layup. The plan was for Boston to immediately foul any Cavs player after Turner’s impending free throw, but when Turner missed his mark, Smart opted for Plan B.
“I was planning to foul (Cavs forward Timofey) Mozgov, but neither one of us was expecting Evan to actually miss the free throw,” Smart told reporters in a postgame interview aired on CSN New England. “Once he did that, I decided to go for the ball instead of the foul, and we came up with a good play.”
Smart muscled past Mozgov and somehow deflected the ball off LeBron James out of bounds to return possession to Boston with 4.1 seconds remaining. That set up the final play, which Bradley admitted Stevens had drawn up to be a shot from inside the 3-point line.
“It was for the two,” Bradley told CSN New England’s Chris Mannix after the game. “But we’ll take it, man.”
Sometimes the best endings are unscripted, and Friday night’s finale delivered quite the delightful twist.
Let’s hit a few other notes from Celtics-Cavs:
— Jae Crowder admitted he probably shouldn’t have even been on the court for the dramatic win.
The Celtics swingman battled through an ankle injury to play in his 52nd of the team’s 52 games, but he went just 1 for 9 from the field. After the game, he admitted he likely wouldn’t have played if the Cavs weren’t the opponent.
— Beating Cleveland was a pretty big deal for Boston, as it snapped a five-game losing streak against the Cavs that lasted through last season’s first-round playoff sweep. The C’s hadn’t beaten Cleveland since April 12, 2015.
The win also was the eighth in nine games for Boston and allowed the club to stay tied for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference with the Atlanta Hawks at 30-22.
— As expected, a few Celtics were pretty fired up on Twitter after the big win, including point guard Isaiah Thomas, who passed to Bradley for his game-winning shot and also hails from the Tacoma, Wash., area.
— Tyronn Lue isn’t just the new coach of the Cavs, he’s also a former Celtics assistant who spent nearly five years with the club as director of basketball development and also coached the team’s summer league squad. According to his former players and fellow coaches, Lue’s steady approach made him a favorite in Boston.
“He was like a calming effect for our team,” forward Jared Sullinger said before Friday’s game, via Celtics.com. “As (head coach) Doc (Rivers) was yelling at you, T-Lue would pull you to the side and talk to you on the side. … That helps so many basketball players out. I know for sure it helped me out.”
Thumbnail photo via Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports Images
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