BOSTON (CBS) – The Celtics’ 83-81 win over the Indianapolis Pacers on Wednesday night is big many reasons, from the fourth quarter comeback to the last-second execution, but the biggest takeaway is who confidently made that final shot to seal the victory.
As is usually the case for Boston, good things happen when Jeff Green goes to the basket.
In need of a last-second bucket to complete the comeback, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers went to his playbook. At first he had a pick-and-roll play for Green and Kevin Garnett picked out for the potential game-winner, a play he liked because Green was playing the four. With Green’s speed, Rivers figured the forward could blow by any defender and find the basket for an easy two.
But Doc went to his assistants for suggestions, and up stepped Armond Hill.
“I had drawn up another play and Armond Hill walked over and — he rarely does it — he said, ‘Hey, listen, the play you drew up from the first half worked, let’s run it again,’” Rivers said following the Celtics dramatic come-back victory. “So I switched to the play he wanted me to run and it was great. It worked out perfectly.”
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Again, the play was for Green to take the final shot. But it relied heavily on C’s captain Paul Pierce — who for years has been the go-to when it came to a last-second bucket — to clear room for Green with a back pick, which Pierce executed perfectly. Pierce, with George Hill already all over him, pinned David West as Green cut to the hoop, allowing him a clear look at the basket. And even though Garnett’s pass was a little high, Green had enough time to gather himself underneath and eventually tossed in the go-ahead layup with just 0.5 ticks left on the clock.
The Celtics had run the play earlier in the game but Garnett’s pass was deflected. But that didn’t hinder Rivers’ confidence in his team to execute, and this time around KG made sure the pass was high enough that Roy Hibbert couldn’t get his gigantic hands on it.
“It was executed great,” said Rivers. “The whole play was about Paul Pierce’s back pick. He was terrific. He set a nice back pick. They got a little mixed up and Jeff had to make a tough shot. They doubled Kevin, so the pass was a little bit off mark and Jeff had to adjust. Great when you win on execution.”
“It was great, especially when you come away with the win,” Pierce told reporters after the win, according to ESPNBoston.com. “Good things happen when you execute — being in the right spot, setting the screen. It showed tonight. Everybody was in the right spot.”
But the best takeaway from the win isn’t the fact the Celtics beat the second-best team in the Eastern Conference on the road, but the confidence Green showed in the final moments of the game. The forward has emerged this season and is looking much more comfortable in Boston than his half-season go-around after the 2010 trade deadline. He only scored 11 points on 5-for-14 shooting in a game-high 34 minutes on the floor, but his confidence in himself — and the confidence showed by Rivers in Green — in the final seconds is far more valuable in the long-run.
“I wanted the ball,” Green said after the game. “But I had to be a great decoy and, like always, all the attention went to Paul and Kev. They doubled Kev on the pass and Kev made a great pass over the double-team. I went up, tried to go up strong and win it.”
“I’m really happy it went in,” he said. “Great pass by Kev, great execution by us. It was a great draw-up by Doc.”
Just a few months ago, this confidence from the player and coach wouldn’t have been there. Green was still getting back into the swing of the NBA game after missing all of last season following heart surgery, and there’s no telling if the Celtics would have actually ran what Rivers had drawn up. But on Wednesday night the team ran the play, and Green was able to gather himself after the alley from Garnett didn’t end with an oop.
Because of that, the Celtics are winners of four straight and can add a tough road victory in a hostile environment over the second-best team in the Eastern Conference to their 2012-13 resume.
The game itself wasn’t pretty at times, with Indiana dominating down low with 44 points in the paint and the officials trying their best to keep the Celtics out of it. But as has been the case of late, these Celtics won’t quit and battle until the final buzzer.
And with their dramatic victory comes even more confidence moving forward, both in themselves and their emerging young star in Jeff Green.
Green himself is pretty dangerous on the court, especially when he puts his head down and attacks the basket. But nothing can match his play — or that of the team — when they have confidence working in their favor.
Given their win on Wednesday night, that confidence is booming right now.
Follow Matthew Geagan on Twitter @MattyGWBZ