HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS — How many times have you heard someone say it, “that one play didn’t cost us the game?”
Don’t care to count?
Technically speaking, one play might not cost you the game. But one crucial play at the right time in a tight game can certainly have a more significant impact on the outcome of said game. And that was indeed the case in Boston last night for Celtics’ forward Kevin Garnett. He was called for an offensive foul on a moving screen on Andre Iguodala as he tried to make space for Paul Pierce with 10 seconds to play in a game the Philadelphia 76ers led 78-75.
The call, made by Michael Smith after Garnett had already been warned by Danny Crawford to watch the moving screens, helped seal the deal for the Sixers.
“I just thought in that situation you let the players decide the game,” Garnett said after his illegal pick took the air out of the building and a spirited, fourth quarter rally from the home team. “But if he felt like that was an illegal pick, then that’s what it is.”
It was glaring (check the video above). But not necessarily a call anyone expected in that situation. To his credit, Garnett tried his best not to make a huge fuss about it afterwards, choosing instead the common refrain that it was one of many mistakes made that led to the final outcome.
“Danny had already given me a warning about how I was setting the picks,” Garnett said. “I’m going to continue to set picks. I’m going to continue to get guys open. That wasn’t, to me, the game. We did things going up to that point in determining the game.”
Celtics coach Doc Rivers certainly wasn’t happy about the call, or the others Garnett was called for throughout the game.
“I wasn’t fond of it. At all,” Rivers said. “I think Kevin got three off-the-ball offensive fouls. So, clearly it looked like they were looking for it all night, and they got three of them. Listen, if you’re going to tell me that Kevin was the only one moving in picks tonight, then I’ll live with that. But he clearly was not the only one. But he was the one who got the calls tonight. We put ourself in that position. At the end of the day, I say it all the time, if you put yourself in a position to let someone else do something, then you can lose games. And that’s what happened.”
The Celtics’ inability to execute their offense down the stretch (credit the 76ers defense for some of those troubles), coupled with late-game indecision on the defensive end, took control of the game out of the home team’s hands when it mattered most.
For all of their collective experience, this is an area the Celtics struggled in against the Hawks in the first round. Rivers warned his team about then, telling them specifically that their late-game execution would be the difference in playoff games.
One play at an extremely crucial moment in a playoff game, in particular, that was not executed properly is one reason why this series heads to Philadelphia with home court advantage having changed hands.