If there’s anyone you want to have the ball in hands with the game on the line and one shot left to decide it, it’s Jeff Green. Thanks to Dwyane Wade making a colossally stupid decision to miss his second free throw, the Boston Celtics were left with 0.6 seconds to stun the Miami Heat and hand the NBA champions their first home loss of the season, 111-110.
It doesn’t get better than this and probably won’t for a team that is one somewhat of a winning role, but doesn’t really expect to do anything this season. Danny Ainge has set the course on tanking mode, and anything else will be one huge disappointment. However, winning against hated rivals, even if all the pieces from the Celtics that ran from 2007 to 2013 are gone, there’s still a special feeling to beating the Miami Heat.
Jeff Green has the highest field goal percentage in the NBA on game-tying or go-ahead field goal attempts in the final five seconds of games since entering the league in 2007-2008, making 7 of 11 chances. Better than Dirk Nowitzki, Rudy Gay and Tim Duncan, none of them making more than 50% of their shots in such a situation.
Much has been said of Green’s on and off ability – one day the most exciting player to watch in the league, and a complete nobody on the next. Big games against the Miami Heat are an opportunity for him to show that he can compete with the best of ’em, meaning LeBron James, scoring 24 points against the league MVP, and running away from him on that final play, getting just enough space to launch a corner three (right from the same spot Ray Allen made his now legendary shot last summer) and win the game for the Boston Celtics.
Brad Stevens once again made changes to his lineup, bringing back Kelly Olynyk, deciding he’s had enough of Faverani’s lack of offense. The Brazilian played only 3 minutes and despite all the hype about his defense, he’s clearly not really ready for being a big part of an NBA team, even a bad one. Green led the way for the Celtics with 24 points, followed by Avery Bradley with 17 points and Jordan Crawford with 15.
The real heroes? The bench, surprising as it might sound, a place where the Heat should have a huge advantage in. Did we already mention Miami are coasting? That Dwyane Wade free throw, hitting the backboard and nothing else instead of trying to make it a three point game oozed of arrogance, which Miami paid for. The Celtics were at their best when Kris Humphries and Phil Pressey (their best player coming off the bench) were on the floor, while Miami didn’t get the same from their bench, especially when Dwyane Wade was the one left to shepherd the subs.
The Celtics beat the Heat last season as well; it didn’t change a thing. Losses here and there don’t mean much in an 82-game season, the big picture matters more. But just as it tells how much the Miami Heat have to go in order to find themselves once again in championship form, it also tells us that the Boston Celtics might not be such a terrible team after all.