Paul Pierce had an open look near the end of regulation, there was simply too much time on the clock.The Boston Celtics have never been shy about trying to get Paul Pierce looks from the elbow on final-shot opportunities. So it likely surprised no one to see the ball end up with Pierce near the free throw line with a chance to win Sunday's game against the Orlando Magic in regulation.
Pierce missed a 15-foot fadeaway over Arron Afflalo at the buzzer, but the Celtics prevailed 116-110 in overtime. Some Celtics observers will -- fair or not -- lament another squandered late-game opportunity and question whether a Pierce isolation remains Boston's best option for a late-game bucket.
In explaining the play-call, Celtics coach Doc Rivers noted that Pierce actually had an ideal look at a shot when he initially received the ball while coming off a screen from Jason Terry (the Magic didn't switch, forcing Afflalo to fight through the screen while J.J. Redick stuck with Terry as he flared back out to the 3-point line). But Rivers had implored his team to avoid leaving time on the clock in the event of a miss, so Pierce ultimately made a smart decision to wait, even if it meant settling for a worse look.
"I was kicking myself, the last play, we went too early," Rivers said. "Paul, when he came off [the Terry screen], he was actually wide open. But I told him the last shot -- that’s why he puled back out. He had it; that’s a good lesson for me, the timing of that was just too early."
An team offensive rebound with 19 seconds remaining gave the Celtics a final shot, but their their final play went into motion early and Pierce received the ball with nearly seven seconds to play. A missed jumper would have almost certainly allowed Orlando its own chance to win the game. Pierce's teammates didn't give him any other options with limited movement away from the ball once Pierce passed up the initial look. He settled for trying to back Afflalo down and couldn't get him off his feet early with a step back and pump fake.
It will be interesting to see if the Celtics continue to go back to the Pierce isolation in similar situations. Rivers is renowned for his ability to draw up multi-option plays, but early indications this season are the Celtics won't shy away from an old favorite.