Playbook: Why C's final possessions fizzled

In our postgame notes from the Celtics' loss to the Grizzlies Wednesday, we detailed Boston's struggles to execute late in the game. Here's a quick glimpse at why the first two attempts to pull ahead or tie failed:

The Celtics elected not to call a timeout when Rajon Rondo hauled in a rebound with 26.8 seconds to go in a one-point game. Rondo pushed the ball hard up the court, then waited at the top of the circle for teammates to catch up. For a brief instant, Ray Allen appeared to be open in front of the Boston bench, but Tony Allen closed quickly. Kevin Garnett drew traffic going to the basket, which left Glen Davis openly briefly on the left side. But Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he thought Rondo would hand the ball off to Pierce. As you can tell from the image above, Pierce was the last man up the floor for Boston and had Shane Battier is right on him, preventing that option. Rondo settled for a running floater that was a bit too strong in traffic and the Celtics were forced to foul.

Now down by three, the Celtics got a chance to draw up a play coming out of a timeout, something that Rivers is among the best at in the league. As Rivers confirmed after the game, the play was set up to get either Ray Allen or Pierce on a flare to the wings. Once again, strong defense by the Grizzlies blew it up. Tony Allen managed to get through a Garnett screen to prevent the first flare to the right, while Glen Davis whiffs on a screen for Pierce (see the image above), smothering that option. Rivers said at that point he would have preferred Rondo drive for a two-point bucket knowing the Grizzlies wouldn't foul, but the ball kicked back to Davis, who put up a head-shaking 3-pointer that was off the mark.

After Marc Gasol missed a pair of free throws, Boston got one last gasp and simply put the ball in Pierce's hands hoping to force overtime. He was smothered by Shane Battier (with Tony Allen cheating off Ray Allen to offer help in the final seconds) and found front iron on a desperation heave.

Hop HERE to read more thoughts from the Celtics' on their poor late-game execution.