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Celtics failure on final play symbolic of struggles

May 10, 2011, 11:37 AM EST

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce reacts to a call by the officials in Boston Reuters

For years, for much of this past regular season, this is where Boston thrived — they executed at the end of games.

At the time they needed it most — a final shot in the last 19.5 seconds of regulation that would even their series with Miami — it fell apart. In an ugly fashion. And it symbolized what has happened to the Celtics season.

“Lotta talking in the huddle, but there wasn’t enough listening, I believe,” Rajon Rondo told Jessica Camerato of CSN New England.

The play had Paul Pierce dribbling near the top of the three-point arc. Ray Allen was supposed to fade off quickly toward the three point line which would draw a defender and a lot of attention, then Kevin Garnett would set a high pick for Pierce (who had been the best Celtic on the floor that night). Then they would create off the pick-and-pop.

Except it never happened. Allen got the inbound pass and got it back to Pierce with 11 seconds to go. Allen drifted out to the right side of the arc, then slid back into the elbow where Garnett was. Bringing his defender with him. Allen looked like he wants to set a screen to free Garnett to get out to Pierce, but Garnett seems surprised by Allen’s arrival and there is a lot of confusion.

Garnett never makes it out to set the screen for Pierce, who with 5 seconds left has to make his move regardless. Pierce wants to go right in these situations but LeBron James defends him well and forces him left. Pierce gets to the elbow extended and goes for a contested fadeaway that misses.

Paul Pierce: “It was supposed to end up with a fade for Ray [Allen], then I was coming off a pick-and-roll for Kevin [Garnett]. I guess there was a little confusion right there and we never got into it, and I had to force a bad shot.”

But there had been confusion all night, part of the reason the Celtics had 16 turnovers. There were missed layups and just breakdowns of execution through the end of the game.

It wasn’t the Celtics we expected to see, but ones we have seen more of late in the season and into the playoffs. One play has come to symbolize why the Celtics will not be going back to the finals this season. When the pressure was on, they were not the team that executed better.

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