Right here’s why the Celtics’ offense melted down on the finish of Recreation 4


“On the finish of extra time, hindsight’s 20/20.”

Celtics 76ers
The Celtics had been glorious all through the second half on Sunday … till the closing seconds. Barry Chin/Globe Employees

Someday after the 76ers evened the Jap Convention semifinals at 2-2 towards the Celtics with an extra time win in Recreation 4, Joe Mazzulla sat down for a Zoom name with the media and answered quite a few questions, virtually all of which associated to the ultimate play of the sport. 

  • Joe Mazzulla admits his mistake, says he ‘ought to’ve referred to as’ timeout at finish of OT

  • Magic Johnson mentioned Joe Mazzulla made a ‘mistake’ by not calling timeouts on the finish of Recreation 4

Trailing by one with 18.2 seconds remaining after James Harden made what proved to be the game-winning 3-pointer, the Celtics didn’t even get a shot off earlier than the ultimate buzzer sounded – a brutal outcome that delivered to thoughts how the top-seeded Bucks watched their season finish roughly per week in the past. Mazzulla nonetheless had two timeouts in his pocket, and he confronted a flurry of questions postgame – which bled into Monday’s Zoom name – about his determination to let the staff play as a substitute of utilizing one. 

“[In] finish of recreation conditions, you wish to get your gamers in the perfect place mandatory,” Mazzulla mentioned on a Zoom name Monday afternoon. “[The Sixers] do job of deciphering, is Embiid over the ball, is he not over the ball? Are they taking away the highest cross, are they over the ball attempting to discourage the cross? 

“They did job in Recreation 1, I imagine, of adjusting the matchup on who was on who. I calculated that and thought the choice to maintain Maxey on the ground, preserve Embiid spaced, preserve our spacing was one thing we labored on all yr and one thing that we’re fairly good at.”

To Mazzulla’s credit score, the Celtics did get the matchup they needed, and so they did preserve Embiid spaced to the 3-point line. The set he needed principally labored, with the pretty necessary caveat that the Celtics had 18.2 seconds to get a shot up and so they couldn’t do it.

However the remaining possession was a multitude from the bounce, so breaking it down intimately gives some perception into what occurred. It’s necessary to keep in mind that that is not how basketball works. In actual time, the sport strikes rapidly – seconds slip away like water out of cupped arms, and any cut up second determination gives dozens of What Ifs. 

Nonetheless, it’s enlightening to see how every thing unfolded, so right here’s a better look. 

First, the play itself (which begins at 8:09 within the video beneath). 

:24.0 – We’ll begin shortly earlier than the offensive possession, when Jaylen Brown turned his head to have a look at Joel Embiid attacking Jayson Tatum. Brown had helped off Harden usually towards Embiid all through the sport, and it hadn’t actually value the Celtics beforehand. Nonetheless, ask any JV coach within the nation: You possibly can’t assist off the strong-side nook. Embiid realized that Harden’s defender was one of many gamers contesting him, and he discovered his star teammate. Harden buried the 3-pointer.

The Sixers led by one. 

:18.2 – The Celtics, after all, didn’t name timeout. 

The Sixers introduced Tobias Harris as much as deny Jayson Tatum, which prevented him from bringing the ball up the ground. This was necessary, since getting the ball to Tatum value the Celtics valuable seconds – as we’ll quickly see, these seconds mattered fairly a bit. 

As a substitute, Sensible inbounded to Horford, who handed again to him, and Sensible jogged up the ground. 

:13.7 – Sensible lastly crossed half court docket, and he slowed to a stroll, calling out the play. At this level, little or no was taking place in entrance of him. Tatum waved Jaylen Brown into the left nook, Al Horford arrange store on the opposite facet of the ground, and Derrick White – who was being guarded by the Celtics’ main defensive goal, Tyrese Maxey – began below the basket. 

:12.0 – All the pieces we wrote at :13.7 was nonetheless taking place. 

:10.5 – Nonetheless taking place. 

:09.5 – Nonetheless taking place. At this level, the possession began to look grim, which is a major alternative for a coach or a degree guard or a famous person ahead with two timeouts to take one. 

:08.0 – Sensible lastly handed to Tatum, who caught the ball along with his foot on the “6” of the 76ers’ half-court brand. The half-court brand at Wells Fargo Area isn’t giant. Tatum was a good distance from the rim. Once more, this most likely would have been an excellent time to name a timeout and break up a stagnant play. 

:06.0 – Someway, with a playoff recreation on the road, Celtics’ set nonetheless wasn’t precisely clear. White meandered out to the 3-point line with Maxey in tow, whereas Sensible – who was being guarded by Harden – set a display screen for Tatum on the opposite facet. Tatum waved him off, and Sensible lastly took off for the rim. At that time, it appeared like Sensible noticed Embiid holding a watchful eye on the paint, so he wheeled to his proper and stood behind the 3-point line. 

We are able to’t stress this sufficient: Six seconds is a number of time, however the Celtics’ offense was snail-like. This was one of many remaining moments when a timeout might have been referred to as. On the sideline, assistant coach Aaron Miles might be seen imploring the staff to go sooner. Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard each waved their arms exasperatedly as properly.

“As soon as we’re dropping tempo, I’ve acquired to name [timeout] so we are able to get a shot up earlier,” Mazzulla admitted on Monday.

:04.0 – White lastly set the display screen for Tatum, and he dribbled round it to his left. The Celtics had been hoping to get a swap with Maxey guarding Tatum, however as a substitute they drew a double staff, which was predictable – the Sixers doubled Tatum usually down the stretch (which, not-so-incidentally, is a method the Celtics may wish to take into account using often towards Harden). 

Myriad issues had been damaged by this level. The Celtics had ceded any probability at a tip-in or an offensive rebound. They didn’t have time to drive and kick. All the pieces had began far too late, and barring a miraculous drive and end by Tatum towards a double staff, the sport was already over.

:02.0 – In fact, Tatum has the power to work miracles, and he almost did – beating each Maxey and Harris towards the rim. Embiid came visiting to assist, however it didn’t appear to be he had a path to defend Tatum. 

:01.6 – Tatum jumped. Embiid stayed down. Tatum most likely wouldn’t have gotten his shot blocked if he took one. 

:01.1 – However Tatum wasn’t actually wanting on the hoop. As a substitute, he fired a cross out to Sensible, who was comparatively uncovered. 

:00.5 – The cross was somewhat to Sensible’s proper. He needed to lean over to seize it, which meant he needed to lean again to middle himself and get right into a capturing movement. 

:00.0 – Sensible was going into his capturing movement, however his ft had been nonetheless on the bottom, and the ball was very clearly nonetheless in his arms. His shot dropped in, however no one within the area and no one on the court docket really thought he acquired it off. The officers went to the monitor, however by the point they introduced to the group that the shot didn’t depend and the sport was over, the Celtics had already departed for the locker room. 

So who’s in charge for the Celtics’ remaining play? As is commonly the case, nobody individual can maintain all of it. Brown will get a hefty quantity for serving to off Harden and giving up the one shot the Celtics couldn’t afford. Sensible, who has been the staff’s flooring normal all yr, took approach too lengthy to get his staff organized. White wanted to set the display screen sooner. Tatum wanted to maneuver faster. And, after all, Mazzulla most likely wanted to name a timeout. 

“On the finish of extra time, hindsight’s 20/20,” Mazzulla mentioned. “I ought to have referred to as it to assist us get a 2-for-1 or get a pair extra possessions. Clearly with 14 seconds left, down one, you wish to get as many possibilities as you’ll be able to. So, positively realized from that.”

Hindsight is 20/20, however the sequence can be now 2-2. The Celtics have appeared like the higher staff and nonetheless maintain home-court benefit, however it stays to be seen whether or not the ultimate seconds of Recreation 4 might be a footnote or a pivotal story line within the sequence.

“We simply should see what’s occurring, see the time and we’ve got to know time and administration,” Sensible mentioned on Sunday. “So it’s all proper. On to the following one.”

Originally posted 2023-05-08 21:59:57.