- The Boston Celtics beat the Indiana Pacers, 112-111, on Monday, becoming the first team this season to win a game after trailing by five points or more in the final 30 seconds.
- The Celtics scored 10 points in 30 seconds, executing perfect late-game strategy by scoring and then fouling to stop the clock.
- Terry Rozier sealed the game with a late steal and dunk that put the Celtics up by one with one second to play.
The Boston Celtics on Monday pulled off a comeback that the NBA hadn’t seen this season.
The Celtics beat the Indiana Pacers, 112-111, with perfect late-game execution, becoming the first team this season, according to ESPN, to prevail after trailing by at least five points with 30 seconds to go.
The Celtics actually blew a late fourth-quarter lead when the Pacers’ Victor Oladipo got hot, scoring 10 points in less than 90 seconds and giving the Pacers a 107-102 lead with 31 seconds remaining.
Kyrie Irving hit a difficult 3-pointer on the next play, but the Celtics fouled Pacers guard Lance Stephenson as the shot went in. Stephenson hit both his free throws, giving the Pacers a four-point lead.
Celtics guard Marcus Smart went the distance of the floor and hit a floater on the ensuing play, and the Celtics again fouled, sending Oladipo to the free-throw line.
After Oladipo hit both his attempts, the Celtics called timeout trailing by four, advanced the ball, and drew up a play that got Irving another 3-pointer, this time bringing Boston within one with 10 seconds to play.
The Pacers called a timeout but messed up as badly as possible on their inbounds. Forward Bojan Bogdanovic threw an inbounds pass to guard Cory Joseph. The Celtics were supposed to foul Joseph, and though they double-teamed him, they appeared to make very little contact. Trapped along the sideline, Joseph passed the ball back to Bogdanovic, who threw a lobbing pass that was picked off by the Celtics’ Terry Rozier. Rozier took the ball and slammed it with one second left, giving the Celtics the lead and then the win.
Watch the chaotic final nine seconds below:
The Celtics said they meant to foul Joseph along the sideline, but the referees never called it. That worked out for the better.
“Kyrie and Marcus had the first trap, and Marcus was trying to yell to the referee, ‘I’m fouling, I’m fouling!’ but they didn’t call it,” Rozier said after the game. “Then they threw the ball to Bogdanovic and he made the pass and I was able to get my hand on it. As soon as I stole the ball I took a look at the clock and saw there were four seconds and I knew I had time.”
For the Pacers, the scene was uncomfortably familiar. Last week, with a chance to tie the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Pacers turned the ball over on an inbounds and lost at the free-throw line.
At 26-7, the Celtics own the best record in the East and third-best record in the NBA. Games can be decided by the smallest of moments, and the Celtics’ late-game execution is the type that can help them win many more games throughout the season.