Boston Celtics: What They Can Do to Fix Their Late-Game Woes

Patrick BusconeSenior Analyst IDecember 14, 2012

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 12:  Head coach Doc Rivers of the Boston Celtics argues a call with the referee during the game against the Dallas Mavericks on December 12, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

So far this season, the Boston Celtics have been arguably the least clutch team in the entire league. Four out of 21 games have featured a game-winning opportunity for the Boston Celtics, and in those four games, the Celtics are a combined 0-of-7 from the field.

Rajon Rondo has missed three potential game-winning shots, Paul Pierce has missed two game-winners and a potential game-tier and, just for good measure, Jason Terry, too, missed a game-tying three. 

Had the Celtics been able to convert on just, say, two of those shots, they would be 14-7 instead of 12-9. 

Going forward, this ineffectiveness when the game is on the line could really hurt the Celtics.However, the problem is indeed fixable. None of the Celtics players really lack the clutch gene. Paul Pierce has hit isolation game-winners his whole career, while Jason Terry has had a reputation as a fearless scorer in crunch time.

The only Celtics player to attempt a clutch shot this season without a justifiable reputation is Rajon Rondo. Perhaps, that is part of the problem.

Rondo is not known as a scorer in general, and especially in the last 24 seconds. For all of his impressive play during the majority of games, Rondo is one of the worst scorers in the last 30 seconds of play.

This season he has missed three big shots at the end of regulation and overtime. 

In past seasons, he hasn't fared much better. In fact, I can't remember him ever hitting a game-winning shot in the NBA. Therefore, until Rondo can establish himself as a legitimate crunch-time scorer, Doc Rivers should not be drawing up isolation plays for him.


At the same time, he should also draw up less isolation plays for Paul Pierce. Last night, the Dallas Mavericks knew Pierce and Rondo isolations were coming and they smothered them in both instances. 

Instead of handing the ball to one player, waiting for the clock to run down, then attempting a contested jump shot, Doc should go back to his old ways of drawing masterful plays to set up open catch-and-shoot opportunities.

Just because Ray Allen is gone doesn't mean that the Celtics should abandon all of their old plays designed for him. 

The old screen-the-screener play they used to run for Ray Allen (for example, at the end of Game 1 against the Knicks) would work just as well for Jason Terry. 

Meanwhile, a simpler play like a pick-and-roll or better yet, a pick-and-pop between either Pierce and Kevin Garnett or Rondo and Garnett would also be far more effective than a simple isolation. 

In the end, it all comes down to execution, whether it's an isolation play or a complex set resulting in an open jumper. But, the Celtics have the ability to put themselves in a much better position to win in coming games.

In taking what they've learned from their early-season struggles with shots at the end of regulation or overtime, the Celtics can be more creative going forward by avoiding isolation plays (especially to Rajon Rondo) and returning to Doc's old late-game plays.

If they do this, they will once again become an elite, feared team at the end of close games.