It's Time for the Celtics to Alter Their Final Play Strategy

Ryan McDonnellContributor IMay 25, 2010

BOSTON - MAY 24:  Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics looks on against the Orlando Magic in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at TD Banknorth Garden on May 24, 2010 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 Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics win and lose as a team. One player is not solely responsible for a victory or a defeat, and one play alone does not decide the outcome of a game.

Having said that, the Celtics had a chance to win the game and the series as time expired in the fourth quarter on Monday night at the Garden, and they didn't.

The Celtics also neglected to score on many other possessions throughout the game, so the way that their final play of regulation turned out did not cost the Celtics the game any more than the other plays where they failed to score.

But the Celtics need to recognize that it's time to change their strategy for a final play.

The Celtics did what they have done almost every time throughout the season when they've had the chance to take the final shot to either tie or win the game.

They gave the ball to Paul Pierce at half court, and called on him to go one-on-one, get to his spot of choice on the floor, and launch a shot at the buzzer. 

On Monday night, Pierce was unable to get a shot off, and the game remained tied. The Celtics were beaten in overtime. 

Pierce has come up with countless clutch shots over the years for the Celtics, so who could blame them for going to him in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals with the game on the line?

The problem isn't putting the ball in Pierce's hands. The problem is where the Celtics get him the ball and what he's required to go through in order to get a quality shot off as time is about to expire. 

Pierce got the ball well beyond the three-point line, and was put in a position where he had to advance the ball with a defender all over him, and then create space to attempt a quality shot. Granted, this worked in Game Three against Miami in the first round of the playoffs, but it's a play that has not worked very often at all throughout the course of this season.

Many times when running that play this year, Pierce has either not gotten off a shot at all, or he has no choice but to take an off balanced heavily contested shot that ends up way off the mark.

If the Celtics are going to go to Pierce in that situation, then they should have him come off a screen or a double-screen, then catch the ball at the elbow or worst-case scenario, at the three-point line. This way, he is already within firing range.

If he's able to catch the ball at the elbow, he's already right at his sweet spot, and he can either turn and shoot, or make a move to get a shot off if the defender is right on him. If he catches the ball at the three-point line, he is one dribble away from getting to his bread and butter mid-range shot.

Either way, he doesn't have to basically dribble the ball up from half court in order to get to a reasonable place to score. They're making it too easy on the defense.

Another option is running a pick-and-pop play at the top of the key where Pierce sets a pick for Rajon Rondo's defender, then pops for a jumper or a drive.

Years back when Jim O’Brien was the Celtics head coach, the C's ran a play for Pierce where he came off a double-screen and cut to the middle just within the three-point line, caught the pass, faked right, and went left, then drove straight to the hole for the score and the win.

Coincidentally, this play worked for the first time against Miami to beat them at the buzzer, and Jim O’Brien started calling the play, " Miami ."  Pierce is older now, but he's still able to get straight to the rim off the dribble.

For yet another option, the Celtics could do what they're most effective at which is take the best available shot depending on what the opposition gives them. After all, even if they can't get the ball into Pierce for the last shot, there's still three other All-Stars out on the court to go to. 

Doc Rivers has probably forgotten more about basketball than I will ever know.  But to me, any of these options listed above are better than the play that they ran in Game Four.