After getting off to a 38-21 lead after the first quarter, the Boston Celtics seemed to be firmly in control of their game against the Indiana Pacers on Monday night.
Despite playing on the road against a worthy opponent, the Celtics proved why they are considered to be one of the best teams in the NBA, leading 62-47 at the break against a dangerous club.
But, the Pacers came roaring back in the second half, outscoring Boston 31-23 in the third quarter and 33-27 in the fourth to nearly pull off the win. Indiana’s play down the stretch was particularly impressive.
Trailing 100-93 with 4:28 left in the game, the Pacers went on a 14-2 run to take a five-point lead at 107-102 with 0:31 remaining. But then a disaster happened in front of the home crowd that left everyone stunned.
Kyrie Irving made a three-pointer out of the timeout to narrow the gap to 107-105 with 0:27 to go. After Lance Stephenson hit a pair of free throws to extend Indiana’s lead to 109-105, Marcus Smart answered right back for the Celtics, converting a six-foot floater to narrow the lead to two yet again.
Boston then fouled Victor Oladipo, who converted two free throws to yet again increase Indiana’s lead to four, 111-107 with 0:19 to go. At that point, it looked like the game might be over.
However, Irving hit another long three-pointer with 0:10 left to yet again cut the lead to one, 111-110. What happened next after the Pacers inbounded the ball will haunt the entire state of Indiana for some time:
After being trapped on a double-team, Indiana’s Cory Joseph found teammate Bojan Bogdanovic, who then inexplicably attempted to lob it over the head of his defender to Oladipo, who was waiting at center court. Instinctively, Boston's reserve point guard Terry Rozier, who was in the game for his defensive tenacity, picked the pass off, coasted to the hoop and dunked the game-winning hoop down with just 1.6 seconds left on the clock.
Here’s another angle of the clutch play:
Boston’s president of basketball operations Danny Ainge couldn’t believe it:
After the game, Rozier compared his play to one that the New England Patriots would have made:
Now at 26-7 on the season and 13-4 on the road, the Celtics enjoyed their most improbable win of the year.
It’s safe to say that those two points were Rozier’s most memorable of the nine he had over 23 minutes played in the game. In fact, those two might be the most important of his young career thus far.