The Boston Celtics are in-bounding the ball from the sideline as four seconds remain on the overtime game clock. They trail the Toronto Raptors 116-115 tonight, but just as importantly are tied with the Miami Heat for eighth-place in the Eastern Conference standings with the playoffs fast approaching.
Boston needs this win and needs a score on this possession to get it, a reality Brad Stevens fully understands.
As the ball is passed to the suddenly healthy Jared Sullinger some 30-feet from the basket, Boston’s coach knows his team’s odds of scoring have decreased exponentially. When the rotund big man puts the ball on the deck in efforts to beat Jonas Valanciunas off the dribble for a game-winning layup, Stevens has seen enough – he calmly calls timeout in hopes of saving the Celtics’ season.
His decision likely doesn’t seem noteworthy to basketball laymen, but is a perfect example of why the 38 year-old was the man chosen to lead Boston’s arduous rebuild. Stevens is the most reserved coach in basketball. He’s never rattled, and thus always in position to make choices the vast majority of coaches aren’t.
Can you imagine Doc Rivers calling a timeout in this situation? Erik Spoelstra? Stan Van Gundy? And those are three of the best coaches in the NBA, guys who have led their teams to titles and years of consistent success. But they aren’t Stevens, and – like nearly all of their peers – wouldn’t have had the presence of mind to stop Sullinger’s wildly ambitious drive.
What happened next is what Boston fans will remember, and Stevens only deserves partial credit for it. Sometimes the ball just bounces one team’s way when the game is one the line.
But it wouldn’t have had the chance to if Stevens didn’t make one of the most prudent in-game coaching decisions we’ve seen all season. Boston wins 117-116.
Courtesy of their coach’s poise and Marcus Smart’s fortunate buzzer-beating layup, the 35-42 Celtics now hold sole possession of the East’s eighth and final playoff berth.
[Vine via Vinnyviner]