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Pacers beat the Celtics using the very same play the Raptors once used
Sabonis' dive to the basket for the game-winning layup was once used Jonas Valanciunas. Both worked.
The Pacers avoided a disastrous finish Sunday in their first of back-to-back home games with the Celtics. They were up by one, 106-105, with 18.2 seconds left when the ball came to T.J. Warren at mid-court and he was immediately surrounded by three Celtics players.
Here we go again, Pacers fans must’ve been thinking remembering Bojan Bogdanovic’s late turnover a few seasons ago.
The ball was snatched way by Robert Williams, picked up by Marcus Smart, who dribbled three times and scored the layup. The following day, the NBA’s Last Two Minute report said Smart should have been called for a double dribble.
Smart was not called for the violation and the Pacers called timeout with 11.8 seconds left. That’s when Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren diagramed a play to give the ball to Domantas Sabonis on his dominant left side.
Justin Holiday triggered the inbounds and Sabonis did the rest, first faking the hand-off before driving to the rim.
“I’m always calm in that situation,” Holiday said, “but I felt like I was almost too calm because I couldn’t really hear any background (noise) or anything else I usually would hear. It’s very, very weird and I miss the fans a lot.”
Sabonis finished through contact and scored the basket, which was the difference in their 108-107 win to improve to 3-0.
“I thought the four other guys involved in that play just had great pace and great movement,” Bjorkgren said. “It really moved and shifted the defense.
“It was a strong play that (Domas) made, but you got to give credit to the other players as well. I thought it was a good pass by Justin, a good cut, the other guys were cutting around to create space. I think the speed of any place, whether it’s a late-game play or a play in the flow of your offense, the pace of it is very important.”
Earlier in the game, Bjorkgren drew up a box-and-one defense to slow down Jayson Tatum. They had never practiced that. On this final play, Bjorkgren saw how the Celtics were switching everything and was able to catch them in confusion.
“That’s coach. He’s a genius,” Sabonis said. “He’s been seeing all game that they’ve been switching.
“We’ve been practicing that play in training camp and coach trusts me with the ball in my hands with the last possession. It’s awesome having that feeling from coach. He tries to make us better, makes us do things we’re not used to.”
Coaches have a rolodex of plays to pull from — whether it be plays they previously used or those successfully run against them. Celtics coach Brad Stevens openly discusses how he “steals” plays from other great NBA coaches.
The play Bjorkgren drew up was familiar to coach Nick Nurse and Raptors fans. It’s a play they used against Milwaukee when down by two.
Former Pacer C.J. Miles threw it in to Jonas Valanciunas, who drove down the right lane line and flushed it down. Take it a look below.
Because of Sabonis’ game-winner, finishing with 19 points, the Pacers improved to 3-0 and passed their first test against one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.
“It takes a high IQ coach and a patient coach to draw something like that at the end of the game,” Malcolm Brogdon said after finishing with 25-5-5. “You’re getting Domas to his strong hand on the left side of the rim to finish, but at the same time, coach had been seeing them switch that the entire game. He saved it for literally the last play. X’s and O’s and understanding the game like that and being able to make that adjustment at the end of a game, that’s championship basketball.”
Now the Pacers and Celtics will do it all over again Tuesday night and this time, Oladipo will be back in the lineup.