Hot tip sends Celtics to 11th straight win
MEMPHIS - The Celtics’ pick-and-roll play nearly turned into a picked-off-and-lose play last night.
But Ray Allen grabbed a deflected pass and sank a 3-pointer at the shot-clock buzzer with 17.5 seconds left to clinch a 110-105 victory over the Grizzlies, helping the Celtics conclude a three-game road trip with their 11th successive victory.
The Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce pick and roll had produced two field goals in a 32-second span, before O.J. Mayo cut the Grizzlies’ deficit to 107-105 with 42 seconds remaining.
The third time proved to be a charm, but only after Rudy Gay deflected Pierce’s pass. Allen retained possession, took two dribbles, and fired away.
“That’s the way we drew it up,’’ Pierce joked. “Textbook basketball.’’
The Celtics improved to 12-1 on the road, but they nearly squandered an 8-point advantage with less than three minutes to go in the final quarter.
Memphis (10-14) had won four of five games before last night and has clearly improved since ending the Allen Iverson experiment, and the firepower of Gay (23 points) and the team’s overall athleticism caused prob lems for the Celtics.
But the Celtics received a boost from the bench to start the final quarter and maintained their composure down the stretch, despite losing Kendrick Perkins (fouled out) and Garnett defending with caution after committing his fifth foul.
Allen (18 points) scored the Celtics’ first and final points of the final quarter. He converted a follow on a Hasheem Thabeet goaltend to break an 85-85 tie 84 seconds into the fourth, giving the Celtics the lead for good.
The Celtics’ second unit then went to the offensive boards, second-chance possessions leading to the Celtics’ first 9 points of the quarter.
Rajon Rondo assisted Perkins and Eddie House on a 5-point Celtic run for a 99-93 lead, Memphis calling timeout with 5:15 remaining. A Rondo banker made it 103-95 with 2:49 to go.
But Mayo scored on a drive, Garnett was whistled for his fifth foul, Gay drove for 2, and Mayo hit a transition jumper to cut the deficit to 2 with 1:29 remaining.
Then, the Celtics went to the tried-and-true Garnett-Pierce combination.
Garnett hit a jumper out of a timeout. But Perkins fouled out and Marc Gasol made it 105-103 with 1:04 left. Pierce drove for a 107-103 edge with 48.5 left but Mayo cut the deficit to 2 six seconds later.
Then, Pierce drove again as Garnett screened Gay. As the Grizzlies committed to Pierce, he attempted to pass back to Garnett. Instead, the ball ended up with Allen.
“We improvised a little bit,’’ Allen said. “Kevin was wide open. Paul was trying to probe and see how much they wanted to help. Rudy’s long and tall, and he got his hands on the ball.
“I was just trying to keep my feet active. I ended up just following the ball and the ball fell in my hands. I looked down at the other end and I saw it was like four seconds and I looked up and it was like ‘3.’ And I said this has got to go up.’’