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It took an extra five minutes to do it, but when it was all said and done, the Boston Celtics picked up another road win in Memphis, 116-110. Rudy Gay was honored for his U.S. gold medal win in the FIBA championships in Turkey, but Boston pulled through when it counted most.
For much of the game, though, it looked like things could go either way, as the teams spent much of their time trading buckets; Boston finally took the game’s first four point lead 5:25 into the game. Memphis stood right in there with Boston, occasionally getting major help from the referees (such as when Shaq “wasn’t” in the act of shooting when fouled), but the Celtics’ defense skillfully turned stops into offense just enough to keep from falling far behind.
No team really made a sustained push until Boston’s 9-0 run in a 2:07 span in the 2nd to go up 36-29. No team even led by double digits until the Celtics did so with 2:15 left in the half to lead 54-43. But keeping leads is pretty tough for Boston, and Memphis scored the half’s last six points to cut the halftime deficit to 54-49.
It became a chess match for the rest of regulation, with Memphis finally tying the game again via Marc Gasol’s free throws with 1:09 left in the 3rd. Ray Allen hit a huge three with 7:48 left to give the Celtics a three-point lead, but Memphis took the lead 1:02 later. Boston traded the lead back and forth, and led by two with 1:08 left when Memphis turned the ball over on a bad pass, which led to Boston putting up two more points, but Memphis tied the score (at 99) with 7.3 seconds left. Paul Pierce failed to get a shot off in time, which sent the game into overtime.
From there, the Celtics just flat out took control. They scored the first seven points before Memphis finally scored OT points 3:08 into the five-minute period. Memphis even resorted to flopping; Paul Pierce was called for an offensive foul when the defender fell backwards, but Pierce wasn’t even anywhere near him. After a Flagrant 1 foul on Zach Randolph for shoving Kevin Garnett to the floor and taunting him, Boston went up 110-101, and proceeded to play the free throw game until time ran out on the Grizzlies.
The Big Plug may not have been the most active scorer, but was a major source of power in the paint, which really helped the Celtics go a long way; O’Neal had two of Boston’s measly three offensive rebounds.
I know Pierce had a muscular 28 points, but he did not pay enough attention to the shot clock, turning the ball over and not taking the potential game-winning shot in time. This was one of the key reasons why the Celtics had to fight for an extra five minutes to win.
“We let ’em back in it, but we have a veteran team, a resilient team, and we found a way to win.” – Shaquille O’Neal, on Boston’s 4th quarter and overtime