The Boston Celtics blew another double-digit lead on Saturday night, dropping a game to the Utah Jazz in crushing fashion. They were up big early on, but Utah battled back by way of a 23-5 run in the second quarter.
But despite Boston’s mid-game collapse and lackluster effort on the glass, the contest came down to one final play, a play that will undoubtedly be the focal point for most fans.
“The play was designed to get the ball to JT,” Grant Williams explained post-game. “Normally, the big is the one that’s guarding. They didn’t take the guy off the ball. They took Lauri off the ball. So, I got open against Lauri [Markkanen].”
With 5.0 seconds left on the clock in the fourth quarter, Boston lined up for potential game-winning inbound play. Tatum stood in the backcourt, a formation the Celtics have rolled out numerous times this season (with a ton of success), and Malcolm Brogdon got ready to pass the ball in.
Williams ran to Brogdon, but Markkanen cut him off when he tried to break right. He was forced to his left, away from Tatum, and from there, he had to improvise.
“He just tried to make a play,” head coach Joe Mazzulla said of Williams. “It was the way the defense played. They did a good job denying it with the inbounder, and then by the time he got it. he had to make a play.”
A play that was intended to end with a shot by Tatum ended in Williams making a run at the basket. He had a couple of options, but Utah did their best to cut off the corners.
“As soon as I caught it, I was right in the lane,” Williams said, breaking down the possession. “So, I took the dribble [and] tried to look up to see if anybody was available. JB [Jaylen Brown] fell to my left, and [I] potentially had to Sam [Hauser] to my right for a shot. By then, it was probably three seconds left on the clock. JT was in the backcourt. Malcolm was still out of bounds. So, I was like, ‘I got to get a shot up at least.’”
With no options available to him, Williams put up a shot against Walker Kessler in the paint. Kessler, who ranks fourth in the league in total blocks this season, sent the shot away, sealing a gritty comeback win for the Jazz.
Hindsight is 20/20, but in the heat of the moment, that was the decision that seemed best to Williams.
“There was no avenue in that scenario,” Williams said, reflecting on the play. “I probably could have shot a floater. Probably the better shot. Or even just trying to get that ball to Sam. But [Lauri]…