The Boston Celtics defeated the Dallas Mavericks in double overtime on Wednesday night, 117-115. Celtics PG Rajon Rondo and Mavericks SG O.J. Mayo provided plenty of offense throughout the contest, but the game was decided by two events in the last minute of play.
This is how the game was won.
Leading 108-107 with 35 seconds left, Rondo made a driving layup to extend Boston's lead to three. Opting to attempt to get a quick two points, Maverick Darren Collison missed a 13-point jumper. This miss was the first big game decider, because it gave Boston the opportunity to extend their lead to two possessions. When Rondo came down with the rebound and was allowed - inexplicably - plenty of time to get the rock over to the reliable Paul Pierce, the game was basically put out of reach.
Pierce, who was then fouled, made his first free throw, missing the second, and gave Boston a four-point lead with 19 seconds left. In response, Dallas veteran Vince Carter took a quick handback and made a contested 3-pointer, but the damage from the Collison miss was already done. Pierce was fouled on the subsequent Boston inbound from Rondo and made both his free throws to force Dallas back to hitting a three-pointer if they wanted to send the game into triple OT. Because Boston still had a foul to give at this point in the game, they were able to force Dallas to shooting free throws on their next possession.
Collison, who was fouled on Dallas's next possession, made both his free throws to cut Boston's lead to one, but Pierce once again was able to receive the ensuing Celtics inbound from Rondo. Dallas really messed up by continuously allowing Boston's best free throw shooter to shoot game-deciding free throws. It's that simple.
Pierce again made his free throws to re-extend Boston's lead to three, and with five seconds left Collison made his second critical error, throwing away the ball on a bad cross-court inbounds pass. It was a moment when everyone knew that any chance the Mavericks had was now gone. Rondo was able to find teammate Courtney Lee across the court on his ensuing inbound pass, and Lee headed to the line to put the Celtics up 117-112. Mayo hit a meaningless three as time expired, and the game was over.
This game proved to be another instance in which details determined the winner. Rondo's ability to pass effectively and find Pierce, combined with two errors by Collison, proved to be the difference in this game.
And that's how the game was won.