The Celtics were down a point to the Utah Jazz with 1.7 seconds to play Wednesday and, after an initial inbounds attempt fizzled, coach Brad Stevens had drawn up a play designed to get Zeller the final look. The Jazz had 7-foot-1 center Rudy Gobert defending the inbounds pass, so Boston wanted to exploit a potential height mismatch near the basket.
Marcus Smart managed to lob the ball to Zeller, who caught it on the move in the circle beneath the basket. With Datome's advice fresh in mind, Zeller waited as help defender Gordon Hayward left his feet, then muscled home a layup between Hayward and Rodney Hood (with a hustling Gobert nearly recovering in time to help) as the buzzer sounded, lifting the Celtics to a thrilling 85-84 triumph over the Jazz at TD Garden.
This is why Brad Stevens stresses the importance of playing as a team, or as I joked around yesterday; being a bunch of good guys. On the surface, it's one guy converting an underneath the basket layup as time expires. But behind that, there's so many very small, very cool important parts that have to have happen for this final play to work.
It starts with Stevens, who originally had the final play drawn up for Jae Crowder, but switched things up when he saw Utah's best rim protector, Rudy Gobert, defending the inbounds pass and realized there'd be a mismatch in the paint. Credit Stevens with some good out of the box thinking throughout season when it comes to plays coming out of timeouts; he's consistently drawn up some pretty neat stuff, exploiting over-aggressive late game defenses by inbounding the ball directly to the paint.
The next bit of heroism comes from an unlikely source, recently acquired journeyman, Gigi Datome. Who reminds Zeller right before the play that 1.7 seconds is just enough time for a single pump fake.
Then comes the sneakily brilliant pass by Marcus Smart. Originally designed to be a straight post up, Smart lobs the ball over Zeller after seeing his defender front him, but provides enough zip on it so that the nearest help defender (Gordon Hayward) can't get to it until Tyler can secure the pass.
And finally, there's Zeller, the one who puts it all together; The guy who exploits the mismatch. The guy who seals off his defender, and catches the pass. The guy who remembers his new teammates advice and provides a small pump that throws the help defender off, and the guy who converts the layup.
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Vintage WTHHT: What the Hell Happened To... Calbert Cheaney authored by tb727
He was a 6'7 lefty shooting guard from Indiana University that never quite lived up to his high draft status. You probably remember Calbert Cheaney.
Cheaney was drafted #6 overall in the 1993 draft by the Washington Bullets. He'd play his first 6 seasons in the NBA with Washington starting the majority of games he played at the shooting guard. His two best seasons were 1995 and 1996, when he averaged over 15 ppg. After the lockout-shortened 1999 season, Cheaney would sign with the Celtics.