Save your greatest play requires the video games that matter most.
Brad Stevens definitely did that this season. He dusted off just a few outdated favorites on Tuesday night time and innovated with just a few new wrinkles to counter the Washington Wizards protection and put the few scorers he has remaining in positions to succeed. These play calls had been most evident in after timeout (ATO) conditions, the place Stevens had the time with the whiteboard in his palms to actually draw up an adjustment.
The Celtics scored 20 factors on their 13 after timeout possessions, or 1.54 factors per possession (PPP). In a league the place the common PPP is below 1.0, that sizable of a bump is price not simply noting, however praising Stevens for. It additionally gave the Celtics sufficient of a bonus that it’s a part of what propelled them to victory.
Early on, the ATO performs had been designed to get a bonus to whoever wanted offense created for them. In a single occasion, that grew to become Evan Fournier, as Stevens leaned on one among his favourite actions of the previous yr. It’s much like the widespread Spain pick-and-roll that’s taken the league by storm the final three or 4 years.
Actually, it’s a easy play: a dribble handoff to Fournier from Rob Williams, getting Fournier to his proper so he can assault the rim. The wrinkle: Kemba Walker walks himself into the put up and tries to again display screen Williams’ man, Robin Lopez, in order that Lopez can not assist as Fournier turns the nook and will get deep penetration.
The result’s a really uncontested take a look at the rim, one thing valued in any do-or-die sport, significantly towards the Wizards:
As the sport went on it grew to become abundantly clear that the Celtics would go so far as Jayson Tatum would take them. He was on hearth, significantly within the second half, and his 50-point outburst is the principle cause the Celtics locked up the seventh seed.
Eleven of these 50 factors got here on ATO conditions, signaling the change in Stevens’ mentality to try to get Tatum the bucket as a substitute of utilizing it as a chance to contain another person. The eye the Wizards started to pay to Tatum, with face-guards and denials, meant Stevens may make the most of his playcalling prowess to spring his famous person free.
To being the second half, Stevens made certain to focus on the face-guarding ways of the Wizards. He ran a easy play, placing Tatum on the wing and the contact-loving Marcus Good within the nook beneath him. As Fournier started to drive baseline on the other facet, Good would set a again decide for JT, often known as a hammer display screen.
The gravity of the hammer motion was fairly clear. As Good’s man went to assist on the rim on the Fournier drive, there was no person to rotate to the nook to take Tatum away:
Getting beat on hammer screens wasn’t sufficient to discourage the Wizards from staying tight on Tatum. The danger-reward of shutting down the Celtics’ clear best choice cause them to proceed face-guarding the erupting scorer.
So Stevens dialed up one other backdoor play, this time one predicated on Tatum springing himself free whereas all the protection stared down a display screen ready for him. The brilliance of the play isn’t within the complexity of design, simply the position of the opposite 4 gamers on the ground in order that no person may assist on the rim as soon as they realized Tatum was slicing backdoor.
Whereas Tatum is the man that goes backdoor, watch Fournier and his man, Davis Bertans. There’s sufficient ambiguity throughout the spacing that Bertans thinks the play might be a display screen for his man. Bertans additionally jumps high-side to disclaim Fournier the motion, thus taking himself out of emergency assist positioning.
Now, Tatum can safely lower backdoor and have zero worry of a assist defender interfering on his shot:
Let’s deal with the narrative for a second: Brad Stevens is an excellent basketball coach. No one has doubted his tactical prowess, however in a seemingly snake-bitten yr the opposite elements of his teaching fashion have come into query. Now that we’re within the playoffs, the place teaching issues and is clear, I get the sense many Celtics followers will fall in love with Brad once more. The dominance of his workforce’s late-game execution, the fantastic thing about his ATO units, the fixed defensive sport planning that limits opposing stars.
It wasn’t Brad who modified, although. His complete mantra was to handle the common season in a wierd COVID world with a shorthanded roster from the beginning, get the workforce wholesome and primed for the playoffs. The absence of Jaylen Brown doesn’t change the truth that Boston labored and deliberate for this second. To revel within the success of Stevens’ teaching now, when clamoring for a change on the prime when he caught to his common season plan, could be disingenuous.
The man can coach, and for that cause, I’ll all the time consider the Celtics have a preventing likelihood within the postseason. Even towards the star-studded Brooklyn Nets.
Deliver it on, Brooklyn.