More on Boston’s Defense

Brad Stevens continues to impress the basketball world.  We highlighted his teams success against side pick-and-roll in an earlier post that we found simply elegant.  Well, we noticed another trend lat night that may be a reason for their success.  And it actually has a lot do with what we talked about in the Importance of Point Guard Pace post where we talked about Wayne Gretzky putting people into awkward defensive positions by playing behind the net instead of in front.  NBA teams pounce on certain defensive tendencies in the never-ending quest for points.  Stevens and his Celtics defense are a magnificent example of self-awareness and they turn the supposed weaknesses into strengths.

It is extremely difficult to break habits of watching the ball when you are on the weak side.  Here we have Victor Oladipo driving baseline from the left side.  Horford takes the drive on a switch and you see Jaylen Brown searching for the next man to defend (Don’t think we don’t notice that familiar shape Boston uses to defend a side pick-and-roll!).  Keep an eye on Jayson Tatum in the next few frames as we dissect what he does when defending a dangerous shooter.  At the start of the attack, Tatum has his shoulders square and is deep enough to see his man and the ball, great positioning as he can react to everything.

Tatum Def 1

Oladipo gets into the paint with a search dribble under the basket.  Horford has cut off his angle to the rim, so Oladipo is not currently a threat with the ball.  The common mistake that most players make during this type of action is to help too much.  Oladipo is hoping that Tatum will come to shut down a possible reverse layup and leave his man.  But that wouldn’t be the Celtics’ way!  Leave a 3PT shooter wide open in the corner?  No chance.


In the second frame, we see Tatum lock in on Bogdanovic and face guard him.  The rest of his teammates are in the paint, they don’t need his help no matter how tempting it may be.

Tatum Def 2

One dribble further, Horford is still protecting the rim.  Baynes is face guarding Turner.  Brown has gotten in front of Young.  Kyrie is in good position to close out to Collison.  Tatum has his arms wide to deflect any pass that would be in Bogdanovic’s shooting pocket enabling a quick release.

Tatum Def 3

Bogdanovic has to retreat up the arc as he was unable to get free.  Tatum is still in great position and Oladipo has no window to get Bogdanovic a clean look from 3PT range.

Tatum Def 4

This was textbook team defense.  Oladipo had to circle through from one wing to the other, all while Boston maintained great discipline.  Victor would eventually score driving along the right baseline as Boston was a little out of position.  Horford cut off his angle, again, and Oladipo scored on a reverse that may or may not have had an extra step prior to release.

Tatum Def 5

Here we have Brad Stevens, most of the coaching staff, and most of the players on the bench looking to Kevin Cutler for an explanation as to how Oladipo managed to take 3 steps after picking up the ball.  Cutler is using a signal that is not in the 2017-18 Officials Guide, but we think he means Oladipo bobbled the ball.  Which is unfortunate for Boston that the play resulted in a made basket, but encouraging that their young guys are showing signs of elite team defense.

As for the rest of the game, well it was a strange one for the Celts.  31 team fouls to the Pacers 16 allowed Indiana to claw back into the game.  Boston has the tendency of aggressive play on the defensive end.  What hurt them for roughly 36 minutes of the game ended up giving them  However, that same mindset led to the game winning steal-and-dunk by Terry Rozier…so in the end, the process performed well.


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