Our TrueHoop Network brother in Denver, Roundball Mining Company, posted the video below last night dissecting how well the Celtics defend the screen-roll (and how poorly the Nuggets defend it). I post it here because it’s a nice breakdown of just how intricate and active the Celtics defense is when it’s working well–it’s beautiful to watch the coordinated movement.
The point RMC makes is that the Celtics rarely switch on screen-rolls (at least in this game). Instead, they have the man guarding the screener (usually a big guy) come off the screener and run out at the ball-handler. This (in theory) leaves the screener open as he rolls to the hoop. Except for two things: 1) The Celtics already have a man rotating over to help (and someone else rotating over to help on that guy’s man) and 2) The two guys pressuring the ball-handler (his original guy and the big guy helping) have their arms extended out, blocking the passing lane to the roller and making it very difficult to swing the ball to a weak side shooter who’s going to be open for a second or two. It’s all running and moving and flailing arms.
Once the original pick-and-roll is shut down, the big guy runs back to find his man and everyone else rotates back in turn.
(Check around the 2:15 mark of the video for a sequence where Kenyon Martin commits one of my pet peeves: drifting away from a shooter on the weak side to help–very passively–on the ball-handler when the strong-side defense has the situation covered . It’s the same kind of half-hearted, arm-swiping, unnecessary help that left Roger Mason Jr. open for his Christmas buzzer-beater).
The amazing thing is that it seems like teams should be able to exploit this–someone is going to be open at some point. But the Celtics are so active and smart, they make it very difficult for opponents to find the open guy–and if they do, a Celtic defender is going to be running at that man like a crazy person.
The Celts emphasis on rotation and help defense provides the only possible bright side to the Mikke Moore signing, one I panned here for many of the same reasons Kings guru Tom Ziller panned it here (even mentioning the cursed name of Blount) But Ziller says one of Moore’s strengths is taking charges (though he fouls a lot in trying), and Sacramento Bee beat writer Sam Amick told the Connecticut Post that Moore’s greatest skill is his help defense. Maybe that explains why the Kings defense is nearly four points better (per 100 possessions) with Moore on the court despite the fact that the players Moore is guarding put up near All-Star level PERs.
Then again, it’s not like the Celtics need much help on the defensive end.