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The Double High Post: A Toy Worth Keeping?

Confession: I’ve only seen one of the C’s first three pre-season games, because only was (Friday’s game against the Knicks) was televised here. But one thing I noticed: The Celtics, at least in the pre-season, are taking advantage of Perk’s newfound quickness and ‘Sheed’s three-point range to run a lot of plays that start with a double post up on either side of the foul line. The C’s used this set occasionally last season, but never as often as they did against the Knicks Friday. Whether it carries over to the regular season remains to be seen.

But here are a few examples of how they used it in interesting ways against New York:

10:30, 2nd Quarter: Daniels as ball-handler.

Marquis brings the ball up guarded by Wilson Chandler. Big Baby posts up at the right elbow, Sheed at the left. Daniels dribbles to his right just above the foul line and receives a solid screen from Baby. Baby’s man (Darko Milicic) switches onto Daniels as Marquis drives on the wing; Chandler switches over to Big Baby as Baby rolls to the hoop. But the Knicks’ switch is sloppy and Baby gets between Chandler and the rim. This forces ‘Sheed’s man (Al Harrington) to drift down into the paint to help on Baby. ‘Sheed steps out behind the three-point line, Daniels hits him with an easy pass and ‘Sheed drains the open look.

So there’s one play we can run here—a screen/roll off the double high-post creates an open three for one of the two big men who start at the elbow (the one who doesn’t set the initial screen).

Here’s a more complicated variation:

7:20 (2nd quarter): Eddie House is the ball-handler this time, and he dribbles on the leprechaun logo as Big Baby posts up Harrington on the left elbow and Perk bodies up David Lee on the right elbow. House (guarded by Chris Duhon) tosses the ball to Perk and cuts straight down into the middle of the paint as Perk faces up  with his feet on the three-point line (!). When House gets to the block/charge circle, he suddenly turns right and sprints towards Tony Allen, who is standing in the corner guarded by Knicks rookie Toney Douglas. Douglas sees House coming, but Eddie sets a screen on him anyway and Tony uses it to cut along the baseline. Douglas chases and nearly bumps into Duhon, who’s chasing House as Eddie curls back out to the right wing behind the three-point line. Perk gives Eddie a screen/hand-off, and Eddie, lacking the space to jack the three, dribbles around Perk’s screen toward the foul line, where he can either shoot an open J (Duhon is well behind him) or hit Perk on the screen/roll. He chooses the latter, but David Lee, who had drifted into the paint to help on House, scurries back to deflect the ball.

So there’s another variation to be used with a good shooter/ball-handler—a cut through that can yield either an open three-pointer or produce a nice screen/roll.

We look at two more variations, after the jump.Variation #3: Ray Allen as ball-handler

(9:20, 3rd Quarter): Ray dribbles past half court as Perk sets up on the left elbow, KG on the right.  Ray dribbles hard to his left and gets a Sheed screen, which Ray’s man (Gallinari) fights over. Still, Perk’s man (David Lee) jumps to double-team Allen. Perk is open, and he darts down the middle of the paint toward the hoop. His path is clear, because the other two C’s (House and Pierce) are spread to the corners. The man guarding KG (Al Harrington) sees the crisis and sprints after Perk. Allen picks up his dribble and bounces an easy pass to KG, who has found his pet spot at the top of the key. He’s wide open, and Gallinari is way too far away to close out. Buckets.

Another simple pick and pop play from this set.

One more, time with the Captain handling

Variation #4: Pierce as ball-handler

(4:07, 3rd Quarter): Pierce dribbles out beyond the three-point line as ‘Sheed sets up on the left elbow directly across from the other big in this set, Scalabrine. Pierce dribbles left and gets a solid screen from Sheed, who just eats up Pierce’s man (Gallinari, again). The screen is so good that Sheed’s guy (Darko) has no choice but to switch and cover Pierce. And here we see the importance of Sheed’s shooting range. Gallinari, rather than chase after Pierce to relieve Darko of his awful new mismatch, decides instead to stick with ‘Sheed, wh0 has drifted above the three-point line at the top of the key.

So think of what we’ve got now: Pierce dribbling on the left wing, guarded by Darko Milicic. An easy drive to the hole, right? One problem: Lester Hudson is in the left corner—the corner nearest Pierce—and Hudson’s defender doesn’t seem to respect Lester’s range. So he hangs out near the paint, easily 10 feet away from Hudson, to cut off the dribble drive. Hudson does the smart thing and cuts across the baseline, clearing the way for Pierce.

Except now Pierce does something unexpected. Instead of driving to his left, he takes a hard dribble to his right, in effect moving away from the hoop and ending at the elbow. But Pierce is trying something smart here. He’s checking to see if Gallinari will drop down to help out, leaving ‘Sheed open. And he does. So Pierce has two choices: 1) Dish to Sheed for a three; 2) Shoot a jumper. He chooses option #2 and misses a tough fadeaway. Probably shoulda gone with option #1.

Another note about this set: It would have looked a lot different with Eddie House (a shooter) or Rajon Rondo (an elite penetrator) in the corner nearest Pierce.

In any case, it will be interesting to see if this is a pre-season experiment or a look that we’ll see a lot when the real games start.