• PLAY OF THE GAME:
God, the Celtics are going to kill from the three-point line this year. Check out this play with about 7:20 to go in the 2nd:
Ray Allen dribbles behind the three-point line on the right wing guarded by John Salmons. Sheed, guarded by Ty-Ty Thomas, jogs across the foul line and sets a screen to Ray’s left. Eddie House, meanwhile, is stationed behind the three-point line on the left side of the court—opposite from the Ray/Sheed action. Rose is guarding House, though “guarding” is generous; Derrick is standing at the foul line, and his head is turned to watch the Sheed/Allen action.
Ray dribbles left around the Sheed screen and finds that Ty-Ty has jumped out to cut him off. Salmons fights over Sheed’s screen and also has to slide over Thomas—his teammate—to chase Ray. Sheed pops out beyond the three-point line as Thomas scrambles to find him. Allen manages to turn the corner and finds himself presented with a wonderful triple option:
1) Keep dribbling and pull up from the foul line. This would be the best option if a) Ty-Ty manages to find Sheed quickly; and b) Rose decides to stick with House.
2) Pass to Sheed on his right for a three-pointer. This would be the best option only if Thomas has difficulty chasing down Sheed and Salmons and Rose do enough to disrupt an Allen pull-up or House triple;
3) Pass to House for a three on his left. This would be the best option if a) Thomas finds Sheed; and b) Rose helps on Ray and the Bulls fail to account for House.
Think about the situation Chicago is in. They have to scramble to guard one of the greatest shooters in NBA history; a three-point gunner extraordinaire; and one of the best big man perimeter shooters in NBA history. This is what the C’s can do to teams this season.
In any case, Rose slides over to help on Allen, who dishes to House, who nails as easy a three-pointer as he’ll get all season. One nice touch from the play: As it developed, Marquis Daniels moved over from the left wing to the left corner to take his man (Deng) further away from House.
A great, great play. Some additional notes, after the jump.
• I was curious to see how Rondo and the C’s would defend Derrick Rose on screen/rolls. The answer: Rondo (and Rivers) held true to their promise of Rondo fighting over screens instead of ducking under them or gambling for the pokeaway steal. I counted nine screen/rolls involving Rose in the 1st quarter, and Rondo fought over all of them. The Bulls got something good (either a foul or a basket) on three of those nine plays. On the other six, the C’s forced a miss or a reset of the offense.
Going over screens against someone as quick as Rose obviously places a huge burden on the other defenders, especially the player guarding the screener (usually KG or Sheed on Friday). That player has to find a way to cut off Rose’s penetration without allowing Rose to find the screener with an easy pass. The other three defenders have to rotate perfectly to cover for that big man and then recover once the play calms down. It’s an art, and the Celtics are great at it. Only once did Rose get a clear lane to the hoop on a screen/roll—with about 6:10 to go in the 1st quarter, when Rose drove right around a screen and KG just didn’t jump out quickly enough to stop the dribble. Rose laid the ball in.
Other than that, the screen/roll defense behind Rajon was solid.
• One thing I noticed: When he was defending on screen/rolls Friday, Sheed jumped out to cut off penetration a lot earlier than KG did. At least three times, Sheed flashed out to cut off the ball-handler before his own man had even set his feet for the screen. This presents two potential problems: 1) The screener has a nice big gap to cut through because Sheed has left him alone and Rondo is fighting over the screen. A smart big man will notice this, break the screen/roll and shoot the gap down the lane for a pass. Ty-Ty and Taj Gibson each did this once against the Sheed/Rondo combination, and it produced a score for Chicago both times, including a Deng dunk in the 3rd quarter as the C’s scrambled to rotate around the floor. 2) A savvy ball-handler could slither between Sheed and Rondo and slice directly down the middle of the lane.
It’s something to keep an eye with Sheed.
• I like Shelden Williams, but I don’t want to see him ever again receive a pass in transition where he’s far enough from the hoop that he has to dribble the ball before finishing. Bad things will happen.
• The C’s had great success running a 3/4 pick-and-roll with Pierce as the ball-handler and KG as the screener. The Bulls switched a lot, which left Ty-Ty on Pierce and Deng on KG. Obvious mismatches, both. The C’s took great advantage. Something to watch for when the teams play again.
• The Bulls attacked Ray Allen early in the game, and the strategy failed. They ran a bunch of early plays for Allen’s man (Salmons), and Ray gamely fought through screens and stuck with Salmons with minimal help from teammates. Good stuff.
• On the other hand, the C’s ran at least a half-dozen 3rd quarter plays for Ray on the right side of the floor and the Bulls had no answer. Either Ray sprung for an open look or the C’s found another open man because of the help Chicago had to send Ray’s way.
• I love that the crowd hates Noah. I also love that Noah (and Thomas) both feel it’s OK to give only-slightly-tamped-down screams and mean faces after dunks even though their team is losing by 20. Good work, guys!
• Ray is underrated as a ball-handler on screen/rolls, a role he sometimes plays in the early portion of the 2nd quarter, when he’s on the court with four subs. He’s patient enough to keep his dribble as he turns the corner around a screen even if an opposing big man jumps out and forces Ray to arc his dribble path a little further from the hoop than he likes. He sticks with it, turns the corner and finds himself with space to work with. It’s a nice touch to his game.
• Not to pick on Shelden, but he failed to box out Thomas on two missed Chicago free throws. Ty rebounded both of them, though one involved a fluky long rebound. Other than those two instances, though, Shelden looked strong on the boards.
• The barrage of Pierce threes reminded me: Did you know he’s 16th all-time in made threes? And he has a legitimate shot to retire in the top five! Seriously, check out the list. He’s 206 made threes behind Peja Stojakovic (#4 all-time), and Peja looks more washed up every day. Numbers 5-8, 13 and 15 are retired, and No. 11 (Michael Finley) is almost there. Pierce should catch all of those guys, including Peja. He won’t catch Rashard Lewis (No. 12), but he’s got a shot at every other active player ahead of him (Jason Kidd, Chauncey Billups and Jason Terry).
Pierce has averaged about 120 made threes over the last four seasons. I’ll be he surpasses that number this season.
Obviously, this list is skewed toward current or recent players. Still, nobody really thinks of Pierce as an elite three-point shooter. Maybe they should.
• Oh, and Rajon Rondo is awesome.