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Watch Them Corners

My favorite detail from John Hollinger’s breakdown of Game 1 is this:

The Celtics particularly cut off the corner 3-pointer, the highest-value shot in the game, limiting Orlando to five attempts and no makes from the corners.

“We have to make them,” said Carter. “They are few and far between. They did a great job of challenging the 3-point shots and staying home on our shooters. So when they’re there, they’re there. We just can’t force them.”

Ah, the corner three, the shot that has prolonged the careers of so many three-and-D guys who had no other dimension to their offensive games. The Magic—whose shooters do have plenty of other dimensions to their games, by the way—love the corner three.

How much? Check out their NBA.com hot spot chart:

Those red patches look nice if you’re a Magic fan, don’t they? Add it up, and the Magic this season attempted about 7.8 corner threes per game and hit 41.5 percent of them. That is a huge, huge weapon.

And the corner three is the classic shot that emerges when a good screen/roll team runs a screen/roll in which the screener rolls down the middle of the court. You’ve seen this action a hundred times: Vince Carter (or Jameer Nelson) runs a high screen/roll with Dwight Howard. Carter’s man goes over the screen, Howard’s defender shifts over to help on Carter until Carter’s guy can catch up, and Howard rolls to the hoop. Without some help from a wing defender, Howard has a dunk or a lay-up. That wing defender is usually guarding a guy spotting up in the corner.

The Magic will get looks from the corner. There is nothing Boston can do to stop that. The Celtics have to do a bunch of things to make those corner threes difficult:

1) Make the pass from the ball-handler to the corner shooter difficult. If Nelson/Carter can skip the pass all the way to the guy in the corner, the wing defender will have a much harder time closing out. This comes down to the players positioning themselves correctly and having what the Jay Bilas types call active hands and arms. Deflections in this situation are gold. But just forcing Orlando to use one extra pass around the perimeter gives the wing defender a smidgen more time to run back from Howard to his man in the corner.

2) Balls out effort, all the time. A lot of defense is about effort and hunger, and it’s clear the Celtics have the requisite hunger right now. If you watched Paul Pierce dart down on Howard and dart back to Mickael Pietrus in the corner Sunday, you saw that.

3) Quick rotations, smart decisions. If the guy helping from the corner has to commit more aggressively to Howard than usual, the other perimeter defender on that side of the court must be ready to make a choice: Stick with his guy on the wing behind the three-point arc or help on the guy in the corner if the ball goes that way.

A lot goes into to this decision. Who’s in the corner? Who am I guarding? If I leave my guy, is there anyone else in position to at least run at him in the event that the Magic swing the ball back to my guy? And how much time is left on the shot clock?

The Celtics, when they’re on, do this stuff better than any team in the league, with the possible exception of the team they are playing right now. They will need to do it well consistently in this series to win.

  • DRJ1

    Man, that’s one impressive chart. Those guys take a LOT of threes! No question about it — Cs know all about this, and calculated that the ability to defend Howard one-on-one is absolutely key to winning this series. (Of course — they’ve said so.) And everybody else in the league couldn’t figure this out?

  • Cptn Bubbles

    I don’t think we should ever double Dwight. I think we should even seriously consider bringing in Shelden if Dwight gets a rhythm & just have Shelden foul him if he gets the ball in great position & goes for the shot (just have to make sure he really fouls his shooting hand so he doesn’t make the shot). Six fouls = six possessions of Dwight at the foul line shooting a shot he clearly struggles with for only 1 point each time he makes it….And giving Perk or Sheed more rest & fouls for the fourth. I really don’t think Dwight can carry that team to victory from the foul line so lets use some of Shelden’s fouls.

  • MP

    The one 3-pointer Sheed seems to consistently hit – the corner three.

  • @MP: Nope. He was 10-of-38 from the corners this season, though he was a not-completely-awful 7-of-22 from left corner.

    The only place where Sheed’s long distance shooting has been anything close to acceptable is from the top of the key, where he was 37-111 (33 percent).

  • Perry

    If I’m a Magic fan I’d much rather take that ‘red’ area under the basket. But the Celts are going to contest, and foul in that area with great success. Howard will not be able to make them pay. Forcing feeding him on the blocks won’t produce the same regular season results either. I think SVG will want to get him moving off high screens to create more spacing. But, the Celts are rotating and contesting very well in these playoffs.

    If you break down Orlando’s shot attempts from yesterday, it pretty much mirrors their style of play. It’s all inside-out. They had 42 attempts in the paint and shot better than 50%. They did have some open looks from three, but many of their 22 attempts were contested resulting in only 5 made. The balance of shots went 5 for 13. That’s the space on the court where I beleive the Celts want them shooting or settling.

    The Magic managed only 10 assists. They settled for more isolation, and yes, the Celtic defenders were able to harass and disrupt their offense sets. As a result they outscored the Magic 20-6 on fast break points.

    There was one sequence in the 2nd quarter where Lewis tried to blow past Kevin, but Kevin lateral quickness has improved and he recovered. No one is saying Kevin can hold Lewis to zero points from deep, but if he can play him to a standoff it’s a huge plus since we know Howard won’t be doubled. That leaves Nelson, Reddick, Pitrus, or Carter holding the ball, and from my perspective the Magic going one on one is not a formula for success.

  • DeVelaine

    Looking at this game in retrospect, this doesn’t look like anything other than a normal Boston-Orlando game from the last three regular seasons. So why are people rapidly running to one side or the other? Because Orlando looked unbeatable coming into the ECF, and Boston had to go through Cleveland? That’s silly.

  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    late to the party. missed the game (not my fault). this celtics TEAM is rollin, rollin, rollin, keep those doggies rollin.

    @zach…..requesting permission to start talking about the lakers. i mean c’mon….wince carter is their go-to guy. that is all.

    go Cs!!!

    BTW: has simmons jumped on the bandwagon yet?

  • JP

    I think Simmons is starting to jump on it. Didn’t see who he picked for the series though

  • MP

    He didn’t pick. I think he would prefer not to jinx anything.

  • Tim McCormack

    As a Magic fan, I’m thinking about how on a couple plays the C’s did a fantastic job of forcing a difficult pass out to the corner. But at the same time, the Magic didn’t record a lot of assists or make a lot these shots just because even when they were getting good looks they just couldn’t buy a bucket. But the Magic won’t have quite so bad a shooting night again, I don’t think, and they are really strong at swinging the “hockey assist” around the perimeter to really force the issue as well. I certainly wouldn’t start talking about LA yet though.

  • Watch them corners..Please be concentrate on this topic.If you have more information, please update me about this, such a wonderful info..:)