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Smart Defense or Tentative Offense?

This possession from the 3rd quarter of Game 3 stood out to me for what it said both about Orlando’s mindset and Boston’s defensive strategy. Watching in slow-mo, we see a standard pin-down play for Vince Carter—the same play the Celtics run to spring Ray Allen for a jumper a dozen times (or more) per game:

Look at that! The play works pretty well and yet….the Magic get nothing! Check out this still:

I mean, this is what you hope for when you run this play, right? Rashard Lewis nails Ray Allen with a screen, allowing Vince Carter to come (very) free at the elbow.

And look at KG, guarding Lewis. He moves toward Vince for a split second but quickly shifts back onto Lewis. You can bash Rashard Lewis all you want for his performance in this series, and he deserves a lot of said bashing, but the Celtics have clearly emphasized taking Lewis out of the game, even if it means leaving someone else open.

And Carter is open here. There are so many good things that could happen for Orlando at this moment in this possession. Nelson could toss a quick pass to Carter for an open jumper. Or Carter could realize his good fortune and cut aggressively to the hoop, take a pass from Jameer and go up strong.

Instead, the Magic do….nothing. Nelson holds the ball. Carter doesn’t demand the ball or make any sort of cut; instead, he lurches out to the perimeter to get the ball and set up a screen/roll with Howard.

This is the sort of thing that makes you think the Magic were just mentally defeated in the 2nd half. On the one hand, you could argue this smart defense from Boston, despite the obvious miscommunication between Allen and KG. They’re keeping Lewis bottled up and gambling that Carter, for whatever reason, just won’t hurt them on this play. On the other hand, an aggressive offensive team makes something happen here.

Contrast this with the way Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo ran this set in Game 3. Ray picked up six assists, most of which came on this action. Over and over, Rondo got Ray the ball coming off a screen in perfect time, and Ray made his decision fast and with confidence. He either launched a jumper or flicked a quick bounce pass to the screener, whose guy usually has to jump out on Ray when the C’s run this play.

The contrast between those Boston plays and this Orlando set speaks to the difference between the two teams that took the floor for Game 3. Boston fans can only hope things look the same in Game 4.

  • What More Can I Say?

    Personally….I believe Orlando didn’t capitalize on this particular play because the ball is in Jameer Nelson’s hands. The guy is tiny and he is a scorer, not a real point guard.

    If Orlando doesn’t pick up a player that can distribute the ball, they need to look at him as 6th man. They need a real point-guard or point-forward. David Lee, Josh Howard, Brandon Roy, or just a real point guard.

  • Jrmz

    Very simple. Jameer is a sub par point guard when he is just really, a short shooting guard. Talk all you like about his regular season numbers but thats just beating up on a whole bunch of sub.500 teams and teams that don’t usually have a far more elaborate plan against you.

  • Jay P

    Above comments are 100% this is all about Nelson. He’s just not that good of a passer.

    The Celtics get scores on these plays all day, because Rondo is the best passer in basketball. Ya, I said it.

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  • sooooo…
    Rondo.
    best point guard.
    pure.
    otherwise.
    just. the. best.

  • Sophomore

    Huh. Wonder how the Celtics will match up against the Suns.

    Heh.

  • DRJ1

    Suns. Lakers. I just watched them both play, and let me tell ya… neither one of them is gonna beat the Cs… not if they play like they just played game 3.

  • KY Celts fan

    Suns play an inside-out game similar to Orlando’s. Difference being that Steve Nash actually can pass! The guy has the skill and vision of Rondo, with the shooting touch of Ray. He’s good. But all offense goes through him dribbling around. Stop him from moving and you stop their offense.