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Picks Fix Knicks: How the C’s Turned the Series Around

 

Here’s an awesome video from directly after Game 4. It delivers on two fronts. First, in your bottom-right corner, Doc playfully screams at KG for waiting four games to score 26 points. He really sells his fake anger. It’s terrifying.

But after that, and more importantly, KG gorgeously articulates what he believes to be his role on the team: “My job is to get Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo open.” He says some other nice stuff too, but that line, the one he starts with, is what we’re going to focus on. Because for the first two games of this series, KG and the rest of the Celtics forgot that job.

Here’s the most common set play for the Celtics in Games 1 and 2: Rondo brings the ball up and his teammates A) spread themselves evenly around the court and B) grow roots. They’d form green constellations, just hanging out in their spots and waiting for Rondo to either drive or get them the ball for an iso. This kind of half-play actually worked a few times: Rondo would blow past whatever schmo was guarding him and, when the Knicks converged on him, he’d find an open man. Just as often he’d get the ball to one of his teammates to beat their guy off the dribble.

But the offense in those first two games was objectively awful and, worse, didn’t look like the Celtics. Frantic movement and screens on and off the ball used to be standards of the Celtics offense, integral to the team’s focus on getting a lot of high-percentage oportunidades (Spanish for “shots”).

Finally, at last, when they went on the road, the Celtics discovered that picks are the key to beating the Knicks, in particular Amare Stoudemire. Amare loses his mind every time a pick goes down. Much like a butterfly flapping its wings in South America can affect the weather in Central Park, a pick being set anywhere in the world will confuse Amare Stoudemire. After the jump, enjoy video of Amare Stoudemire being totally dismantled by basketball’s most basic play.

Look how long it takes Amare to register that Shawne Williams has been vaporized by KG and that Paul Pierce is completely open under the basket. He does not acknowledge this fact until he gets a major clue in the form of Pierce getting the ball, and then he springs into action as Pierce daintily lays it in five feet away. You may be wondering how to ever stop watching this hilarious video, and my answer is I don’t know.

Speaking of hilarious jokes, observe these two identical plays. They’re just your basic pick-and-pops, and they occurred within two minutes of each other, but the Knicks are completely bewildered by them.

It’s unbelievable how well this play works, and it’s completely unbelievable that it works again two minutes later. Very casual pickup players run this exact play. The Knicks should know how to defend it. Both times, Carter gets iced out on a KG pick, and Rondo literally skips around under the basket, knowing that Carter’s going to scamper over off KG and that Amare’s not going anywhere, leaving KG completely open. I promise you those are two different plays. They just look the same because when the second one happens, nobody has learned anything from the first one.

As well as the screens worked, the Celtics gameplanners had their reasons for encouraging the iso in the early games. Here are some:

  • After he brings the ball up, there is generally nobody within ten feet of Rajon Rondo to set a pick on.
  • The Knicks on-ball defenders are, without exception, terrible. Fine: Shawne Williams isn’t terrible, but he definitely isn’t good.
  • Doc Rivers, as he threatened to do after the trade deadline, has been allocating heavy minutes to lineups with KG at center and Jeff Green at power forward. Nobody has any idea what to do when this happens.

Unfortunately, you can’t mentally tear apart the Miami Heat with pick-and-rolls like you can with the Knicks. But they certainly don’t hurt. Down the stretch, the Heat actually had some trouble coordinating their defense around screens. If nothing else, you can get Mike Bibby to switch onto somebody, and then get that person the ball immediately.

But the biggest reason is that picks represent recognizable Celtics basketball. From this point on, we don’t want to see anything else.

  • Francois H. Pienaar

    Loved Docs reaction just as KG was about to get interviewed. :) His voice is about to MUTE one of these days.

  • Francois H. Pienaar

    The Heat, Celtics series is going to be great as a result of all the sub plots. Shaq vs former team, traditional team play meets new school athletes, power vs finesse. It's going to be amazing!

  • Renato Afonso

    Honestly, I don't think this series did the Celtics any good. In order to win it all, you have to reach the ECF and the Finals battle tested and this certainly doesn't qualify. These Knicks are just atrocious on the defensive end and without Billups they're not even a very good offense. Oh well, the next round will be fun to watch…

    • OKCeltic

      I respectfully disagree. The best part of this series is that it was over quickly which gives the team some time to rest and get a little bit healthier. They've been "battle tested" plenty over the last few years. This was exactly what they needed in the first round. What would make it better would be a Sixers win in Game 5, but that may be asking too much.

      • Alex

        Exactly. PP needs to be well-rested if he's going to guard LeBron like he did last year.

        And they now have a chance to practice together. There's been what, maybe two full practices with both Green and JO available? Hopefully this week will get those guys more integrated into the offense.

    • willybeamin

      yah I couldn't disagree more. the knicks lack of defense got rondo and our shooters feeling good about themselves.

      the knicks are a GOOD offensive team, and we held them to the lowest FG% of any of the 16 playoff teams.

      we swept and get to rest and practice HARD for 3 days, leading to greater continuity with the 2nd unit, greater health as a team, and greater preparation for a MIA team that offers a variety of tough matchups.

  • DRJ1

    Hysterical video, and writing. LMAO'd

  • I_bleed_green

    As soon as I heard the interview I had a problem with it. Celtics need KG to be an offensive force down low, especially against Miami’s weak front line. Lebron and Wade both have advantages over Pierce and Allen. KG, Rondo and the bench need to break out in order for the C’s to have any chance. I hope KG resets his mind and be more aggressive looking for his own shots. Other bigs need to step up and do the dirty works.

  • Renato Afonso

    Regarding the series with Miami, how influential do you think JO's and Krstic play will be? Will they attack Miami's soft spot at Center? If I was coaching the Celtics, my first order would be "our first 4 possessions will be entry passes to the 5 who will then play 1-on-1 against whomever is guarding and he will either score or pass to an open shooter, not named Rajon, if they double him…"

    • NHBluesMan

      i'd say this would work if Shaq was healthy. J'O is doing great on defense, but he's not really a 1-on-1 center anymore, he's turned into more of a jumpshooter, and while Stitch started off hot, he seems to have cooled abit.

      I feel confident that the C's can beat the Heat, but i feel like Shaq giving 10-15 mins a game would help alot with that.

      • Renato Afonso

        I actually believe that Krstic can score against that Center by committee the Heat use…

  • Robert

    I've expressed my doubts that JO would every get healthy this year – but he has proved me wrong. His interior defense will be crucial against the Heat. KG is going to be busy shutting down Bosh, but JO should be able to help off whatever crappy center Miami rolls out.

    • willybeamin

      contest contest contest! JO has been doing an EXCELLENT job of changing shots at the rim, if he can do this against wade and lebron without fouling out in the first quarters we're going to be in great shape.

      I thought all along if he was healthy he was a great fit for this team (in particular the first unit), but to say I was confident he'd get back to the level he's at now would be a lie…

  • kricky

    If Krstic can shake off his rust and play the way he did when he got to the Cs he can do some good things against their centers. Doc should find a way to test him early.

  • Chris O

    "Rondo brings the ball up and his teammates A) spread themselves evenly around the court and B) grow roots. They’d form green constellations, just hanging out in their spots and waiting for Rondo to either drive or get them the ball for an iso." – Haha Hayes delivers yet again, awesome!!!

  • Stephe

    To beat the Heat you HAVE to have great point guard play and great center play. We know we have the former but the latter will be where this series gets decided. There is a SLIGHT edge for the Heat at all the other positions so PG and C is where we have to clean up.

    • Batman

      Slight?

      • hdavenport

        KG makes up some of the difference.

  • Morpheus

    Damn Amare looks so clueless on how to defend the p&r. Shaq defends them better than Amare.

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  • Moris

    It was most wonderful time of season

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