Boston’s Veteran Defense Stops Atlanta’s Trickery

The Celtics may have lost to the Hawks in double overtime on Friday night, but Boston was able to send the game to overtime because of their stifling defense on the final possession of regulation Let’s take a look at how they did it.

For the the final play of regulation the Hawks had the ball out of bounds with 3.7 seconds remaining. After a few initial screens, it looks like Josh Smith is coming to set a screen for Kyle Korver at the top of the key. He even raises his hand to signal to Korver that the screen is coming. But instead of actually setting that screen, Smith rolls to the basket for the lob. If Paul Pierce had less experience, we might have seen him anticipate Smith’s screen and jump out to the perimeter to help on Korver, as illustrated below.

hypothetical

Atlanta tried to use Kyle Korver as a distraction for the Celtics defense, and this wouldn’t be the first time that Atlanta benefited from a defense geared up to stop Korver. The Pacers triple-teamed Korver in an attempt to keep the ball out of his hands earlier this season.

However, Pierce isn’t fooled by Smith’s pseudo-screen, and he trusts his teammates to handle Korver. Pierce stays with Smith as he rolls to the hoop and is there to prevent the alley-oop.

Josh Smith nearly hit the game winning shot despite Pierce’s solid defense. Smith’s superior athleticism allowed him to catch the lob with Pierce there, so we can imagine that if Pierce took a false step toward Korver on the perimeter, Josh Smith would have ended it in regulation on that lob. Ultimately, the Celtics lost the game, but give credit to Pierce for detecting Smith’s roll to the basket in regulation.

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