Where was my level of panic after the Sixers built a big first quarter lead versus the Celtics? Somewhere between Steve Buscemi in Armageddon and Election Night 2016, I’d say. But I’m an admitted over reactor. Philadelphia’s drop scheme appeared to be effective as Boston missed pull up shots and had trouble getting to the rim.
This trend would not last beyond the opening stanza, however, and my predictive column would change. Brad Stevens stuck to his high pick-and-roll game plan, allowing for maestros like Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker to find their pull up rhythm. Trust is a good thing, or at least that’s what my exes tell me.
Stevens also found success by running rescreens with Enes Kanter. A bigger body than perpetual man-crush Daniel Theis, Kanter made life harder on Joel Embiid during drops. I’ll keep this post brief by delineating where the Cs found success versus Philly’s defense and end with some advice to be even more efficient.
Yesterday’s first quarter was frustrating for Boston. They had the talent to take advantage of Embiid’s deep drops. Still, the jumpers left open by Brett Brown’s defense were not falling. Due to Embiid’s prowess as a rim protector and already deep positioning, attempts in the paint were hard to come by too. This was going to be a long night if the Cs failed to hit their open Js.
Fortunately, Walker is a slightly above average pull up shooter, as he sinks this shot type well enough to land in the 52nd percentile. Tatum is the real threat, though. He nails 40.4 percent of his 4.7 pull up triple attempts per game. Without Gordon Hayward the Celtics relied more heavily on this duo. Surely enough, they pulled through.
Attacking The Paint
Where can Boston improve against this scheme? The Celtics still had mixed results when driving into the paint. There were some bright spots but also some undesirable execution. Let’s start with the good before highlighting the bad.
Want to be confused? One of the best drop-attacks I saw last night came on a missed shot. Ryan Mainville of SB Nation pointed out how a rescreen can open up driving lanes against dropped bigs. It’s worth a quick watch before reading on.
Boston does rescreen yet, they do not always do it to this effectiveness. On one occassion, however, Kanter’s brick wall body was featured to simply get in the way of Joel Embiid. Tatum missed the shot but it was a high quality attempt that Boston should want more of.
Both Tatum’s body positioning and momenamum (yes, I spelled it that way on purpose) is towards the hoop. Kanter’s screen needs to be executed better but the outcome is one to live with. In fact, his lack of contact on screens was a theme all night. The Cs had some success in spite of this but harder picks could open up better scoring chances. Regardless, even getting in the way of bodies near the paint helped Boston last night.
Kanter’s execution could stand to improve. The Celtics may also want to do a quick once-over on their sealing strategy. Despite being a noted story line for Theis this year, he may not be the best candidate to seal Embiid. Still, there are times when it can and should be implemented correctly.
Sealing During Drops
Time to be confused once more. During a rescreen/seal against Embiid, Jayson Tatum was able to score a contested, difficult floater while falling away from the hoop towards his left. These shots remind us of how special Tatum is but should not become an expectation for Celtics fans (or Tatum.)
Frankly put, this attempt misses more often than it goes in, especially when contested by Embiid’s freakish wingspan. We did not see too many seals from Theis on Embiid this game. He attempted some rescreens but they did not work too well either. This one attempted for Marcus Smart was poorly timed, located and performed, making it had to recognize as a screen at all.
I’d opt for rescreens with either Kanter or the notably strong Grant Williams. Kanter lacks Theis’ technique but in this instance size is preferred over form. Williams should be deployed on rescreens when anyone but Embiid is manning the center spot. Case and point: the video below.
Drive & Dump
There’s one last set the Celtics could implement to beat drop coverage. This example comes from Brad Wanamaker, who has been playing well during this postseason. With Tatum used as a decoy, Wanamaker steams past his man and draws in Embiid. What results is an open, rolling Kanter.
Boston has the talent to perform this more. Walker’s burst looks solid despite his knee concerns. With Tatum and Brown playing as well as they are, they both command the defense’s attention. Theis or Robert Williams can play the role of Kanter during these rolls and perhaps have more success due to their athleticism. But will the Sixers even be in drop coverage this often during their next outing?
If they are, then Stevens will be happy. Drop coverage is not working for Philadelphia right. Look for an adjustment during the next game. Embiid is quick and smart enough to switch pick-and-rolls. Enjoy the chess match to come!