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How the Celtics exploited the NBA's best shot blocker

Hassan Whiteside is a dominant force inside, but Boston actually used that to their advantage in their win against the Heat.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Hassan Whiteside is having a fantastic year. In addition to trolling the hell out of Kobe, he's blocking almost everything that comes his way. Whiteside is one of the best rim protectors in the NBA and leads the league with 4.7 blocks per game. Those skills are why he's going to get paid this summer.

He showed some of those abilities against the Celtics this week. He totaled 3 blocks, and per, Boston only converted 3 of 7 shots at the rim against him. But, the Celtics made some huge plays by exploiting his rim protecting instincts. Hassan Whiteside isn't much for chasing players out past the paint. Even Dwyane Wade said as much after the game.

Boston started by using Whiteside's man as the screener to get some great open looks. This looks like a standard pick & roll with Isaiah Thomas and Amir Johnson.

amir fade1

Amir Johnson sets the screen on Goran Dragic. Thomas passes up the pick and sprints to his left. Whiteside never leaves the paint and moves to defend the drive. This leaves Amir Johnson wide open at the three-point line. Thomas makes a nice pass and Johnson buries the shot.

This next play features a similar setup.

amir p&r 3

Here, Thomas actually uses the screen set by Johnson. Amir fades back to the three-point line, and hits another open three. Now could Wade have rotated to cover Amir? Sure, but then Amir could swing it Crowder for an open shot. Either way it's a great look.

The ball handler can also take advantage of Whiteside's hesitancy to leave the paint.

bradley 3

Avery Bradley is wide open after Amir Johnson seals off Wade on this screen. Whiteside never leaves the paint and Wade isn't exactly busting his ass to get through the screen either, so Bradley is able to convert the nice open look. (Ignore the fact that Bradley could have had a three by stepping like an inch back, that's for another day).

The Celtics also found ways to take advantage of Whiteside when he wasn't even guarding the screener. This play has already been highlighted by Kevin O'Connor and others, but it bears repeating here. At the direction of Brad Stevens, Thomas and Johnson run a pick & roll.

Whiteside is so focused on protecting the paint that Sullinger is left wide open behind the arc. Isaiah finds him with a pretty skip pass and Sully knocks down the shot. Isaiah Thomas can't be overlooked when talking about these plays either. His vision out of the pick & roll is such a huge asset for this team. Even though his shooting was rough that night, he kept making plays like this.

It takes a little creativity to be successful against a great defender. The Celtics worked to utilize floor spacing and lessened the impact of the NBA's best shot blocker. Whiteside was unwilling or unable to run out to the three point line, and it helped the Celtics secure the win.

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