Forget the score of the game. The outcome of these last handful have been irrelevant since the Celtics got virtually locked into the #2 seed earlier in the week. These last handful of games are not just about getting the vets rest before the playoffs start this weekend, but about getting playing time for the younger players that might get called to action with the team shorthanded.
At times, the Celtics offense can seem like an intricate scheme of screens, cuts, and dummy action, but the premise is simple: getting players into spots that they can excel in. For the rookies that will be handling a lot of minutes during this extended Gino Time, you can see themselves finding their way in the system.
For example, we’ve seen Jayson Tatum do stuff like this all year coming off this double screen set.
Sometimes he’s coming off two picks into a dribble drive.
In another variation, he’s coming off a screen into a dribble hand off and has the option to attack the paint or here, pull up for the open three if his defender goes under.
Here’s Jabari Bird coming off similar action.
If you’ve watched Bird play over the last night two home games, you’ve seen how tricky he is going back door and cutting off the ball. He doesn’t have the strength of a Jaylen Brown to drive through players or Tatum’s length to contort his body around rim protectors. Instead, Bird is a master at finding gaps in the defense and getting easy looks around the rim. His strong play has even raised some debate on whether or not his two-way deal should be converted into a guaranteed year so he can be included on the playoff roster.
A lot of the Celtics offense is predicated on wings being able to hit perimeter shots and even more, attacking close outs off the dribble.
This is Jaylen Brown’s wheel house. He’s been a 39% three point shooter all year and that’s opened up his driving game. Above, he gives Al Horford a passing angle to hit him for a 3, but as soon as the defense sinks in to defend Horford’s post up, he attacks without the ball and cuts for the dunk.
Here’s Semi Ojeleye working on the perimeter:
Whether it’s coming off a pick-and-pop or on ball rotation, we’re starting to see his confidence in his shooting (over the last fifteen games, he’s 9-for-18 from behind the arc) and his comfort driving the ball. Think back to Jae Crowder’s development. When his 3FG% peaked last season at 39.8%, that opened his game up to include strong dribble drives and running back-like rumbles into the paint.
The Celtics will head into the post-season with eleven healthy bodies. The playoff rotation could shorten to just include Marcus Morris, Greg Monroe, and Shane Larkin with starters, but if called upon, Brad Stevens has a handful of rookies that can plug-and-play into their system.