Lead by Jayson Tatum, the Boston Celtics were victorious over the Charlotte Hornets. Applying constant pressure on the interior defense and causing mismatches across the floor, Tatum fueled a great game of inside out basketball. For every successful drive, Charlotte’s perimeter defense eased off Boston’s sharpshooters. Then a kick out would happen and find a wide open Celtic for the easy three.
The following two plays demonstrate this perfectly.
First is a simple play. Tatum receives the ball from Brad Wanamaker and brings the ball to the top. During this time, Malik Monk has switched onto Tatum. Tatum then guides Monk into the screen set by Daniel Theis, curls off the screen and drives into the paint. A slight pull-back leaves Tatum with space to shoot from the free throw line for an easy two.
On the very next play, he receives the ball at the top, and backs into his man. As he squares up, Wanamaker makes a smart cut through the middle, causing Monk to follow him. The threat of a Tatum drive and the confusion Wanamaker’s cut causes leads to Cody Martin attempting to tag Wanamaker. While Martin is doing this Tatum is unguarded and making his way to his sweet spot at the top of the three point line. Daniel Theis positions himself in a tagging position to allow Tatum even more time to get the shot off.
Two plays, one setup.
Boston ran this scheme all night long to great effect. Usually they attack the perimeter at will, sometimes to their own detriment. Last night however, they were playing chess. Playing this way allows the team to get set without a specific play being called, too. Romeo Langford’s first bucket of the game showed this.
Tatum had drove inside and found space just below the elbow. Knowing how the system works, both Enes Kanter and Romeo Langford were able to position themselves for the rebound should Tatum fail to convert. Tatum misses the shot and Romeo is there to grab the board and get the put back (on his second attempt).
Then there was the passing. Such good passing.
When Boston is playing positionless basketball like this, it becomes almost impossible to guard everyone. Constant pressure inside forces the defense to collapse, allowing easy looks from a cutter or spot-up shooter. As the game wore on, the threat of a drive was enough to cause problems. Tatum was the beneficiary of this psychological advantage.
Finishing the game with a career high 39 points, Tatum was a revelation. Doing the majority of his damage in the fourth quarter to put the game beyond doubt. A sterner test awaits in the form of Toronto and Paskal Siakam on Christmas Day. Should the team continue to execute this game-plan at a high level, there is no reason they can’t take a win from that game, too.