When the game is on the line in the fourth quarter, the ball belongs in the hands of your best player.
Brad Stevens worked throughout the fourth on Monday night to run plays that would place the rock in the hands of Jayson Tatum. The idea was simple: get Tatum the ball on the move, not just standing on the wing where he’d have to play one-on-one with Garrett Temple, a cagey veteran and terrific individual defender.
Stevens dialed up a few wide pindowns, where Tatum would start in the corner and come off a screen from Thompson so he could catch and quickly attack middle. From a playcalling standpoint, all the coach can do is dial up a set that creates a paint touch. The rest is on the players to convert upon and make the right decisions.
The wide pindown was designed not just to get Tatum the ball on the move but to capitalize on the Chicago Bulls’ defensive coverage. Temple was instructed to “top lock” Tatum, meaning whenever he sensed a screen was coming he would jump to Jayson’s top shoulder and try to prevent him from using the screen.
By emptying out an entire side of the floor, Tatum had options to go underneath the screen and free himself from the coverage while still getting the ball in space:
The Celtics went back to the action a few possessions later, this time for Jaylen Brown. Instead of top-locking Brown, his defender Denzel Valentine would “lock and trail” the screen, staying in Brown’s hip pocket and following him over the top of the screen.
While the coverage was different, the result was the same: middle penetration for a scorer that ultimately broke down the Bulls defense and lead to a layup:
This set play is incredibly versatile — it works against both sets of defensive coverage and gets quality shots for Boston’s best players.
That’s why it’s no surprise the Celtics went back to it in the final two minutes, hoping to get another easy look for their best scorers. This time, a sturdy Tristan Thompson screen was able to help Tatum shake free over the top:
Despite the rough shooting night, Tatum posted a triple-double and has earned the ball in his hands during crunch time. When he and Brown are the focal point of the offense, utilizing them in off-ball actions like wide pindowns is a great way to give them as much of an advantage pre-catch as possible.