How often do you hear NBC Sports’ Brian Scalabrine say “Celtics have a two-for-one opportunity here. Look for them to shoot with 34, maybe 35 seconds left on the clock” and how much impending doom do you sense when he says it?
In a game where Jayson Tatum couldn’t miss, the Celtics played the two-for-one game to end the third quarter. The strategy of playing the clock so that the Celtics can guarantee themselves two shot attempts and limit the Nets to one in a 35-40 second window drives me up the wall.
Sure, if Boston takes their first shot with 35 seconds left and the Nets take their next shot a few seconds later, Boston can then run the clock out and have the last laugh going into the fourth. What could go wrong?
In theory, two field goal attempts should always yield more points than one on average. However in practice, it often leads to two forced shots with far less of a chance of being relevant. And in this case, it leads to the guy who scored 50 giving up the ball to one of my favorite human beings who also happens to be someone who probably shouldn’t take that shot: Romeo Langford.
Tatum didn’t see many double teams en route to his 50 points, but all it took was one - ONE! - to force the Celtics out of a high percentage shot on their two-for-one opportunity.
Romeo catches the ball with 12 seconds left on the shot clock and 32 seconds left in the half. I’m sure the coaches tell him to take wide open threes whenever possible, and with his teammate clearly playing to force a two-for-one, he basically has no choice but to shoot this one as well.
Except there is another choice.
It’s not Romeo’s choice to make, but the Celtics as a team could end this madness any time they wanted to and play this possession like they would any other. I mean, “any other” offensive possession has looked pretty aimless this season, but they’ve clearly approached these games with a more cohesive plan. A plan that looks something like this:
1) Always attack Blake Griffin
2) Always attack Landry Shamet
3) Almost always attack Nicolas Claxton
4) Jayson Tatum attacks Kyrie Irving
The entire series thus far has been predicated on attacking unfavorable match ups and yet, with the season on the line, they still break that up to play the two-for-one game. As CelticsBlog’s self-appointed Romeo Langford ambassador, I’m obviously not against the idea of Romeo getting some shots up. I’m sure his career-high six attempted three-pointers in a game of this magnitude will pay dividends for him in future playoff series. He even hit two of them. The problem here isn’t Romeo. The problem is Boston’s unwavering confidence in the two-for-one.
Gripes aside, Boston’s offense looks great. Even in the losses, they at least appear to have a solid game plan (outlined above). With a full crowd for Game 4, I think Kemba Walker can bounce back and take some weight off of Tatum’s shoulders. But to ensure victory, we must abolish wasteful two-for-ones.