With how physical the series has been between the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets, having a release valve for some easy offense is essential. You need somebody to target, just like the previous roster had to deal with teams hunting Kemba Walker. Now, Ime Udoka and the Celtics are the hunters and have found their meal of choice.
Andre Drummond has been an excellent rim protector in this series and already has 3 blocks to his name along with countless altered attempts. But, despite his viability in front of the rim, the mammoth in the middle struggles when asked to switch out to the perimeter and guard pick-and-rolls. It’s here that Boston has found their advantage, and will now look to exploit the rebounding machine at every possible turn.
By engaging Drummond in the pick-and-roll and forcing him to switch onto the ball-handler or commit to “showing” at the level of the screen, Boston can create scoring opportunities behind Brooklyn’s sturdiest center. Drummond comes high up the floor as Jayson Tatum peels off the screen. Sure, the UConn product initially approached the nail to limit Daniel Theis’s roll threat, but as Tatum snaked his way towards the paint, Drummond decided to dig which allowed Theis the split second needed to cut towards the rim, creating a passing lane for Tatum as a result.
Herein lies the problem for Brooklyn. Drummond does not possess great lateral quickness, so, when he digs towards the ball handler like in this above clip, it’s unlikely he’s going to recover to his man before a pass is made. Of course, that’s fantastic news for the Celtics, which led them to begin manipulating the center’s floor positioning throughout the contest.
We see the same issues appear on this possession, too. Theis drags Drummond from the baseline towards the perimeter and flows into a screen for Marcus Smart. The Defensive Player of the Year then attacks Drummond off the dribble before turning the corner on the 6’10’’ big, leaving him chasing shadows.
If it wasn’t for some quick hands off a Kevin Durant dig, Smart would have got all the way to the basket for a nice easy two. While attacking Drummond off the dribble is always a favorable option, when you drag him onto the perimeter, you’re also creating space in the middle for the roll man to attack after the screen - especially if they slip the action.
The above play has been annotated courtesy of Instat’s inbuilt editor and aims to show the value of forcing Drummond into a perimeter switch. You can see how easily Theis gets towards the rim, and how Tatum’s scoring gravity ensures that Boston’s returning big is an afterthought for the defense.
Smart opts to drive the rock himself on this possession, but the upside of generating so much space in the middle of the floor is clear to see, especially if you consider the secondary creation opportunities that can arise once a help defender rotates over to challenge any shot within four feet of the bucket.
Unfortunately, nothing is perfect, and there will be times when Drummond is put in a position to contest a shot while running in a straight line. While the Nets center is limited in his lateral ability, he’s actually quite mobile vertically and can close down shooters or drives with relative ease given his size and speed.
When Drummond is able to set himself into a good defensive position and slide his feet without needing to flip his hips at speed, he’s a formidable defender - which is why teams like to utilize him in drop coverage so frequently.
While limiting the impact of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving is paramount to the Celtics' chances of success in their remaining games, abusing Drummond in the pick-and-roll will be a primary option for the offense moving forwards. Boston has found a crack in Brooklyn’s defensive scheme and should continue to chip away at it until the foundations come crashing down.