The Boston Celtics moved to 30-12 with their win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night, courtesy of some fast-paced offense and impressive defense. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown might have combined for 72 points, but in truth, the win was a strong team effort on both sides of the floor.
There were a few occasions where off-ball actions were generating some strong offensive opportunities. We’re not talking about a single off-ball screen here or there, but rather, multiple efforts to create opportunities for one another while rarely touching the ball.
Take this play from Grant Williams as an example, and note how he doesn’t touch the rock once, but is still instrumental in how the action unfolded.
Let’s chunk this possession down into stages.
Stage 1: Williams sets a screen for Tatum, generating a switch to put Jaxson Hayes onto him.
Stage 2: Williams rolls toward the basket, finding a ton of space in the lane and engaging the strong side low man as the help defender, allowing Derrick White to lift out of the corner. Furthermore, Williams’ roll also gives the defense reason to believe Tatum’s pass is going straight down the middle of the court — instead, it finds Al Horford in the corner.
Stage 3: Williams seals his man in the paint, creating the driving lane for Jaylen Brown to get downhill on his slot drive.
Even without the ball in his hands, Williams created a mismatch, a defensive conundrum, and a driving lane that eventually ended in a two-point play around the rim. It’s easy to overlook what’s happening off-ball during a game, especially if you don’t want to miss the action of a nifty crossover or thunderous dunk.
However, sometimes, as was the case for Williams here, it’s the stuff that happens off the ball that leads to an easy bucket or defensive breakdown. Let’s take a look at another example, this time from Luke Kornet.
Sticking with the chunking process, let’s explore how Kornet’s movement and activity generated some high-quality offense for Boston.
Stage 1: Luke Kornet executes a slip screen, rolling hard toward the paint, dragging Jonas Valancuinas with him to ease the on-ball pressure for Jayson Tatum.
Stage 2: Kornet sets a ghost screen for Payton Pritchard before popping to the nail (center of the free throw line) to receive a pass.
Stage 3: Kornet acts as a pivot point, quickly redirecting the ball back to Tatum before throwing himself into another screen to spring Tatum free in the lane.
Plays such as these two are a key indicator of the Celtics embracing a selfless brand of basketball and putting in the work to create opportunities for others regardless of individual statistics. If Boston can continue to implement this style of offense throughout the remainder of the season and into the playoffs, then they will be in a good spot to make a deep run and hopefully return to the finals to finish what they started last year.