If you’ve been following any of my post-game threads on Twitter recently, you would have noticed me calling out a ‘blind pig’ action at least once per game, crediting them as one of my favorite actions the Boston Celtics have been running in recent weeks.
But what is the ‘Blind Pig’? Well, I can’t tell you why it has such an outlandish name, but we can look at what the play is and why it’s been working so well for the Celtics when looking to get one of their better scorers going downhill in space.
The desired outcome of this action is simple, get one of your best slashers attacking space behind the defense courtesy of a backdoor cut. It’s often used when a defense is playing aggressive pressure off-ball defense and/or looking to deny cutters from the wing or slot area of the court. Or. when a defense is denying the pass to a prominent scorer on the perimeter — think Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown.
The action itself is simple. It involves 3 players: Player A (the ball handler), Player B (the guy in the middle, usually a big), and Player C (the cutter/finisher).
As Player A has the ball, Player B will flash/cut middle, usually toward the nail, to receive a pass. While this is happening, Player C will disengage from his defender by taking a step or two away from the action, leading his man to expect a screen or for Player A to skip the big and pass directly to player C.
Instead, as Player B receives the ball, Player C will explode into a cut, taking his defender by surprise, and receive a pass from the big man to spring him open in the lane.
Against the Charlotte Hornets on January 16, we saw the Celtics run a variation of this play to give Jayson Tatum space to finish a straight-line drive at the rim. Here, we have Marcus Smart as the ball handler, Jayson Tatum dilly-dallying toward the wing selling his defender on an impending pass from Smart.
However, Smart feeds Robert Williams with the pass, allowing Tatum to turn and dart into the lane for the quick entry from Williams, leading to an easy two points. Another reason why this action works so well is that it happens in the blink of an eye, making it incredibly difficult for any help defenders to recognize what’s happening and react accordingly.
In true Joe Mazzulla fashion, we’ve also seen the Celtics get creative when running this action by putting a guard in the middle to throw defenses off the scent of an impending ‘Blind Pig’ taking place.
Celtics out here having fun. Running some 'blind pig' but with Marcus Smart taking the role we usually see a big man play. pic.twitter.com/9hd5VLSDPi— Adam Taylor (@AdamTaylorNBA) December 24, 2022
The principles remain the same, yet Smart being in the middle makes it difficult for a defense to see what’s coming, especially since he’s a primary ball-handler for the team. Again, the quick entry to the nail, a back cut from the weakside wing, dump-off pass, and an easy bucket in space.
Here’s another example.
Love this 'Blind Pig' action from Boston to get Tatum the open lane.— Adam Taylor (@AdamTaylorNBA) January 12, 2023
NOLA does a solid job of defending the Spain Entry, C's get no advantage.
Kornet cuts to elbow, entry pass from Brogdon, cut from JT, dump-off, Dunk. LOVE IT pic.twitter.com/NKHHkUq1Zz
The Celtics aren’t breaking any new ground when running this action — it’s been around for a long, long time. However, by diversifying who they put in the middle and which player they use as a cutter (they’ve used Robert Williams there, too), they’re making life difficult for opposing defenses and reaping the rewards as a result.
I have no idea why it’s called the ‘Blind Pig,’ but the results speak for themselves, and hopefully, the Celtics can continue to torch teams with this action whenever they need an easy bucket to build or regain some offensive momentum.