The Boston Celtics were toast last night. After three quarters, they were too lethargic and too small to deal with Minnesota’s size and youthful energy.
Then the fourth quarter happened. Final quarters have been a nemesis for the young Timberwolves, seen around the league as the final hurdle for this talented squad to clear as they eye a serious run for the playoffs.
It takes two teams to make a 19-0 run happen. The Celtics, for their part, executed well and were ready to take advantage of every mistake Minnesota made. It all added up to a hell of a win for Boston, and yet another collapse for Minnesota.
Here’s where it all started:
Terry Rozier drives on Gorgui Dieng, who is turned around. If Dieng had been square on Rozier, he would have still gotten help, but he’d be in a position to recover. Instead he turned his shoulder and had no peripheral vision to recognize that Brandon Rush was closing out on Jaylen Brown. Dieng’s responsibility is to rotate back over to Jerebko. As it was, he was a step from challenging the shot. But had he slid to his left rather than turning and running, he would have been able to recognize what was happening on the pass sooner, and closed out on Jerebko, preventing the shot from getting off. Add to this that Brandon Rush FLIES at Jaylen Brown, a terrible 3 point shooter, while up 13 and the defensive breakdown is much worse for Minnesota. This was played poorly, and all the Celtics had to do was get past one defender, swing the ball once, and it was a clean look from the corner.
Up next… Dieng and Rush are at it again:
So Rozier penetrates again but it’s Horford that’s the catalyst here. The jab step freezes Dieng in the lane because he thinks he needs to help. But where he makes his mistake is sticking in the lane once Horford picks up his dribble. At that point he lost sight of Rozier. Rush takes a jab step at Rozier but then leaves a decent 3-point shooter alone with the ball to go cover his man, a bad 3-point shooter. If Rush had simply stuck with Rozier, Dieng could have rotated over to the corner and picked up Brown. Again, Brown’s a guy you can live with in that spot. He missed a 3 by a foot earlier in the game… but Rush decides he can’t leave his man. Who knows what would have happened with the Wolves in rotation like this, but it wouldn’t have been a wide open 3 like this.
Now.. Horford’s signature sequence:
This started with a monster block on the other end. In transition, Smart finds Horford trailing and Dieng, again, is slow on the uptake. He not only is slow to contest the shot, he just drifts past Horford and Al gets the long rebound. Not great, but that happens sometimes. This is where having shooting on the floor helps.
Andrew Wiggins is concerned with Rozier, and Towns is taking a step out to cover Jerebko. Towns is caught taking a step out to his left when Horford shocks him by pulling the rebound free and taking a dribble. It’s the little bit of space Horford needs to get to the rim… something that might not happen if Tyler Zeller were on the floor. When we talk about the importance of spacing, this is the type of play where it shows up.
OK kids.. this is NOT how you play pick and roll defense:
Wow this is bad. Ricky Rubio and Dieng play this so poorly, Horford picks them both off and gives Rozier, who is now feeling it, a cleaner look than he gets during shoot-arounds.
Just look at this… Rubio is defending Rozier.. but Horford picks HIS OWN GUY and essentially uses Dieng, who is woefully out of position, to pick Rubio off. Rubio gives NO effort here either, and suddenly we have a tie game.
Here’s more bad pick-and-roll D:
Again Horford sets the pick, which gets Smart around the corner and into the lane. At this point, the play is to switch. Dieng is already in front of Smart, and Towns is coming over to help with the drive. Zach LaVine doesn’t recognize that Horford has popped, leaving a guy who’s pretty damn good from that area all alone for another warm-up quality jumper.
The Celtics did a lot well in this run. They got away from the stagnant offense that got them into a lot of the trouble in the first place. They moved the ball well, penetrated, and forced the Timberwolves to make some decisions.
Minnesota, thankfully, followed all that by making about as many bad decisions a team could make. The Celtics put themselves in spots to take advantage of that and knocked the shots down.
Tom Thibodeau has a LOT of work to do.