I played the Kyrie game-winner at 50% speed on a whim to see if I could figure out how he got so open. Here’s the footage, courtesy of Timi, who forgot to put his usual name-stamp in the corner.
I’m not sure exactly how the Celtics intended for this to play out, but here’s what I see:
- Wesley Matthew and Myles Turner look to trap Kyrie as soon as he comes off the (fake) screen by Al Horford.
- Turner sees that Horford popped out for three before Kyrie really makes use of his screen, which is probably a quicker sequence than he anticipated. So, he overreacts and runs out to cover Horford.
- Matthews briefly looks over his shoulder to make sure Turner is still there with him. If you look closely, Turner is just outside Matthews’ field of vision when he drops back to cover Horford (probably the most important detail in the whole sequence). Kyrie makes his move, and you can see Matthews do the “what the hell, man” arm gesture.
- Thaddeus Young now slides over to cover for the ground that Turner left unattended. Not only is he a fraction of a second late, but he throws his weight the wrong direction after Kyrie throws up the head fake/ball fake combo.
- Kyrie sees Cory Joseph making the next move to stop the play, and here’s where I think his awareness really shines. After averting his vision from Joseph in front of him on the fake, Kyrie sees Joseph sizing him up and throws the layup off the glass before Joseph can cover enough ground to really contest it, AND he throws it high enough to stay out of Turner’s reach, who I assume Kyrie anticipated coming back into the play.
- Matthews walk back into the frame with his arms out, yelling at Turner. Pretty clear evidence they weren’t on the same page as to how to handle the trap at the start of the play.
It looked easy, but Kyrie had to do a little somethin-somethin to elude four different Pacers to get to the rim, which is pretty damn impressive. Again, I don’t know how they drew it up, but I’m thoroughly impressed with how many times Kyrie made the correct split-second decision in such a short window. The presence of mind to keep the dribble alive, fake out Thad Young, and to throw a relatively long distance layup off the glass is what makes Kyrie lethal in the clutch.
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