Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
The grind of the regular season can take a mental toll on teams. It’s not hard to lose focus and slip, sometimes in games.
“You gotta be mature about it,” Jayson Tatum said. “With the schedule, you can’t always practice as much as you want. You just gotta understand if you want to be a part of something special, you gotta have the same level of focus every day.”
The Celtics are trying to re-integrate Marcus Smart and, to a lesser degree, Gordon Hayward at a time where the schedule doesn’t allow for much full-court practicing. Add to that a natural tendency by some players to simply slip with some of their technique and there is a possibility of things falling apart. If timing is off or communication lapses for even a second, the whole house of cards falls.
“You make a mistake, there’s four shooters and a dunker on the floor. Sometimes there’s five shooters on the floor,” Stevens said. “That’s the one thing about that Toronto team the last couple of days, that we’ve played a couple times, I saw a game where all nine guys that played hit a three. That’s pretty unique. I just think, you certainly can’t have somebody that falls asleep, you certainly can’t have somebody that’s not really locked in on that end.”
On Friday I broke down a sequence that illustrates the way that the Celtics’ versatility generates and then exploits mismatches. Yesterday, John showed how the Celtics can be just as vulnerable on the other end of the court.
At first I was a bit peeved that Twitter embedded two tweets above, instead of just one.
However, comparing the two sequences shows you two very different performances by the C’s defense.
In the top clip, you see some effective positioning by Jaylen and Jayson. Both guys are about halfway between the basket and the sideline on the baseline. They haven’t committed to either a dump into the paint or a pass to Ibaka or Fred VanVleet. They’ve positioned themselves to contest either contingency as soon as McCaw passes the ball.
Meanwhile Hayward has closed tightly on McCaw and uses his height to influence the pass down to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. McCaw’s pass is high and long, and by the time RHJ secures it he’s surrounded by Celtics. His only choice is to reset the offense by passing the ball back out to Lowry, who is well-guarded by Marcus Smart. The Raptors have burned 10 seconds of clock and are effectively right back where they started.
In the bottom clip you see, along with a likely moving screen, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum both reacting to the play rather than anticipating the way it is going to develop.
If we turn back the clock and let this play develop the way the Celtics would have preferred, Jaylen Brown would’ve anticipated the switch. McCaw certainly telegraphs it as he approaches Lowry, and he even gives Brown enough space to get to his inside. Now if Brown reads the switch correctly, he moves quickly enough to get between McCaw and Lowry. This opens up a few possibilities: Brown could potentially switch back onto Lowry, if he can move quick enough. In any case, he can help off McCaw, while cutting off his passing lane making it that much more difficult for Lowry to penetrate. He could also stay home on McCaw. However, since he’s late on the switch, he ends up focusing his attention on McCaw, leaving Lowry to work one-on-one with Walker.
Walker does a commendable job sticking with Lowry, but Lowry’s already turned the corner, heading downhill, and if Kemba played him any closer, Lowry would be headed to the line for two free throws or a chance at a three point play.
Once Lowry turns the corner, Tatum and Hayward are also in a position to help onto him. Basically, if the C’s are on the ball here, they’ve got three guys who can help onto Lowry, and the only question is which Raptor can be safely ignored while the defense adjusts.
Tatum’s assigned cover is Oshae Brissett, a two-way player; Hayward is on Fred Van Vleet.
If Brown stays home on McCaw (a 38% 3P shooter), then Tatum is probably best positioned to help off his man onto Lowry. You don’t want to keep Brissett covered and help off of VanVleet (also a 38% 3P shooter).
However, like Brown, Tatum doesn’t anticipate, he reacts, and ends up caught between belatedly trying to box out Brissett and helping onto Lowry. If you watch his arms, you can see his indecision. He swipes vaguely at both Lowry and Brissett while failing to be in a position to alter the trajectory of either player.
In the example above, the least experienced guys on the court had lapses of discipline–their attention slipped for a second or two.
Is it a huge deal? Only if this becomes a pattern. As John points out in the article, it’s a long season, these are young guys, and you simply have to expect isolated lapses.
And, honestly, it’s probably a good thing that the Raptors exposed some of the C’s recent weaknesses on defense: It should motivate them to improve, unlike an easy win over Cleveland, which would seem more likely to encourage bad habits.
Page 2: Where Jaylen is the Eastern Conference player of the week… and is also sick
Brown averaged 27 point points and 6.7 rebounds for the week on 62.2 percent shooting, including 11-for-19 shooting on 3-pointers (57.9 percent). He was the only Eastern Conference player in consideration to score at least 25 points on 60 percent shooting throughout the week.
Brown is averaging 20.6 points per game this year on 51.8 percent shooting, making him one of four NBA players averaging at least 20.0 points on 51.0% shooting this season. The others are Giannis Antetokounmpo, Karl-Anthony Towns and DeMar DeRozan.
While the stat in that second paragraph seems a bit cherry-picked, there’s no question that Jaylen Brown is playing at a different level than he did not only last season, but the season before as well.
I believe one of the reasons why Jaylen and, to a lesser extent, Jayson, are overlooked—or their accomplishments dismissed—is because their careers as Celtics are somewhat of a rejection of conventional wisdom.
Neither player was a consensus pick at the spot they were chosen, and the Celtics actually traded down to grab Tatum. Then Ainge refused to trade these guys for established stars like Paul George, Jimmy Butler or Anthony Davis.
If Ainge’s decision to stick with these guys pays dividends, that means a lot of predictions of failure are going to go unfulfilled.
Meanwhile, Jaylen is home sick. He didn’t practice with the team yesterday and didn’t make the trip to Charlotte either:
The Boston Celtics have played short-handed in some fashion most of this season.
So it would come as no surprise if they closed out 2019 missing one of their key players, right?
Celtics wing Jaylen Brown (illness) did not participate in practice on Monday, and he was ruled out of Tuesday’s game at Charlotte.