Tommy Heinsohn, who owns eight championship rings as a player, two as a coach, and a color analyst for the Boston Celtics has played in and coached a style of offense that isn’t used very often in the NBA today. The uptempo, run and gun, fast break offense, that when combined with great defense, leads to NBA championships.
Heinsohn, for as long as I can remember, has stressed the importance of running the ball instead of walking up the court and setting up the offense slowly. It’s never been more apparent than in the last four games that the Celtics play much better when they run and use the uptempo offense often. In three straight games, Boston has gone up by double-digits, and while the defense gets the credit for that, it’s the offense that should be getting most of the attention.
Jason Terry hasn’t been given so many wide open shot opportunities than he has in the past week. Jeff Green and Courtney Lee have run the floor allowing them to get easy buckets in transition. When Boston doesn’t have the numbers on the break, the spacing on the floor is so great that players like Paul Pierce and Jason Terry are wide open to take and make a pull-up three point shot.
Why has it been so successful for the Celtics? An uptempo offense mitigates the time opponents have to set up their defense which allows players to get to the hoop much easier than if everyone was standing around and not moving without the ball. Playing uptempo also gives the Celtics defense an opportunity to set up because in a faster offense, not as many players need to be in the play.
The real question most fans have however is why hasn’t this worked for Mike D’Antoni whose offensive philosophy is the run and gun? D’Antoni doesn’t emphasize defense enough. While in most cases it works for Western Conference teams when it comes to offense, their defense suffers. Doc Rivers has always preached defense, and with Boston being so deep, their is no need to be concerned about wearing out players, as they’ve been given time to rest.
While this eventually leads back to Rajon Rondo, the facts are evident that the uptempo offense works. Everyone is getting involved offensively and it’s helped the team’s overall confidence, which leads to them playing harder with more energy. Rondo used to walk the ball, setting up the offense in the half court, and Boston’s offense suffered playing that way. Most of the time, either a player got a bad shot attempt with six seconds left on the shot clock or Rondo had to save the possession by driving to the hoop or taking a jump shot. As a fan I love Rondo, I think he’s the best point guard in the league. But, if he ran the ball more like Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley have he’d be even better, and more importantly, a better team player.
The Celtics still have a tendency to run the half court offense, and it almost cost them the game against the Los Angeles Clippers. In the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game, Boston only managed to score 14 points, while in the three previous quarters scored 33, 26, and 33. This habit will eventually cost the Celtics games if they aren’t careful. Thankfully Paul Pierce saved the day by hitting a clutch three pointer with less than five seconds left in the game.
The uptempo offense is much more fun to watch for the average fan. To Tommy Heinsohn, it was a way to blow out the Celtics opponents and minimize any height disadvantages they may have had to overcome when facing a team like the Milwaukee Bucks who had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Heinsohn knows a lot about the game, and probably could still coach today. It’s great to see his offensive philosophy and how it can be successful. If Boston can continue pushing the ball and playing at a faster pace, they can beat anyone, and maybe make it back to the NBA Finals.