Tale of the Tape


This weekend, when watching the Boston Celtics I tried to pick up some of the key sets that they ran from possession to possession. I believe that coming to know a team’s tendencies will happen through following some of their key sets on both ends of the floor. In an effort to get to help you get to know the Celtics better, I will show you what plays they are running and break them down for you through video clips thanks to Synergy Sports Technology.

Yesterday, the Celtics put a 24 point drubbing on the Philadelphia 76ers. Defeating them handily, 103-89, was easily done because of the defensive effort that Boston gave forcing 14 turnovers and only allowing the opposition to shoot 38% on the night. This opened up a lot of room for transition opportunity and easy buckets for Boston.

What I noticed, especially, was Boston’s use of the “Double Horns” or “A-set” offense. This is when your offense sets up in an A formation. The ball handler is at the top of the formation with the ball. Though it usually starts at the top of the arch, it doesn’t have to be there as long as proper spacing is utilized by the rest of the personnel.

The ball handler will receive two screens by, normally, the two bigs on the floor. There are times when a guard will screen another guard and flare out to the three point line as the ball handler penetrates. After a screen is given, both players will usually move to a floor position high or low and the shooters will react to that action.

There are many options for the screeners at this point in time–one can roll to the basket an the other will pop out for a jumper or they can both pop out for a jumper. They can also hesitate and slip the screen and do either option. The shooters in the corners will play off of this; they have the option to cut to the basket or rotate ball side for an open look. At times, there are even screens given by the initial screener for the ball handler to get the shooters open.

This is a set that is commonly used in the NBA. Its perfect for running a quick, but effective, play out of the inbound and off of a broken transition opportunity. It normally maximizes the abilities of most players on the floor. Its versatility makes this my favorite set for any level of basketball. You can work so much with it and create so many variations of it.

What made this set so special was Boston’s personnel. The bigs of the Boston Celtics are great at spacing the floor with their jump shooting. Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass are shooting 49 and 48 percent, respectively, from 16-23 feet on the floor. They are able to not only roll, but pop out for jumpers as well. With a crafty point guard like Rondo who is so adept at reading the defense this offense is especially perfect for Boston.

Below, you can see Boston getting the ball on a transition opportunity. After the break is stopped and Bradley has the ball, he dumps it off to KG. Garnett loses the handle but quickly regains it. Instead of allowing the ball to sit and have the defense key on him, he kicks it back to Rondo to allow for the reset. The only problem is that about 11 seconds have been wasted off of the shot clock. They turn to the Double Horns set for a quick out.

Garnett ends up flaring to the high block on the weak side of the floor and Bass hesitates after giving Rondo the screen. After a brief hesitation he flares to the opposite block of Garnett. Rondo leads him with the perfect pass far enough away to keep Iguodola from getting his hands on the ball, but close enough to keep Bass within his range. Bass has an open look for a split second and makes the defense pay.

Below is a variation of the same formation Brandon Bass and Greg Steimsma. What happens here is Boston gets another shortened clock, except for in this case it is off of an inbound play. Steimsma makes the catch, and waits for Rondo to come receive the ball. After getting the ball, Rondo is set up with the Double Horns almost instantly. Brandon Bass comes over and gives Rondo the screen. When the screen is set, Rondo’s man, Evan Turner, plays under the screen. Bass’s man, Nikola Vucevic, gives a hard hedge on Rondo to keep him from penetrating to the baseline. Rondo keeps them at his fingertips by using hard hesitation dribbles to freeze them both up. As he does this, Bass flares to the top of the key. Steimsma rolls to the rim and pushes the defense down because they must respect his height and finishing ability at the rim. This results in a wide open Bass jumper.

Below is the Double Horns set with Paul Pierce as the ball handler. This brings another element to the set because of his ability to make jump shots at a consistent rate unlike Rondo. Pierce is especially good at operating at the elbow area on the floor.

In this instance, Pierce receives the handoff from Brandon Bass after Bass makes the catch from Rondo. Pierce keeps his momentum going from the handoff with Bass while his man is bombarded with screens from Kevin Garnett and Bass. Spencer ends up giving a hard show to Paul Pierce to prevent him from taking a jumper until his Andre Iguodala can catch pierce. Once this happens, Hawes ends up losing his man and sticking to Bass. Meanwhile, Garnett rolls into the paint and posts up Elton Brand–a much better match-up than Hawes. Pierces gets the ball to Garnett and they score an easy two points.

In the final video Pierce is once again the ball handler. The Double Horns set is initiated when Pierce goes to his right and receives the screen from Garnett. Once the screen is received, both big men initially role. Garnett sees this, and he stops just above the key. Bass keeps rolling and his man continues to roll with him. Spencer Hawes, however, fails to realize that Garnett has stopped moving. Andre Iguodala has already taken the passing lane to Garnett, but this wasn’t properly communicated to Hawes. Hawes comes back to Garnett, failing to realize that Pierce is open for the jumper. This allows Pierce to knock down the J and get Boston another easy two points.

As you can see, the Double Horns set is a very versatile set and can be used in many different ways. The Celtics personnel at shooters in multiple positions, other than the wings, make it an even more dangerous weapon for them. Look for the use of this set a lot more in the Celtics repertoire with Garnett playing the center position.