Tale of the Tape: Boston Celtics use Ice Traps on Kyrie Irving


Apr 5, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (2) shoots the ball against Boston Celtics power forward Chris Wilcox (44) and point guard Avery Bradley (0) during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but this is common when a team is missing its best two players–really, its best four. There’s really no positives coming from this loss in the thick of the playoff race, but Boston played well enough defensively against Kyrie Irving to not get blown out.

Kyrie Irving had one of the worst nights of his career last night against the Celtics. He only made 4-20 shots last night and scored 11 points because of the defense that the Celtics played last night.

When Irving had the ball in his hands, the Celtics were aggressively playing him with ice traps–also referred as downing the ball. When teams do this defensively, they create a sixth defender out of the boundaries of the floor. They’ll play the ball handler toward the sideline, baseline, or the halfcourt line in an effort to force a turnover or a bad shot.

Its an overall frustrating thing to ball handlers around the league. They’re hounded and forced to go into one area and if there teammates aren’t in the right position, they’ll have very little options. Kyrie Irving fell right into this trap when the Cavaliers faced the Celtics.

In the video below is a common ice trap. Notice how the defense plays Irving.

Once Irving comes down the floor and gets a screen to free him up going to the wing by Tristan Thompson, Brandon Bass switches onto him until Terrence Williams is able to fight through the screen. For extra help, Jeff Green is probing in the middle of the paint in case Irving tries to attack the rim.

Irving is forced to the baseline because he has no angle to get around Bass. Williams recovers and comes to help Bass and forces Irving to pick up his dribble. His teammates are in no position to come and get the ball and Irving throws an arid pass. There’s the turnover that the Celtics were looking for.

They were playing Irving like this all night and it had a residual effect on his play all night long. We’ll use this transition opportunity the Cavaliers had as an example. The Celtics force Irving into another difficult pass because of the threat of another ice trap along the sideline. Take a look at the video below.

In the video, you can see the Celtics defense communicating that they’re going to force Irving to hug the sideline and try to force him to dribble out of bounds. Irving sees this, and he has the right idea. The Celtics are doing their work early and so does he, unfortunately.

Irving is about to attempt a bounce pass from just pass half court all the way to the top of the key. This is a very tough angle to complete a pass at and very few point guards in the league can do so–Irving is not one of them. So the Celtics rush Irving into another turnover by forcing him to make a decision quickly and on the fly. Something that most of the point guards in the NBA are not able to do.

In this final video, we see that the Cavaliers have countered by not having Irving bring the ball up the floor. Instead, C.J Miles does so and he gives the ball to Irving. Take a look.

Irving gets the ball receives a screen from Tyler Zeller, but instead of attacking down the middle or making a pass, Irving goes back toward the sideline and ends up taking an awful shot that gets blocked by Avery Bradley.

The Celtics traps and angles of their defensive attack forced Irving into a lot of bad plays, bad decisions, and bad shots. Unfortunately, like Irving said, they had a great team win and came out on top. If Boston could play this type of defense with a full roster, they’d be one hell of a team to try to stop in late April.