If you asked that question to Tyronn Lue, head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the answer would be yes.
In a recent interview, Lue controversially said that the plays the Boston Celtics run are harder to defend than what the Golden State Warriors run.
"The stuff they’re running, it’s harder to defend than Golden State’s for me, as far as the actions and all the running around and all the guys who are making all the plays, so it’s a totally different thing… Brad’s got them moving and cutting and playing with pace and everybody is a threat."
The comment was met with a lot of criticism, but I think Lue may not be totally wrong.
Anyone who has watched GSW play this year knows there’s more to their scoring than Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant. The key, as touched on by Kobe Bryant in his Golden Democracy video, is unselfish ball movement. Unselfish ball movement will then lead to breakdowns in communication and a subsequent open shot at the basket.
But as unselfish as GSW is, they’re also predictable to a certain extent in that they field three of the best shooters in the league.
Their ball movement may be extraordinary, but if you’re defending them you know you have to key in on some combination of Curry, Thompson, and Durant. Those are the guys that their plays are designed for. It’s no mistake that in the regular season, those three players combined to score 63 percent of their team’s points per game. I’d imagine once you take into account their assist totals, all of GSW’s offense comes by way of those three players (sorry for the snub Dray).
What makes the Celtics potentially more difficult to defend is that you can never predict where the shots are going to come from, especially with Isaiah Thomas being out.
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If we look at regular season numbers, excluding the scoring boost provided by IT, we see that four other Celtics combine to score on about 51 percent of their team’s points per game.
This trend reemerged to a degree when IT went down with an injury a few games ago but was greatly built upon. We see liberalized shot attempts, resulting in a bunch of Celtic players coming together in an attempt to fill the scoring gap. In game three against the Cavs, six Celtics scored in double figures working out to 92 percent of the total points scored. In game four, the Celtics got contributions from the entire team with four players scoring in double figures, two more guys at nine points, and another finishing with eight points.
This kind of offensive strategy has to be tough to defend because you never really know which guy is going to bring it on any given night. Coach Lue can’t cut any corners and tell his guys to focus on one or two particular players because the entire team is working to get each other shots.
While GSW buys into ball movement in an attempt to get certain players an open look, the Celtics live by ball movement, period. To them, it doesn’t matter who gets the shot as there’s no on court scoring hierarchy.
If GSW is The Golden Democracy, then the Celtics are Green Anarchy… at least with respect to putting the ball through a hoop.