Who would have thought the Celtics would have a 3-0 draw in a series against the Nets before the playoffs began? Or was it not Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving but Jayson Tatum who averaged the most points and assists in the series? How did Kevin Durant, who shot 51.8 percent for the season, get limited to 36.5 percent by the Celtics?
The God of Killing
The Nets stumbled all the way this season, after Kyrie Irving refused to take a vaccine and missed the game, Kevin Durant suffered a knee injury in the middle of the season, and finally James Harden was dissatisfied with the request to leave the team and traded for Ben Simmons, who has not yet played, but in the end, he still finished eighth in the Eastern Division. Into the play-offs, and in the play-offs beat the Cavaliers to get the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.
If the Clippers that Paul George returned were once the most unwilling low-seeded team in the West, then the Nets, where Durant and Irving can both play, should be the most likely team in the East. Just over half of ESPN’s 21 experts predicted the Celtics would advance, 10 predicted 7 games and only 1 predicted 6 games before the start of the game. After a week in the playoffs, although the series is not over yet, the Celtics made a 3-0 draw with a complete advantage, and even had a great chance to sweep the Nets out, which absolutely no one expected (Pharaoh Wang Sell me, the author predicts that the Celtics will eliminate the Nets 4-0).
The most surprising thing about this series was that the Celtics managed to suppress the almost unsolvable offensive machine Durant. Durant’s scoring average of 22 points in this series is the lowest of his career in the playoffs (34.3 points last season), with a career-high 5.7 turnovers and a 36.5% shooting percentage, the lowest since his first playoff appearance in 2009-10 (since consecutive Nine seasons have not been lower than 40%, until this season), although the three-point shooting rate is still 40%, but the number of shots dropped from 6.8 in the playoffs last season to 3.3, and the total number of shots also dropped from 23.5. to 17.3 times. And how did Celtic do it? What kind of defensive strategy did Celtics implement to successfully suppress Durant, who nearly eliminated the Bucks by himself (half-size shoes) last season?
It takes a village…
Just like the Pistons had so-called Jordan Rules against Michael Jordan, the Mavericks also had a set of zone defenses in the 2011 championship game to confuse and limit LeBron James, the Celtics were able to limit Durant’s offensive firepower because of a complete defensive strategy and Disciplined execution. And after watching the first three games of the series, it can be observed that Celtic’s defensive strategy has several key points:
- Don’t allow Durant to easily catch the ball near the 45-degree free throw line or mid post where he’s most used to offense, maximize deny passing lanes to keep him off the ball, and then push him to keep him out of the way Easy to catch the ball.
- If Durant is on the ball, never give him comfortable jumper space, and whenever Durant cuts, or tries to take a one-step jumper, there must be a Celtics player on the front of the cut.
- If the Nets are going to use the pick-and-roll to try to create a dislocation for Durant or a space for another player, there are two scenarios：
- Players with a roll-in threat in the paint, such as Andre Drummond or Nic Claxton, will sink back but stay in Durant’s cut path. Players defending Durant must go over screens and chase Durant to prevent him from having an easy jump shot. .
- If it’s a player who doesn’t have a roll-in threat like Bruce Brown Jr., just switch the defense, and the switcher goes out to prevent Durant from having a jump shot, or double-teams Durant to pass the ball.
As a general principle, it is better to allow other Nets players to score than to give Durant any comfortable opportunity to score, forcing Durant to do the scoring, air-cutting, and covering for his teammates that he can do but not instinctively. Body collision. To implement such a defensive strategy against Durant, the most terrifying offensive weapon in NBA history, it absolutely requires the five defensive players on the field to have basic skills in defensive positioning, deny card position, communication with pick-and-roll, defense, movement and physical confrontation, and There is a high standard of discipline in defensive action. The Celtics’ main rotation may be the most suitable group of players to execute this defensive strategy. Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Daniel Theis, Al Horford, Grant Williams and Derrick White all have tall wingspan and Traverse speed. Even Payton Pritchard is an above-average defender, not to mention Robert Williams III, who has returned from injury.
When it comes to matchups, when the Celtics’ starting lineup has time to set up a defensive matchup after a goal or a timeout, it’s Tatum to play Durant, and Grant Williams to Grant Williams. Williams matched Durant. And if it is the Nets’ offensive and defensive transition after a defensive rebound or Celtic error, whoever is closest to Durant will guard Durant. The purpose is to reduce Durant’s defensive players who have not fully returned to defense or are still communicating and switching defenses through early attacks. Time to stand at your favorite waist position and hold the ball.
To be the next Kobe
After watching the three games, everyone must have the impression that Smart, Brown, Horford and even Theis slapped or copied Durant’s dribble or pass, but who is the Celtic player who has played against Durant the most times? It is the Tatum mentioned in the previous paragraph. In three games, Tatum has defended Durant 120.9 times (according to NBA Advanced Stats Player Tracking), which is 48% of all Celtics defensive matchups. In Tatum’s 120.9 possessions against Durant, Durant only made 15 shots and hit 2 goals in total, with a shooting rate of 13.3%, 0 of 4 three-pointers, and 6 of 6 free throws to get 10 points and assists. 2 times, was made 10 mistakes.
In addition to Kobe Bryant, Tatum’s idol was at the peak of his career, and he was known as Kobe Bryant on defense. Gregg Popovich, the coach of the US Olympic team, also told Tatum that he had become the top player in the league. A two-way player, like Kawhi Leonard or Kobe Bryant’s potential, but only if he needs to hold himself to a high standard on the defensive end. But Tatum has occasionally been criticized over the past few seasons for how often his offense or call-offs have hampered his aggressiveness or focus on defense. But judging by the fact that Tatum was given the responsibility of being the main matchup against Durant in this series and the stats, Tatum should indeed have the potential to be a solid defensive lock.
On the contrary…
However, Celtic was able to shoot the switch and help to limit Durant because the Nets’ ball-handling point was broken. Except for Irving, no other player could punish Celtic’s dislocation through individual singles ability, or have Passing enough to allow Durant to punish Celtic’s pressing defense by cutting or going backdoors. At the same time, the Nets need to put Curry, Dragic or Patty Mills on the offensive end. Players with perimeter ability try to help Durant open up space or punish the Celtics to double-team Durant to give up the space, but on the defensive end, they will be blocked. The Celtics’ Brown, Horford, and Tatum kept fighting. In terms of the Nets’ lineup, it is impossible to not need Durant’s score. After watching the first three games, it can be found that Durant has the best chance of scoring only in the transition from offense to defense.
Although the series is not over yet, the author thinks that the Nets, who have not found a solution for Durant by the third game, will be difficult to regain the disadvantage of the series. The Celtics should have ended the series in Game 4 or 5. And next may face last season’s champion Bucks, although Khris Middleton may miss the game, but having another Giannis Antetokounmpo who is unstoppable on both ends of the floor is the real test for the Celtics and Jayson Tatum. But there is no doubt that although the Nets are indeed flawed in the lineup this season, last year the Nets played against the Bucks and both Irving and James Harden were injured. Durant also lacked outside support when he was in the Thunder, but never had a ball. There are ways for teams or players to limit Durant’s scoring ability, but the Celtics did it, and it’s their number one star Jayson Tatum that bears the most responsibility on the front line.
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