The Celtics Chronicle
The Celtics Chronicle: A Boston Celtics Podcast
Celtics 3 Keys to winning Banner 18!

Celtics 3 Keys to winning Banner 18!

Yesterday, I sent out a note asking for mailbag questions. I sent it quite late in the day. While I did get a few questions sent over, it wasn’t enough to do a full mailbag post. So, I’m going to kick that can down the road and look to do it on Wednesday…The thread is still open, so get your questions in.

With the mailbag on the back burner for a few days, I decided to dive into another “3 Keys” preview. I have recorded this as a podcast and posted the video on YouTube.

— As an aside, if you’re reading this, please subscribe to the YouTube Channel. When I left Green With Envy, I left a podcast feed that I had been growing for 5 years. I left a YouTube channel I built from 0 and got it monetized. Rebuilding from scratch is tough. Any subscription helps move me closer to monetizing again. —

Anyway, if you prefer to listen to my thoughts, the episode is embedded. If you prefer to watch the video, it’s embedded below. However, if you prefer to read my thoughts, I have shared them in a transcribed version below.

I tried this last week, too. I’m open to feedback on if you like these newsletter posts from time-to-time, where the audio/video content also makes sense as the written content. Let me know!

Key 1: Rebounding

Our first key has to be rebounding.

The Boston Celtics got thoroughly outworked on the boards in Game 4. We're not even talking by a little bit. They got mauled on the glass. I'm talking about 21 boards.

The Celtics pulled down 31 rebounds compared to the Mavericks 52. That’s 21 rebounds more than what Boston did. That cannot happen again. Not under any circumstances. Not for any reason whatsoever. Dereck Lively II had a game-high of 12 boards.

For Boston, Jayson Tatum led the way with five. That's low for Tatum. He's usually around that seven to eight board range. In the postseason, he's been closer to 10 per night as part of his double-double performances.

Al Horford needs to be better at crushing the glass. Jaylen Brown is athletic enough to get up and secure some boards. Jrue Holiday is one of the best rebounding guards in the NBA. If the Celtics want to control the tempo and flow of the game, it all starts by owning the defensive glass.

If you can limit teams to one offensive possession, get the ball and push the pace, and you can do that consistently, you're the team that’s setting tempo, not them. You’re forcing the opponent into playing Celtics basketball. You can slow it down. You can push the ball. You can hit your early pitch ahead (EPAs) to get into your transition plays — Your 21 actions, your drag actions, your Oklahoma, whatever it may be.

You can flow into that once you control the tempo of the game.

That has to be the primary focus coming in:

How do we keep Derek lively off the glass?

How do we stop guys from crashing in?

How do we get more offensive rebounds without giving up our transition defense?

Where's the balance there?

Do we allow guys to leak out so we can get some transition plays? Or as we want to crash the paint and box out higher up the floor?

In truth, there's going to be a mesh of all of it. It's never an absolute, especially at this level. There's always going to be a thought process of ‘Well, in this instance, this is what we want to do.’ And there's always going to be ‘Option A, Option B and Option C — and you just iterate through them until you find what's working.

Nevertheless, rebounding has to be the main focus. It's been an area where the Celtics have been quite strong all year. And I get it, Kristaps Porzingis isn’t there, you've lost your best big, your best rim deterrent, shot deterrent and best shot blocker. Still, Joe Mazzulla’s team has been dominant on offense all season, with and without Porzingis. They’ve got to tighten it up on the defensive glass if they want a win in Game 5.

Key 2: Don’t send two

The second point is quite simple. Don't blink. Don't keep sending two to the ball because when you do that, you're playing into the Mavericks’ hands. That's what Dallas wants you to do. They want you to send doubles and triples at Luka or Kyrie.

That's when the lob plays open up.

That's when they flow into their Finland actions.

It's when they start pressuring you, so you pick them up higher up the floor. If you send two toward the half-court line, boom, they'll throw the lob. You saw the Celtics get cooked with two or three of them in game four.

The Celtics must stay true to their defensive principles. Guard man-to-man and send help. And when you send help, send it as gap help, nail help, dig — funnel. If you need to ice a PnR, do it, but recover quickly. If you show on the screen, then recover at speed.

Or if you're in drop. and you're sending help towards gap help make sure that when you do, you're still zoning up the man you're helping off of, so you can recover quickly.

When you send two at Luka or Kyrie, their processing speed is too good, they spot passes too quickly, and they're very talented at making those passes. Or, they're just going to cook you and try to split the defense. Now you've got two guys in the rearview who are going to try to contest.

Those principles are why Boston was able to hold Dallas to under 100 in the first two games. It's because they weren't sending two.

They weren't blinking.

If the Celtics do that on every possession, they’ll force Luka to beat them. They'll Force Irving to beat them. They will limit Dallas’ matchups to one-on-one basketball, and then you're taking away all the other weapons around them. Luka and Kyrie are never going to score enough points to be able to beat you on their own. More importantly, the Celtics will have bodies around the rim.

The more you can play the percentages, play the advantages, get yourself in a good position to control the box out, get the ball and not keep sending two or three guys at a star that's also an elite playmaker, the more opportunities you're going to have again to control the tempo.

And that brings us to the point, the third point

Key 3: Attack with secondary and tertiary offense

Stick to your principles.

The thing that makes the Celtics such a good offensive team is their willingness to attack the secondary or tertiary actions.

When you drive, kick, the next guy drives, somebody else cuts, you kick to the cutter. If the defense rotates over, you spray it back out and you wait until that gap forms. You keep moving the rock. You keep cutting. When the defense bends, you punish them.

Of course, a lot of people will point to the isolation numbers for Boston. And that's fair. The Celtics do isolate quite a bit and taking that away would be ridiculous because of the talent they have.

But what I want to push back with, and I looked at this in a recent newsletter post, is that not all isolation possessions are made the same. This isn't a James Harden isolation. This isn't a Luka Doncic isolation. The Celtics isolate when they force a mismatch or run an inverted screening action. When Tatum screened and ducked into a high post up around the elbow, and got the mismatch as well because the switches occurred.

So now Tatum’s posting up on a guard and then he's going to either spin after you, he's going to face up and take you off the dribble, bully you down low. Those isolations happen, and they’re incredibly valuable to Boston’s overall approach.

Also, Mazzulla needs to keep manipulating Dallas’ defense. Put Jrue Holiday and Derrick White in the corners to force Kyrie and Luka to work on the low helpline and protect the rim. Position your wings in the slot/wing area. Have the big in delay. Swap the big and put him in the weak side slot.

Test things out. Space the floor and attack the gaps. Dallas will collapse on drives.

Punish them.

Commit to the way you play on both sides of the ball. That's what the Celtics did in the first three games, and it's not what they did in game four.

None of these are difficult changes to make. Rebounding. You're a good rebounding team. You've done it all season. You've done it all postseason.

Do it again. One more time. Defend. Stick to your defensive system again. You've done it all year. You've done it all postseason. Do it one more time. Execute. Talk. Rotate. If they're gonna counter you, counter their counter. Adjust on the fly.

Bonus Take: In-game adjustments

I spoke about this a few weeks back, was You've got two types of coaches…For me, once you're good at both of them, you're in that elite-level of NBA coaches. You've got coaches that are excellent at making game-to-game adjustments. Some coaches are excellent at making in-game adjustments.

And then you have coaches that are elite at both — Greg Popovich and Eric Spolstra are both great examples. They’re coaches who can make game-to-game adjustments, but they can also make those adjustments in the game. They can turn the flow upside down. They give their team an advantage.

Final thoughts

The Celtics can etch their names into the history books tonight. They can end their season as champions. I can’t wait to be breaking down a championship game tomorrow. I’m excited!

Let me know your thoughts, predictions, and ideas on how tonight is going to unfold!

And if you’re new here, hit that subscribe button!

The Celtics Chronicle
The Celtics Chronicle: A Boston Celtics Podcast
Join Adam Taylor for unfiltered Celtics coverage, featuring in-depth analysis, interviews, news, rumors and unique perspectives. Powered by the Celtics Chronicles newsletter.
Listen on
Substack App
Apple Podcasts
Pocket Casts
RSS Feed
Appears in episode
Adam Taylor