Boston Celtics ATOs: Creative Guard Design
A deeper look into the Boston Celtics playbook - currently the NBA's best After Time Out team.
The Boston Celtics are currently the #1 team in the NBA in After Time Out scenarios scoring 1.01 PPP currently. After Time Out data is wildly inconsistent without hand-tracking but I always love the insight on what teams are the best in these situations even with the data just from Synergy’s tracking.
A prime example of this is that 58 of the 259 After Time Out possessions that ended with the Celtics scoring that I watched were not an After Time Out play. Some of these can be in the flow of the offense that results in just a basic ballscreen or isolation.
More examples of the play not resulting in what I would consider an ATO special could be from a team going zone, the Celtics getting a steal, or a scramble situation.
All things considered, I am impressed overall with the sets and specials that Ime Udoka and his staff have come up with in these situations - especially with the way they use guards in different screening actions. When guards are in involved in ballscreen action and setting it I am terming it “Rockets” in the play names since the Rockets ran this action all the time with Harden.
21 Ghost - Rockets
The Celtics have been running this counter out of the 21/Pistol series where the initial screener for the ball fakes the ballscreen and then ghosts to the middle of the floor.
As he receives the pass a guard opposite sprints up and sets a ballscreen for him - typically with a weaker defender to force a switch, a hedge or a miscommunication.
The Celtics have preferred to run this for Jaylen Brown After Time Outs, but also in half-court situations as well so it likely started as an ATO then morphed into a good set.
Wedge Lift Ghost
A similar set as the previous one, the initial action here starts off with a “Wedge” screen like the common ballscreen set and then a lift to the middle of the floor.
Flowing into ghost action with Smart/Brown attacking the Pacers defense.
Delay Under Ghost
We will come back to this set and action since it is one of my favorites out of the Delay or 5-Out action, they will hit either Jaylen or Tatum in the middle of the floor and then Ghost or ballscreen for them.
Elbow Pin Tatum
Some of the Celtics struggles can be attributed to stagnant play and isolation basketball so getting Tatum involved without him handling initially is a good way to get him the ball. In this play the ball is entered to the elbow and then opposite Schroder sets a pindown for Tatum in the corner so the defense is forced to either switch into a mismatch or Tatum can catch and shoot or attack easier.
Wide Pin Tatum
The same exact concept from the Elbow pin set is applied but without an elbow touch and just having Schroder set a quick pindown for him in the corner, with both plays resulting in easy looks for Tatum.
Wide Ram - Rockets
Combining the Rockets ballscreen or ghost actions with a wide pindown initially the Celtics get a player moving into a ballscreen (similar to what the Celtics ran for Ray Allen previously) and then picking and popping to the 3 point line with multiple options to attack out of.
Ram - Rockets
Almost the exact same play the Celtics use this Rockets action but with a screen down in the middle of the floor or what I call “Ram” action into a ghost screen.
This is part 1 of an 8 part series looking at all of the Celtics After Time Out plays in the series they run with them - if you want to support please subscribe and share with others!
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