Video Breakdown: How the Celtics guards ran off-ball against the Knicks

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In last week’s video breakdown, we talked about how Los Angeles Lakers guards used split screens to beat the Golden State Warriors, effectively giving them a taste of their own medicine. Today we’re going to talk about some of the types of off-ball guard screens the Boston Celtics used to beat down the New York Knicks this last week by a whopping 28 points.

It all starts with a set you’ve probably seen Brad Stevens run before but never really noticed. It’s called Down Spread, but there’s a few variations, including one called Down Spread Exit that they use to get easy 3-pointers on the wing.

In its basic form, the looks like this, with a ball handler at the top, a post in front of him, and another wing or guard stacked toward the basket.

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The way you can recognize this play set is by watching for an exchange between the post and off-ball wing standing below the ball handler. Effectively, the idea is to have these two players “screen” for each other without setting a hard pick. It’s a device used to befuddle the defense.

In this example, the Celtics got a drive-and-kick 3-pointer on the opposite wing:

But we also saw this play be effective against the Knicks as a pick-and-roll.

In the example below, check out who actually does the screening. Marcus Smart and Tyler Zeller are the two players in the pick-and-roll itself, but Zeller never actually screens Smart’s man.

Thanks to that nifty stacking of players at the free-throw line and that exchange we talked about earlier, Avery Bradley is the one actually making the soft “screen” on Smart’s defender.

A final variation of this play was a little more complex, with the stack at the free-throw line flipped. This time, it’s Isaiah Thomas above with Amir Johnson down low.

After the exchange at the free throw line, Thomas sets a screen for Smart, who cuts to the paint. Zeller then screens for Thomas, who V cuts to the arc for a spot-up 3-pointer.

Pretty cool stuff, and it’s always fun to see a lot of off-ball movement by dominant dribbling guards like the Celtics have.