With just under five minutes to play in the fourth quarter, the Celtics held a 91-81 lead against the San Antonio Spurs. Under normal circumstances, one would assume that such a lead would be relatively safe, but not lately with this Celtics team. Especially not against a Spurs team with a championship pedigree. The Spurs also came into the game losers of four consecutive games and were trying to go a perfect 15-0 against the Eastern Conference teams at home. Add on top of that, the Spurs had not lost five in a row during the Tim Duncan era.
Instead of ignoring plays and looking like a collection of accountants gathering at the local YMCA for a Saturday afternoon run, the C's executed a simple, yet highly effective play: The Elbow. They ran it roughly five times out of their last six half court sets, scoring on four of them. Check out the video below for the execution.
Green Elbow Set #1:Rajon Rondo brings the ball up the right side of the court, with Paul Pierce set at the top of the key, Kevin Garnett at the right elbow, Glen Davis at the left elbow, and Ray Allen camping in the right corner as a decoy. KG sets the screen for Rondo then pops out. In this set, he passes to Big Baby who wisely notices Tim Duncan coming at him and passes to Pierce. Pierce takes it to the baseline, drawing a double-team, kicks it out to Davis who drills the left elbow jumper.
Green Elbow Set #2: Initially, it's the exact same setup until KG and Davis switch elbows as soon as Rondo makes his move. Rondo then passes it to Pierce who drives again, and kicks it out again after drawing the double team to KG who drills the left elbow jumper.
Green Elbow Set #3: This time Pierce calls the set from the top of the key while Rondo retreats to the right corner, and Ray switches to the left corner. KG comes up to set the high screen for Pierce and this time the Spurs snuff it out as Pierce kicks it to Davis. Big Baby takes a dribble to the middle and passes it back to Pierce who takes it baseline and misses the lay-up, but is able to tip-in his own miss.
Green Elbow Set #4: Pierce initially brings the ball up, then hands it off to Rondo who gets pressured immediately by Tony Parker. Pierce this time retreats to the left corner, but KG runs up to help Rondo by screening Parker. In a simple pick-and-pop, Rondo kicks it to KG who drills the left elbow jumper from deep.
This is a huge difference not only in execution, but setup in comparison to the last few games when they've struggled to close out teams. Fantastic way to close out a top notch team in the NBA.