In the GreenLab: Defeating the Under Screen | Red's Army - The Voice of Boston Celtics Fans
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In the GreenLab: Defeating the Under Screen

Welcome to the new series here at RedsArmy called "GreenLab" where I will delve into the film room and examine some of the Celtics plays.  If you've been a regular reader of RedsArmy then you'll remember a couple of my previous posts from last season, going over the excellent "2-3 Arc" set (my term, not theirs) as well as the "Floppy Options."

Today will begin a 3-part series focusing on the engineer that runs the offense: Rajon Rondo.  The biggest gripe that fans, media and even President Obama have about him is that he can't shoot.  It's a viable claim backed up by stats as well as his reverse chicken wing form.  Largely because of this, one of the defensive tactics teams employ is to go under any screens that are set for him.

It doesn't matter if it's at the top of the key or on either wing, opposing defenders will go under just about every time.  If they don't, Rondo notices immediately and strikes right away.  But when they do, what is the purpose of it?  Basically, to cut off his driving angles for passing or attempts at the basket.

Is he ever successful at defeating this approach?  Absolutely and after the jump, you'll see several examples of how he, and the team can defeat it.  In fact, as the season went on and especially in the playoffs, the Celtics didn't run as many pick-and-rolls with Rondo.  They di a lot of other things that I will go over in later posts.  Check out the clips below for how exactly, Doc Rivers draws up plays to combat this defense.

Game 2 2010 NBA Finals: Drive to the Hoop – In this first example, you can see Kobe Bryant (perhaps the pioneer of the "sag" and "play under the screen" on Rondo), defending behind both Pau Gasol and Kevin Garnett.  As Rondo takes it up to the left block, KG sets a beautiful screen on both his own man and Kobe (making him pay for staying so low).  Rondo uses his speed to blow by both of them on the left side.  He chooses correctly here by reading which side both Pau and Kobe are hedging.


Game 3 2010 NBA Finals: Pierce 3-Pointer – As Rondo uses the KG screen at the top of the key, Kobe goes under and Rondo gets to the basket.  As this happens, Luke Walton hedges to the lane and Pierce gets open for a three and drills it.

Game 7 2010 NBA Finals: Rondo to Big Baby – After grabbing a rebound on a Kobe Bryant missed jumper, Rondo runs the ball up the floor and attempts to jab quick on the left block, using a KG screen again. Derek Fisher goes under and Rondo resets.  KG sets the exact same screen, Fisher goes under again.  As Rondo drives, Big Baby goes back door on the right baseline as his man, Lamar Odom, doubles on Rondo.  Rondo sneaks it to Big Baby for the lay-up.

Game 7 2010 NBA Finals: KG Alley-Oop – Rondo brings it up the left side, makes a quick cut to the right block as KG makes an equally quick screen, almost faking it.  As he cuts back to the basket with Kobe playing under the screen, he's forced to switch on the longer KG while Andrew Bynum doesn't block Rondo's pass to KG for the alley-oop.

Game 7 2010 NBA Finals: KG mid-range Jumper –  Rondo initially passes the ball off so he can cut to the right wing and setup without risking a steal in the lane, and to set up a switch on defense.  As he sets up on the right block, KG sets the screen on Kobe who goes under, and is forced to pick up KG not once, but twice.  On the second time KG pump-fakes Kobe in the air, draws the foul and hits the shot.  It's a shame it's waved off, but the idea here is to get KG his bread-and-butter jumper.

Celtics @ LA Clippers February, 2011: Pierce Jumper - Rondo cuts from right to left and Eric Bledsoe goes under KG's screen twice.  On the second screen, Big Baby sets a side screen for Paul Pierce, who gets the pass from Rondo and takes a right-elbow jumper.  It bounces off the rim, but KG is able to get the offensive board and slam it home.


Game 1 2011 ECQF vs NY: Jeff Green Jumper – Similar to the previous play against the Clippers, this time Toney Douglas goes under two KG screens, while Big Baby simultaneously sets a side screen for Jeff Green, who is mismatched against Chauncey Billups.  Green drills the right-wing jumper.


Game 1 2011 ECQF vs NY: Rondo Jumpers –  Here are a couple of examples of Rondo not only taking the jump shot, but making it as well.  On the first play, Rondo works off the ball, setting up on the left baseline.  As he receives the ball, KG sets a screen on Billups who goes under it.  Rondo steps right into the jumper and drills it.  On the second play, an out-of-bounds set, Rondo sets up at the top of the key, works his way side-to-side off two KG screens, and drills another jumper.


Game 1 2011 ECQF vs NY: KG Baseline Jumper – Setting up at the top of the key, Rondo gets a screen this time from Pierce.  Billups first goes under, but then tries to go over as he notices Rondo driving to the hoop.  Rondo gets far enough in where he could attempt a lay-up, but instead dishes it to an open KG for the left baseline jumper.  Just like Odom left Big Baby to meet Rondo at the rim, Ronny Turiaf does the same, this time leaving KG open.


Game 2 2011 ECQF vs NY: KG Elbow Jumper – Setting up on the left side again, Rondo waits for the screen from KG.  Not only does Douglas go under, but he makes a reverse spin move on defense to show that he's going under.  Rondo draws he and Turiaf into the paint, allowing KG to pop out for the easy jumper.


Game 2 2011 ECQF vs NY: Rondo Post-Up – In the same exact setup as the previous play, KG instead looks quick to pass to Pierce who is being denied by Bill Walker.  Rondo quickly posts up Douglas and takes the pass from KG.  Rondo then does a nice job scoring on Douglas in the post.


Game 2 2011 ECQF vs NY: 2-3 Arc – Here are a couple of 2-3 Arc plays where Rondo uses his quickness to just blow past the under screens for the lay-ups.


Game 4 2011 ECQF vs NY: Drive and a foul – Rondo goes right up the middle as Pierce sets a screen on his own man while Douglas again goes deep under it.  Just like with Kobe and Pau, Rondo reads the play beautifully, driving on the correct side of the screen, scoring a lay-up and a foul.


Game 4 2011 ECQF vs NY: KG Jumper – This is a 2-3 Arc play as Rondo and KG are used exclusively.  Rondo drives on the left block, with KG setting a screen on Anthony Carter who makes zero effort to fight through the screen but still goes under.  Rondo gets in deep again, but kicks it out to KG who drills the jumper.  Jermaine O'Neal cuts towards the lane just in case the first option fails.


Game 2 ECSF @ Miami: 6 Plays – Here are six plays where Rondo effectively beat Miami's defense of going under the screen.

  • 0:00-0:10 – A simple pick-and-roll with JO.  As Rondo goes up the middle, Mike Bibby reverses under, allowing Rondo to quickly get to the lane then passes to the rolling JO who gets fouled.
  • 0:11-0:21 – Setting up on the right wing, Rondo gets Bibby to go under the KG screen and as KG fakes the screen, he cuts to the basket.  Zydrunas Ilgauskas leaves JO to cover for Chris Bosh, and Rondo gives it to JO for the free throw line jumper.
  • 0:22-0:36 – Rondo drives to the right as Big Baby sets the screen on Bibby, who goes under again.  Rondo uses his quickness against Bibby, does his trademark fake-behind-the-back-pass to Davis, then gets the lay-up and the foul.
  • 0:37-0:47 – Just like against the Knicks and Lakers, Rondo and KG execute a clean pick-and-pop jumper for KG as Bibby goes under the screen.
  • 0:48-0:56 – Bibby goes under the Big Baby screen as Rondo cuts right to left along the free throw line.  This creates a good passing angle to bounce it in to KG who is being fronted by Joel Anthony.  KG makes a great catch, spins, and slams it.
  • 0:57-1:05 – A slight variation of the KG pick-and-pop.  Rondo sets up on the left side, this time Pierce is the screener.  As Mario Chalmers goes under, Rondo draws him and Anthony into the paint.  Instead of passing it out to Pierce for the jumper, he options off to KG who is wide open from Anthony being drawn in by Rondo.


 Game 3 ECSF vs Miami: KG Turn-around Jumper – Off an out-of-bounds set, KG sets the screen on Chalmers who goes under.  Anthony hedges up to cover Rondo, and recovers in time to force KG into a tough fade-away jumper that he hits.


Game 3 ECSF vs Miami: KG Elbow Jumper – The same play as the sixth play listed above from Game 2 in Miami.  Pierce is the screener, allowing KG to drill the elbow jumper.


 Game 4 ECSF vs Miami: Rondo Jumper – KG sets the screen on Bibby at the top of the key and Bibby first goes under.  Bibby then hedges up but Rondo takes the room and hits the jumper.


 Plays that didn't lead to a basket but still could work

Game 3 ECSF vs Miami: Missed pass to Jeff Green – With the first half coming to a close, KG sets the screen at the top of the key and Chalmers goes under.  Rondo has a ton of room but doesn't shoot (which he should).  Instead, he fires a fastball past Green who was covered by Bosh.


Game 7 2010 NBA Finals: Sheed Gets Blocked - Sheed and Davis set the top-of-the-key screen on Steve Blake who was looking to go under.  As they do this, Bynum, Odom and Blake all recover to Rondo who makes a bounce pass to the rolling Sheed.  Sheed gets blocked but this could have worked.


Game 3 ECQF @ New York: Rondo Missed Jumper – Setting up on the right block with JO, Rondo tries to work past Douglas who goes under two screens.  After the second Rondo takes a jumper and misses it.  But at least he took it.


Final Notes: As you can tell, KG's screening ability is something that is not only vital to this team's success, but is also overlooked.  A lot of these plays to cover up Rondo's shooting deficiencies are dependent upon him screening and making shots.  On a lower level, JaJuan Johsnon could be used in a similar role when he plays, or he could be used the way Nenad Krstic was when he was here.

Both are solid jump shooters.  Also key to note from watching lots of these sets is that the Celtics are much better when they get into their sets quickly.  Even with Rondo on the floor, they struggle the most when they take too long.

Next up in the series will be examining how to defeat the "sag" defense on Rondo, as well as a handful of other options.

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  • garnett was brought here to create assists? hell no and that’s why celt’s need rondo for his intangibles. ronda makes this team better and for the money he should be non trade-able asset. how about danny trading 31M to rebuild the next dynasty..

  • Awesome, awesome article. Loved reading this.