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Last Night, In Basketball: How The Bucks Beat Boston’s Halfcourt Defense


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It’s extremely difficult to score against the Boston Celtics. Brad Stevens’ team does an excellent job cutting off driving lanes and contesting perimeter shots, and they sniff out most actions before they’re even able to generate a threat. There’s a reason these guys have been in the top five in defensive rating all season, and for most of Stevens’ tenure.

The best way to score on Boston is to attack the paint before they’re able to set up their defensive shell. The Celtics allow only 90.5 points per 100 possessions in the halfcourt, according to Cleaning the Glass, which is the second-best figure in the league. If you want to put up respectable offensive numbers, your best bet is avoiding playing in the halfcourt altogether.

But if you have to get into your halfcourt offense, you have to be able to beat switches. Boston has an extremely flexible defense with numerous players who can guard three, four, or even all five positions. That allows them to switch screens if and when they want, which cuts off paths to the paint more often than not. Do a few things correctly, though, and you can punish a switching defense.

If you get in early offense often enough and make a few of the right plays against a switch, you can score enough to get a win. That’s exactly what the Bucks did on Thursday night, in the first game back from the All-Star break. In this week’s edition of Last Night, In Basketball, we break down exactly why it worked so well.

Last Night, In Basketball is a video breakdown series from the basketball mind of Jared Dubin. You can see the videos for free on Twitter and YouTube, but if you enjoy the work and want to see more, you can pledge your support on Patreon.

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