Breaking Down The Boston Celtics’ “Screen The Screener” Out Of Bounds Play

Doc Rivers is highly regarded as one of the best coaches in the league at drawing up plays, especially out of timeouts. One example was last week when the Celtics beat the Indiana Pacers on a great end of game play.

Mar 13, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics power forward Chris Wilcox (44) returns up court with small forward Paul Pierce (34) as they take on the Toronto Raptors during the first quarter at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Last night, the Celtics didn’t need a game winner to take care of the Toronto Raptors. In fact, they routed the Raptors 112-88. Along the way, they ran a great out of bounds play that I want to take a look at today.

It starts with Paul Pierce inbounding the ball. He gets the ball to Chris Wilcox at the three-point line and steps in bounds. Immediately, Pierce sets a screen for Courtney Lee, who cuts across the lane. At the same time, Wilcox has swung the ball to Jeff Green who is at the top of the key.

As soon as Wilcox gets rid of the ball, he moves to set a down screen for Pierce. Right after Lee has used Pierce’s screen, Pierce curls up to the wing, coming off the screen set for him by Wilcox. He is wide open on the wing when he catches the ball, which is exactly what the Celtics wanted. He then pump fakes Jonas Valanciunas out of the way and drives to the basket for a lay-up.

This action is called “screening the screener,” and this is how it works.

First, Pierce’s screen forces his defender to help on Courtney Lee. If there was no help, Green would have simply thrown the ball to Lee for an easy lay-up, because Avery Bradley is spacing the floor in the corner, leaving no one near the lane to protect the basket. Then, before Pierce’s defender can recover, a screen is already being set for Pierce, who runs off it, and is wide open.

This kind of action forces the defense to be alert and really work. If they don’t communicate well enough and either call for a switch or fight through the screen quickly, then the offense will have someone open, as the Celtics did with Pierce.

(For more on this type of play, check out this piece from Jacob Frankel of HoopChalk.)