Celtics Pressure Turns Nets to Mush

This weekend Devin and I channeled our inner dork and traveled up to Boston to attend the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference (more on that in the coming days). As fate would have it, the Nets played in Boston last night and we jumped on the opportunity to attend the game.

With another highly capable opponent in the Celtics, we were hoping the Nets would build on our impressive victory over the Mavericks. Sadly, that reality was crushed midway through the second quarter when the Celtics, who were only leading the Nets 34-30 at the time, peeled off a 14-0 run and never looked back from there.

The game changing factor? The Celtics began extending their defense full-court, employing a 2-2-1 press which confused, frustrated and ultimately caused the Nets offense to look like, well, the Nets offense. The Nets were making mistakes handling the pressure that you don’t often see from NBA teams, such as: dribbling into corners, attempting long cross-court passes, bobbling or mishandling passes, etc. Even when the Nets did successfully cross half-court, they were put into short shot-clock situations, which forced the Nets into lower percentage shots.

Things didn’t start out this way, however. After the first quarter, Deron Williams had 10 points and three assists and seemed to be on his way to having a night which could help carry the Nets to another surprising win. Sensing this, Doc Rivers wisely changed his defense and strapped on the aforementioned press, squeezing the life out of the Nets, one excruciating possession at a time.

Deron admitted as much after the game, saying: “It was a good move by them because the press is definitely what hurt us. The trapping took the ball out of my hands.”

The taking the ball out of his hands is a key point, because after Williams’ 10 point first quarter, he was held to just one more field goal the rest of the game. And we all know a DWillless offense is not a recipe for Nets wins.

There was more to the loss than just simply the Celtics pressing, but that one decision certainly turned the momentum in their favor, momentum in which they never gave back.

The guys over at TrueHoop’s CelticsHub take a closer look at some of the Celtics highlights from last night, which, spotlight quite well how the Nets struggled. If your stomach can handle a second viewing of some of last night’s plays, go and take a look.