SQ #25---Run Baby Run

Summer Quandaries #25
Aug 25—36 Days to camp

Run Baby Run

Any modern diehard is familiar with Heinsohn’s frequent exhortation from his commentator’s seat at the scorer’s table. I’m old enough to remember him shouting that same refrain while urging on his troops from his coach’s seat on the bench. Heck, I’m old enough to remember Tommy Gun filling the wing while Cousy led the charge up the court under the acerbic demands from Red Auerbach, “Run baby, run!”

The value wasn’t always immediately obvious. The Celtics frequently battled neck and neck through the first half. But there came a time, often late in the third quarter, when the opponent faltered and the Green ripped off three or four buckets in a row. As the legs of the opposition grew rubbery, the relentless reversal of attack became the straw that broke the camel’s back. There was something particularly disheartening about scoring and giving up the return bucket four seconds later, or even worse, not scoring and falling two points further behind before you could even get all five men back to set up the defense. No defense is good when it is only two or three players furiously backpedaling and unable to reverse their position in time as the offense changes the angle of attack. Suffering the indignity of being on the wrong end of a lay-up line after fighting tooth and nail to try to score at your end became the final nail in the coffin as the Celtics turned a tight game into a rout.

There hasn’t been much of that in recent Boston history. It is not an easy way to play the game. There is a lot of hard work that goes into
 those easy baskets. Ferocious defense, boxing out and capturing the defensive rebound, and not a millisecond lost in reversing the court and sprinting down even as the outlet pass spurs the charge. We’re talking three or four guys foregoing that sigh of relief at thwarting the opponent’s offense and not only immediately pushing off toward the other end but running at top speed rather than jogging leisurely down court to set up your choreographed play. It’s a gut check at every change of possession, and not one in which the modern player is often willing to invest. Yet it can be one of the most devastating weapons available and it doesn’t require other-worldly talent or skill, rather it turns dedication and hustle into a skill of their own.

We’ve gotten glimpses during the Big Three era, especially that first magical season. They are three years older now. Less inclined to run full tilt to the other end, more inclined to fall back on their still formidable offensive skills. And the fast break begins with the rebound and that has not been a Celtic strength these past two years. But with the addition of a booster shot of multiple seven footers on the front line this might also present an opportunity to reintroduce the easy-bucket strategy. True the front court is not constructed to make the charge down court but their task is to secure the ball and start the attack. Yes, Paul and Ray are a year deeper into the back half of their careers, but there is Rondo chomping at the bit and some new blood that might be more geared to filling the lanes of the charge.

The reserve guard corps and Marquis Daniels and Tony Gaffney at small forward are well suited to the helter skelter transition game. Might this early offense become a staple of the second unit? Can the Big Leprechaun vacuum up the rebounds and feed the outlet allowing the young guns to sweep down court on the attack? If the opposing defense can get back and stem the tide, then Shaq chugs down to set up in the low post and the offense moves on into the inside-out mode or to allow the Massive Green Mountain to screen cutters slashing to the basket. I’m sure Tommy would be going ape on the sidelines, and I’ll be grinning ear to ear at home thanking the gods for League Pass.