After starting the fourth quarter down 15 points to the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night, the Celtics were able to stage a ferocious comeback against one of the league's top-ranked defenses. One of the driving forces behind this run was the fact that Brad Stevens went small. Via Jay King of masslive.com:
Over the final 7:10, Boston finally strung together some stops. With Jae Crowder at power forward for almost every possession the rest of the way, the small lineup outscored the Spurs, 26-14, to fight back from a 15-point deficit.
Crowder has always been one of the keys for the small ball attack that has been so successful for the C's over the past year. He was able to limit Boris Diaw down the stretch, who had been killing the C's for the first three quarters, and made some big outside shots because of all the space he had to work with. His ability to use his strength to defend stronger post players but also use his speed and athleticism to punish them on the offensive end is something that he relishes. Kings says:
Also in favor of the small lineup: Crowder, who had a weird night of perfect shooting. He took just five shots, but made them all, including a trio of 3-pointers, to finish with 15 points.
"I enjoy (playing the 4)," he said. Speaking truth, he continued, "I think last year that's what we excelled at. And I enjoy playing that position because I'm able to guard other 4s, and it's a disadvantage on their behalf when I've got the ball at my hands at the 4."
While we knew how effective the smaller lineups could be with Crowder at the four, I was blown away by how well the Celtics played when they went small down the stretch against one of the top teams in the league. With a group including Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, Evan Turner, Crowder and Amir Johnson, the C's were able to put the pressure on and eventually force Gregg Popovich to take LaMarcus Aldridge out of the game to match them in size. With the smaller lineup in place, Boston outscored San Antonio 26-14 over the final seven minutes.
While I understand that Stevens is less likely to go small as often as he did last season because of the depth in the front court, I think the fourth quarter against the Spurs was a prime example of why he needs to bite the bullet and go to it sooner. Imagine if you insert Marcus Smart into the smaller lineup over Turner once he is healthy; the defense would only get better and I don't think taking out ET would hurt the offense at all.
Is going small a better fit for the personnel of this team? Or does Stevens need to stick with more traditional lineups because of all the capable players that he has at the four and five spots?
Photo Credit: Brian Babineau/NBAE
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