You've Been Trapped: C's Shut Down Stars

BOSTON – Being trapped is never an enjoyable experience. Especially when it’s by the Boston Celtics.

Doc Rivers and his coaching staff have altered Boston’s defensive schemes to employ the “trap” more often than not. The Celtics are now blitzing the opposing team’s top player, which removes his ability to dictate the offense.

“I’ve been talking about it a lot and over the past seven games it’s been paying dividends for us,” Rivers said of his team’s trapping. “It’s been terrific.”

Deron Williams

Boston's trapping defense frustrated Deron Williams back on Nov. 28 in TD Garden.
Elsa/NBAE/Getty Images

Well, maybe for the Celtics. For the opponents? Yikes.

Boston’s traps have accomplished just about every goal they have set out for. The team is using its athletic big men, most notably Kevin Garnett, as the blitzer on the traps and opponents simply haven’t been able to handle it.

The effectiveness of Boston’s traps is astounding. Over the past seven games, they have been used to take out the following list of top opposing playmakers: Deron Williams, LaMarcus Aldridge, Monta Ellis, Kevin Love, Jrue Holiday (twice) and O.J. Mayo. Three of those players score 20 points per game and they combine to average 19.1 PPG this season.

How have they fared against Boston’s trapping defense? Those six players combined to average 16.7 PPG, 38.9 percent shooting from the field, and 22 percent shooting from 3-point range.

Like we said: Yikes.

Boston, on average, is limiting their opponents’ top scorers to below their season scoring average and every point that is scored by those players is difficult to come by.

“Well we’re just trying to take out their guy, instead of letting him come off the picks like everybody does, including us, in the past,” Rivers said.

Boston’s new trapping system is geared more toward guards than big men. It’s no coincidence that four of the six players on that list above are playmaking perimeter players. This is a perimeter-oriented league, so if you can’t stop perimeter players, you’re probably going to lose in the long run.

“Everyone used to show, or ‘ice,’ on pick-and-rolls, and I think the guards have just kind of gotten used to it and they come off, they string guys out, they play the game and then the big [rolls] or they attack and make a play,” Rivers said. “We’ve just decided, ‘Let’s not wait anymore. Let’s just get it out of his hands.’”

Such a plan wouldn’t even be possible if the Celtics weren’t blessed with the necessary talent. Luckily for them, nearly their entire frontline is composed of athletic big men. Garnett, Brandon Bass and Chris Wilcox are widely known for their athleticism. Jared Sullinger isn’t known as the most fleet of foot, but his basketball IQ makes up for his lack of lateral quickness.

Regardless of athleticism or smarts, this is, to say the least, a difficult task for Boston’s big men.

“It’s asking the bigs to do a lot,” said Rivers. “They’re out trapping at the 3-point line and then they have to run back and find the (other team’s) big (on a rotation).”

Set your DVR for the next Celtics game, and when it’s over, go back and watch a few of Boston’s traps. This is a much more integrated task than one might see with the naked eye.

The actual two-man trap is vital to a successful defensive play, but it isn’t the only component. If the other three players on defense, most notably the big man on the other side of the court, don’t operate as a unit, the offense will likely find a layup.

“It’s very important on the ball, but the opposite big is the key to the whole thing,” Rivers explained. “He has to be in the right spot.”

That man has typically been either Bass or Sullinger over the past seven games, and they’ve clearly been executing. The same cannot be said for the top playmakers who have faced off against Boston over the past seven games.

Rivers has called an audible in Boston’s schemes, and let’s just say he hit the hot route. It’s no fun being trapped by the green and white.