Celtics Game Plan for the Korver Challenge

ATLANTA – Kyle Korver is no Kevin Durant, but in some ways, the Boston Celtics are treating him as such.

Ahead of Tuesday night’s matchup between the C’s and the Hawks, Brad Stevens touched on just how dangerous Korver is at the offensive end of the court.

“He averages [12.9] points per game, right?” Stevens asked before Tuesday morning’s shootaround. “But you go into the game and you have to treat him like he averages 30, or else it could be 30.”

That’s how great of a shooter Korver is. Leave him open, and it’s points on the board.

Korver enters tonight’s game having made 55.3 percent (42-of-76) of his 3-pointers on the season. To put that into context, no Celtics player who is averaging more than 15 minutes a game is shooting better than 53.3 percent from the field, let alone from 3-point range.

In short, 3-pointers are like layups for Korver. The odds are actually against the possibility of him missing from long range.

It’s no secret that such shooting puts stress on a defense. The Celtics will be forced to make some difficult decisions when it comes to game planning for Atlanta’s shooting guard. Korver can burn an opponent regardless of how much attention he’s given on the court.

“He presents a whole lot of challenges in his cuts, how much attention you give him off his cuts, and how much he opens up for everybody else,” Stevens said.

“It’s difficult, because, are you comfortable with him taking a late contested shot? Probably not,” the coach later added. “But if you put three guys on him, he’s a really good passer off those screens.”

Clearly, there’s a tightrope one must toe while defending Korver. No one wants to to leave him open, but no one wants to overcompensate for him and throw off the rest of the defense.

Avery Bradley knows a thing or two about toeing that line. He's had the unenviable task of guarding Korver at times over the past four seasons. Bradley stated on Tuesday that one of the greatest challenges in defending Korver is maintaining discipline.

“When you go and try to help crash on the defensive rebounds and they kick it out for a 3, that’s the hardest thing,” Bradley said, “because you have to kind of be disciplined and never leave him. And it’s hard throughout a game, because obviously you’re playing and you’re not always worried about your guy. You’re trying to help your teammates out.”

Bradley noted that Korver, like most elite shooters, is very smart. He has tricks up his sleeve to take advantage of lapses in opposing defenses.

The Celtics witnessed similar tricks on Sunday when Danny Green, another elite 3-point shooter, somehow got open for nine 3-point attempts against Boston. He hit four of those attempts and was a big reason why Boston’s first-half lead over the defending champs disappeared.

“We lost Green on several occasions in the second quarter and it kept what would have been a nine-point lead, it cut it back down to three,” said Stevens. “We can’t do that. We can’t have that happen today (against Korver).”

Or else.

Korver is the kind of shooter who makes opponents pay. No one will mistake him for Durant, but he’s certainly capable of filling it up. Leave him open, and it’s points on the board.

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