PHILADELPHIA — It’s not clear if Brian Scalabrine is ready to retire yet, but he’s already in preparation for his next career.
Comcast SportsNet New England, which broadcasts Celtics games, hired Scalabrine to provide pre-and postgame analysis during the Celtics-Sixers series. So, there he was, in a suit at TD Garden on Saturday, talking about the Sixers just 48 hours after Philly had eliminated his own Chicago Bulls.
The former Celtic got a huge ovation from the Garden crowd when he was shown on the Jumbotron on Saturday. But Scalabrine’s finest moment of this postseason came after Game 3, when he asked Rajon Rondo one of the smarter questions you’ll ever hear in a postgame press conference.
“The adjustment on the side pick and roll,” Scalabrine said, “you guys went to the ‘ice’ or the ‘down,’ or whatever you guys use in your terminology. Do you like that better than going over the top with the ‘show’?”
“I like it better,” Rondo replied. “I don’t think they do. Their offense, we watched the first couple of games, they got into the paint pretty good on the side pick and rolls. And it led to corner threes, it led to the high-low. I think we took a clip from you guys. You guys ‘iced’ a lot of the side pick and rolls in that series, and I think they struggled offensively. I think we did a good job tonight. The bigs did a great job talking, and guards kept fighting over, even when they did step up and set the side pick and roll.”
OK. So what the heck does it mean to “ice” a pick-and-roll?
“Icing” is when the ball-handler’s defender prevents the ball-handler from going in the direction of the screen and forces him baseline instead.
As Rondo explained, on side pick and rolls in Games 1 and 2, the Sixers were getting past the screener’s defender and into the paint too often. Here are a few examples from Game 2…
Play 1 – Lou Williams runs a left side pick and roll with Spencer Hawes. Avery Bradley gets screened and Brandon Bass leaves Williams before Bradley can recover. A little hesitation move gets Bass to retreat, and Williams gets into the paint for an easy runner.
Play 2 – Andre Iguodala runs a right side pick and roll with Thaddeus Young. Paul Pierce gets screened and Bass gives Iguodala plenty of space to split the defenders and get into the paint. When the Boston defense collapses, Iguodala finds Jrue Holiday in the corner for a wide-open 3-pointer.
Play 3 – Holiday runs a right side pick and roll with Hawes. Ray Allen gets screened and Ryan Hollins allows Holiday to drive right by him for a layup.
So that’s why the Celtics decided to send the Sixers in the other direction on those side pick-and-rolls. Now, “icing” isn’t easy. As Rondo noted, the big man needs to let the guard know that the screen is there, and the guard has to quickly slide into position to force the ball-handler toward the baseline.
On a few side pick-and-rolls in Game 3, the guard simply wasn’t able to get in position quickly enough. Still, the Boston bigs did a better job of containing the ball-handler in most cases.
But here are a few examples of the Celtics “icing” the Sixers’ side pick-and-rolls in on Wednesday…
Play 1 – Lavoy Allen comes over to set a screen for Holiday, but Ray Allen pushes Holiday baseline and Hollins contains the dribble. Holiday then finds Lavoy Allen at the top of the key for an open jumper.
Play 2 – Evan Turner and Hawes attempt to run a side pick and roll, but Bradley pushes Turner the other way and Bass traps him. Turner gets the ball to Hawes, who finds Holiday open in the corner, because Rondo gets caught admiring Bradley’s “icing” technique. Kevin Garnett has to help on the man that Rondo lost and Pierce ends up fouling Garnett’s man under the glass.
Play 3 – Allen starts to come over to set a screen for Williams, but Rondo is already pushing Williams baseline. Bass doesn’t contain Williams, but the Celtics still get an off-balance shot from Elton Brand on the play.
Now, the results of those three plays weren’t exactly great for the Celtics. And in fact, Game 3 was the Sixers’ most efficient offensive game of the series. But in each of the three plays above, the Sixers got a worse shot than they did in the three plays from Game 2. And the foul in Play 2 was a result of a separate defensive breakdown.
Look for the Celtics to keep “icing” those side pick and rolls in Game 4 on Friday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN). The Sixers can get better shots out of it by quickly swinging the ball to a shooter or attacker on the weak side, where the Celtics will be outnumbered.