I was really impressed Monday night with how the Celtics slowed down Ben Simmons and I wanted to dive into their strategy a bit. Of course, great minds think alike and Ben Falk over at Cleaning the Glass beat me to the punch and released this great article yesterday.
The strategy the Celtics deployed is what is called “Loading to the Ball” (or “Shadow”). The concept was popularized by the Doc Rivers/Tom Thibodeau Boston Celtics defenses of the mid 2000’s. In order to stop the great transition point guard (in this case, Philly’s Ben Simmons), the defensive big sprints to get ahead of the ball and shows his body to prevent middle penetration by the ball-handler (effectively “building a wall”). A trailing big who can really shoot it can hurt this tactic, but as you can see in the video below, the strategy still allows the defender to get out to a proper closeout. The defensive bigs’ positioning in the gap ahead of the ball allows him “One Way Out” movement in that he’s not moving in to help on penetration and then moving back out, rather he’s already positioned to stop penetration and he just moves in one direction to closeout.
This would be a great video to show to your players. Ask your players to watch the constant pointing/talking being done by all 5 guys in a Celtics uniform. Also have them pay attention to the last 2 clips that aren’t examples of the “Post Shadow” that’s discussed above, but it’s unbelievable effort by 5 players to get ahead of the ball and make Simmons see bodies in transition.