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Saturday, June 8, 2024

Behind the scenes of scouting Luka Doncic at Celtics apply

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BOSTON — Defending Luka Doncic takes a group effort. There is no such thing as a singular answer to slowing down the Dallas Mavericks star. However in Sport 1 of the NBA Finals, the Boston Celtics discovered one thing that labored.

Boston switched every little thing, guarding Doncic straight up and selecting to remove the passes he normally generates. Dereck Full of life II and Daniel Gafford’s lob recreation was eradicated, and the Celtics took away nook threes as effectively. “They’re a scrappy group defensively,” Gafford stated at apply on Saturday.

The Celtics have been tirelessly prepping to protect Doncic’s distinctive model of play, and assistant coach DJ MacLeay’s scouting has been a focus of their efforts.

“I’m certain it was a collective effort, however coach DJ MacCleay has been type of main that cost,” Sam Hauser revealed at apply on Saturday.

However MacLeay is doing extra than simply scouting.

In Dallas’ heliocentric offense, Doncic is the solar, and the remainder of the group revolves round him. At Celtics apply, MacLeay and Svi Mykailiuk are the suns.

“He’s actually been Luka,” Xavier Tillman advised CelticsBlog at apply. “He’s been Luka. Him and Svi [Mykhailiuk].”

Celtics assistant coach DJ MacLeay (left) and Svi Mykhailiuk (proper).
Picture by Chris Marion/NBAE through Getty Pictures (left) and Richie LeMay of CLNS Media (proper)

Each have been important in Boston’s apply routine, however Mykhailiuk has taken to the position of Doncic a bit extra naturally.

“What? Svi,” Tillman stated with fun when requested who has been the higher Doncic. “Svi’s acquired recreation. Svi’s good. Svi’s actually good.”

That stated, MacLeay has perfected a few of Doncic’s strikes, too.

“He loves the bump. He [has] bump spin,” Tillman stated of MacLeay. “You understand how Luka is admittedly good at rolling off defenders? D-Mac acquired that locked down.”

MacLeay has labored carefully with Tillman and a lot of different Celtics gamers this yr, notably the large males.

Earlier than video games, MacLeay, Tillman, and participant growth coach Jermaine Bucknor compete in one-on-one drills the place the coaches try to attain on Tillman. The trio’s competitiveness all the time shines by means of as they preserve rating. Tillman’s competitions with the coaches have been part of his routine since he joined the Celtics forward of the commerce deadline.

“I really feel like that’s one thing that I stay up for after I come into the health club, and I’ve my particular person time on the court docket, is to get with these guys and do aggressive stuff,” stated Tillman. “Being a dad at dwelling, there’s not lots of time the place you get to be aggressive, so after I get to be aggressive, I like it.”

MacLeay’s meticulous scouting of Doncic and the Mavs and subsequent performing gig in apply have been essential to Boston’s defensive recreation plan within the NBA Finals.

“DJ’s been nice for us,” stated Al Horford. “Simply very clear along with his ideas [and] what he needs us to do. Simply type of creating how he needs us to execute issues. And I really feel like our group, we’ve clearly purchased in, and we’re actually locked in and attempting to do it the perfect we will.”

2024 NBA Finals - Game One

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Picture by Adam Glanzman/Getty Pictures

Doncic scored 30 factors in Sport 1, however he solely dished out one help and created simply six potential assists. It’s the fewest assists Doncic has had in a recreation all season.

Combined in with a number of possessions of drop protection when Kristaps Porzingis was on the ground, the Celtics pressured Doncic into taking part in one-on-one with little or no room to arrange his teammates.

“They did their job effectively,” stated Mavs ahead Derrick Jones Jr. “They protected the rim how they’re presupposed to. They sat down on our bigs’ legs, so we couldn’t get our lobs off.”

Dallas’ lack of lobs was staggering. On their street to the Finals, they transformed 57 alley-oops— fifteen greater than the following 4 groups mixed. They averaged over three per recreation, but in opposition to the Celtics, they’d none.

An enormous a part of Boston’s skill to forestall the Mavericks’ alley-oop offense was placing Tatum on Full of life and Gafford. Having him in that spot permits the Celtics to modify when both of Dallas’ bigs set a display for Doncic, stopping them from rolling to the rim.

However that plan additionally requires stable rebounding, and Tatum was a monster on the glass in Sport 1, snagging 11 boards, together with 9 on the defensive finish.

The MacLeay and Mykhailiuk-led Doncic prep takes up an enormous chunk of apply. “I really feel like, it’s most likely like, if it’s an hour, it’s most likely like 20 minutes,” Tillman stated of Celtics apply. “Most likely a 3rd of it’s the protection.”

However rebounding has additionally been a significant focus.

“An enormous portion [of practice] truly is rebounding for us,” stated Tillman. “Like, I believe Joe is admittedly distinguished on not giving up second-chance factors. Particularly watching the playoffs, you’ll see groups with, like, not large leads, however respectable leads, and so they’ll hand over an offensive rebound [and a] three, and the group shall be proper again in it.

“Like, ‘see, they may have gotten the board and killed the entire recreation, however as an alternative, they gave it up.’ So, that’s what we work on so much. Simply completely different boxout drills and stuff like that.”

2024 NBA Finals - Dallas Mavericks v Boston Celtics

Picture by Brian Babineau/NBAE through Getty Pictures

The style wherein Boston guarded Doncic took greater than particular person defenders. He shot 4/6 in opposition to Jaylen Brown and 5/7 in opposition to Porzingis, however the Celtics’ collective protection restricted his effectiveness.

Swap protection is barely as sturdy as a group’s weakest defender. In Sport 1, Doncic handled Horford as his main dart board, concentrating on him at any time when he acquired the prospect. However his plan failed.

The Slovenian famous person shot an abysmal 1/8 in opposition to Horford. He additionally shot 0/2 in opposition to Payton Pritchard and 0/1 in opposition to Hauser. After Sport 1, Jrue Vacation praised the latter two. “Even our white guys guard,” he stated.

If the Celtics plan to make the most of this similar defensive model shifting ahead, everybody who touches the court docket must be performing on the similar customary on that finish.

“He’s most likely our greatest defender, so listening to that’s fairly empowering,” Hauser stated of Vacation’s remark. “Actually, all you’re attempting to do is make it as arduous as you’ll be able to on a man like [Luka]. He’s so good. He’s going to make some powerful pictures even should you do play actually good protection.

“It’s a must to understand it’s going to occur and simply need to have a next-play mentality when it comes to that. We have been actually related final recreation, and we’ve to proceed to be that approach.”

Doncic’s outbursts are inevitable. He led the Mavs on a 31-12 run to chop Boston’s as soon as 29-point lead right down to eight within the second and third quarters of on Thursday night time. However the Celtics’ protection stopped him from taking part in the sport on his phrases and held Dallas to simply 89 factors in Sport 1.

MacLeay and Mykhailiuk aren’t Doncic, however primarily based on Boston’s profitable Sport 1 defensive efficiency, they’ve been doing one thing proper in apply.

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