In case you’ve watched any NBC Sports activities Boston broadcast over the previous few seasons, you’ve most likely heard the time period “two-for-one.” That’s as a result of colour commentator and NBA champion, Brian Scalabrine, completely loves it.
The “two-for-one” is the idea of a group working to outshoot their opponent within the closing 40 seconds of 1 / 4, by taking photographs at particular factors to control the shot clock.
For instance, the Celtics will hearth up an try with roughly 32 seconds remaining in a interval to power their opponent’s shot clock to run out with sufficient time left for Boston to get a re-assessment with a good period of time remaining.
Scal loves this. It is perhaps his favourite factor. Anytime that the Cs have the ball with a possibility to go for a “two-for-one,” he’ll you should definitely gleefully level it out to both play-by-play announcer Mike Gorman or Drew Carter.
As for me, somebody who has by no means performed basketball above the high-school degree, however watches each single Celtics recreation, I really feel the identical manner concerning the two-for-one as Kramer and Newman do about Keith Hernadez.
I despise it.
In idea, the thought of strategically timing your photographs to be able to get a bonus appears easy. There are many instances when it really works out, like this:
In follow, it may be tough on the eyes. A number of the time it seems like Boston’s gamers are extra keen to accept two mediocre photographs somewhat than working to get the most effective look attainable.
Right here’s an instance:
I received so sick of watching the Celtics seemingly hearth up powerful shot after powerful shot that I made a decision to return and watch each single one among their two-for-one possibilities.
I’ve rewatched each Celtics 2-for-1 alternative
Ask me something
— Sam LaFrance (@SamLaFranceNBA) January 26, 2024
Shoutout to thehighlow.io for making it straightforward for me to go in and discover every one of many two-for-one sequences. I set the search to performs that occurred with lower than 40 seconds to go in every quarter and was capable of finding all the things I wanted.
My final objective was to see if the two-for-one was truly value the entire problem that we see virtually each recreation. To take action, there have been a number of elements that I took under consideration.
I went game-to-game and logged the opponent, quarter, shot sorts for every try, shooters for every try, the openness of every try, the time at which every try was shot, whether or not the photographs went in, whether or not the Celtics received a cease on protection, and lastly, whether or not they gained, misplaced, or tied the final 40 seconds of the given interval.
Right here’s what I discovered.
Via the February 4 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, it has been fairly uncommon for the Celtics to come back out on the flawed finish of a two-for-one. That is true in a number of methods. In the beginning, Boston has seemingly mastered the clock administration that goes into guaranteeing that they’ve received the ball with 40-30 seconds remaining.
This might have one thing to do with the big-brain basketball technique referred to as the three-for-two. That is one thing that Jayson Tatum mentioned throughout an look on The Previous Man & the Three.
It’s the identical factor because the two-for-one, simply with extra possessions.
I checked out each quarter of each recreation and located that usually the technique is mostly used within the first three quarters. In fact, within the fourth, issues are a bit completely different with the depth of the sport being depending on the rating. No group goes to try to outshoot their opponent in the event that they’ve already received the win sealed.
So, for the aim of this train, we’ll say that by way of their first 50 video games, the Cs had roughly 150 (3×50) home windows to create a two-for-one. They managed to place themselves ready to aim one in 107 completely different cases, which is about 71% of the time (*the analytics gang nods).
Of these 107 tries, Boston outscored their opponents 53 instances — just below 50% of the time. That quantity seems much better if you happen to have a look at the instances that they merely didn’t get outscored, which make up 78% of the tally.
Regardless, if you happen to’re for or towards the two-for-one, it’s powerful to argue that it doesn’t statistically give the Cs a bonus over their opponents. The maths alone ought to have the ability to inform you that. Getting two photographs as a substitute of 1 merely offers them extra alternatives to place factors on the board.
Once more, a whole lot of the pushback from the fanbase, in addition to myself, is attributable to the standard of photographs that the group will get. From a watch take a look at and reminiscence perspective, it appears like nearly all of these makes an attempt are rushed threes which are fired up only for the sake of getting an additional shot.
How true is that this?
Nicely, it’s difficult. The standard of shot that the Celtics usually get of their first try isn’t the best by way of openness. Roughly two-thirds of these makes an attempt have include a defender making a good contest. It doesn’t sound nice, but it surely’s the NBA. Getting open photographs persistently could be troublesome. Particularly if you happen to’re on a little bit of a time crunch and the protection is aware of it. On common, the Cs will hearth up their first try with about 32.7 seconds remaining within the quarter.
Boston does take a whole lot of threes within the high half of the two-for-one. To this point, 56 of their 95 shot makes an attempt have come from lengthy vary in that state of affairs (with 12 makes an attempt lacking attributable to fouls and turnovers). This shouldn’t come as a shock as a result of the Cs are the league leaders in three-point makes an attempt per recreation. The excellent news is that their most frequent shot right here has been a catch-and-shoot three, which is the most effective of its sort. Boston has made just below 40% of these photographs on the season (not restricted to two-for-one tries).
The second most frequent first shot has been break up between stepback threes and layups, each with 18 complete makes an attempt. The third most frequent has been pull-up threes, with 15 complete makes an attempt. So, the majority of the probabilities have been threes or layups, one other staple of Boston’s offensive recreation plan.
Talking of offensive staples, it shouldn’t come as a shock that Tatum has been the participant to take nearly all of these photographs. He’s taken 34 thus far, over double the entire from Jaylen Brown, who’s taken 16 as the following most frequent shooter. The shot distribution goes nearly as you’d suppose it could, with one exception.
Payton Pritchard has taken the primary shot 11 instances, the fourth most on the Celtics. This might imply just a few issues. One, it may imply that Joe Mazzulla trusts him as a shot creator and ball handler. Two, it could possibly be the primary signal of the Cs straying away from the norm in these conditions. Even when that’s the case, it nonetheless is smart attributable to that first wrinkle. Pritchard is a gifted offensive participant, so it is smart for him to be put into a spot to take photographs when the group wants a bucket.
As a group, the Celtics have transformed on 44.5% of their first two-for-one photographs. That quantity is over 3% decrease than their season-long effectivity of 47.7%. In the case of the again half of the two-for-one it will get rather less dependable. Boston’s discipline objective share drops right down to 43.9% in these spots, which is smart.
They’re taking these photographs with a mean of three.6 seconds left to play. It may be powerful to ensure that they’ll get a very good look when the clock is about to run out.
The unusual factor right here is that extra of Boston’s closing makes an attempt have been extra open than those that they’d taken about 30 seconds prior. Just below half of the 85 photographs that the Cs have fired as much as shut out quarters have been open. Of that group, 31 have been open off of the catch and 11 have needed to be created.
Catch-and-shoot makes an attempt from past the arc have remained essentially the most frequent shot kind right here with 18 complete photographs, however layups now stand alone in second place at 17. Stepback and pull-up threes spherical out the highest 4 with 14 and 12 makes an attempt, respectively.
Tatum’s workload has remained constant, as he’s taken the very same quantity of seems within the again finish of the two-for-one with 34. Pritchard has been the second most frequent shooter with 17 makes an attempt, two forward of Brown.
What do I make of all of this?
Nicely, for starters, I now not suppose that the Celtics ought to cease doing the two-for-one. The maths makes it in order that they’re in a spot to succeed and outscore their opponent to shut quarters, which — to me — is a key a part of successful basketball and as everyone knows, Mazzulla loves math, too. There’s nothing worse than constructing a lead all quarter simply to don’t have anything to indicate for it after the buzzer sounds.
If Boston can assure that they gained’t be outscored within the closing minute or so 78% of the time then they need to do it.
Now, it’s actually not good.
Seeing how the Celtics must be getting 66% of possessions within the closing minute or so, then they need to be outscoring their opponents no less than 66% of the time. However, as talked about earlier, that quantity is definitely a tick underneath 50%.
As an alternative of straying away from going for two-for-ones, they need to as a substitute be making an attempt to good it. I’m positive Mazzulla and his employees have spent a good period of time maximizing these alternatives, however their late-quarter offense does have a rushed really feel to it — even when they’re not essentially being damage by working it that manner.
Plus, a whole lot of the photographs that they’re getting are well-defended.
A method that they may accomplish that could be to create some faster actions that get Kristaps Porzingis concerned. That man is NEVER the one getting photographs throughout a two-for-one. He’s taken simply 11 complete up thus far, which is sixth most on the group, tied with Sam Hauser.
It’s unusual to see him concerned so little, regardless of being the group’s third-leading scorer at 19.7 factors per recreation. In equity, he’s missed his fair proportion of time attributable to a nagging calf pressure (and so they’re additionally making an attempt to maintain him wholesome for the playoffs). However, when he’s on the market, he must be used as a weapon in these fast units. Porzingis can simply function a roll or pop man within the pick-and-roll set, which Boston has used loads of to create threes.
He’s additionally been one of many league’s greatest out of the put up. The large Latvian has averaged 1.42 factors per put up up, which is essentially the most of any participant who posts up greater than as soon as per recreation. Why not throw in some quick actions that get him straightforward seems down low? They may do the identical for Tatum, who has additionally been glorious out of the put up this 12 months.
On the finish of the day, the two-for-one is much simpler for the Celtics than the attention take a look at would point out. They’ve carried out a wonderful job of guaranteeing that they’re not getting cooked on the finish of quarters and that’s necessary for positive. The subsequent step is to determine the most effective methods to maximise the shot high quality that they’re getting in these conditions.
Anybody taken with viewing the spreadsheet I put collectively for this may accomplish that right here: