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Atlanta/Boston & New Orleans/Phoenix Parlay Preview Article


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Atlanta Hawks vs. Boston Celtics
Friday, February 19, 2021 at 7:30 p.m. ET at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts

Atlanta vs. Good Ball-Screen Defenses

On offense, Atlanta is heavily reliant on setting a screen for its ball-handler above all for its key player, Trae Young.

It runs this type of play with the seventh-highest frequency.

Given the Hawks' reliance on screens for the ball-handler, they tend to struggle against teams that do a good job defending this type of play.

Against the teams that rank top-five in limiting PPP (points per possession) on the pick-and-roll ball-handler — the Hornets, Lakers, Celtics, Jazz, and Pelicans — Atlanta is 1-5 ATS.

In the six games that Atlanta played against those teams, it failed to reach 100 points in four.


The one exception is actually Boston, which lost to Atlanta a couple days ago. But exceptions confirm the rule, so I am confident that the same thing won’t happen twice.

Teams — like the Mavericks and Knicks — that are not so well-known for their good ball-screen defense have made adjustments against Trae Young in order to limit his efficiency in the rematch.

One thing that defenses have done is to apply more pressure to Young in order to force his teammates to try to score more points.

With Atlanta’s third-leading scorer, De’Andre Hunter, still out, forcing Young’s teammates to step up sounds like a good idea.

Celtic coach Brad Stevens is not married to any kind of tactic. He has demonstrated repeatedly his willingness to make adjustments.

The thing is, while Stevens will be more determined to produce the right tactic against Young after what just happened between these teams, he may not need to change anything at all.

Trae Young definitely benefitted from Kemba Walker’s absence. Walker is a solid defender against the ball-handler in pick-and-roll situations. He’s allowing 0.76 PPP against this play type.

After missing Wednesday’s game, Walker will be back tonight.

Having starting center Daniel Theis back in the lineup will give Boston another characteristically more effective ball-screen defender on the floor.

Theis’ interior presence will also allow Boston perimeter defenders to play more aggressively.

He is especially effective when the other team lacks well-sized big men — and Atlanta does lack them. His athleticism and mobility enable him to regularly produce good defensive ratings.

Trae Young likes lobbing it to his big men for easy baskets. Theis’ return will also help shore up the Celtic defense against those because he is regularly spoken of as a very aware team defender.

Boston Offenes vs. Atlanta Defense

Theis is also helpful to other ball-handlers like Jayson Tatum, who he allows to be a more effective finisher at the rim.

Video footage provides evidence of Theis’ helpfulness in this regard as he does things that do not show up on stat sheets.

With his versatility, Tatum is one of two Celtic players averaging over 25 points per game.

While the other one, Jaylen Brown, is listed as ‘questionable’ tonight, Boston enjoys other productive guards like Walker and upstart Payton Pritchard.

Walker will pressure Young while Young is on defense where he's notably limited by his small frame.

Pritchard has been seeing more minutes and scoring more points per game.

With these guys, scoring will be no problem against a Hawk defense that has allowed over 110 points in eight consecutive games. During this span, they allowed over 120 points five times.

Phoenix Suns vs. New Orleans Pelicans
Friday, February 19, 2021 at 8 p.m. ET at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana

An Odd First Meeting

These teams played an unusual game on February 3.

Normally, Phoenix is relatively ball-secure. It ranks fourth-best in limiting turnovers on offense largely thanks to having veteran Chris Paul at point guard.

But on February 3, Phoenix turned it over 15 times. Among many other defensive shortcomings, New Orleans isn’t even known for causing many turnovers.

Also, the Pelicans were able to rely on their three-point shooting. This reliance —the Pelicans converted 42.4 percent of their three-point attempts — is unusual because the Pelicans at that point in the season were a bad shooting team by percentage.

Pelican Offense vs. Sun Defense

While at this point the Pelicans have improved in this respect and are attempting many more three-pointers, relying on three-pointers is problematic against a Sun perimeter defense that ranks among the better teams in limiting the frequency of open and wide open three-point attempts.

The Suns are also great at running teams off the three-point line. They allow the third-fewest three-point attempts per game.

Defenders like Mikal Bridges like to guard more aggressively along the perimeter.

They play strong team defense, which is why they rank fourth-best in limiting opposing points per game, due to many factors including anchor Deandre Ayton.

Ayton will use his 7’6 wingspan to deter shots at the rim. In addition to giving more confidence to Sun perimeter defenders, he also shows strong court awareness, play recognition, communication, and comfort when defending in isolation.

In its ball-screen defense, Phoenix will switch partly because it believes in Ayton’s ability to guard the rim and opposing scorers by himself.

Based on opposing PPP, Phoenix ranks sixth-best against the ball-screen for the ball-handler, which is important because New Orleans runs a lot of this play type.

Phoenix Offense vs. New Orleans Defense

New Orleans has allowed over 120 points in four of its past five games. In the one exception, the Pelicans allowed 113 to Memphis.

The Pelicans allow one of the highest field goal percentages within five feet of the basket. But they also allow a lot of open and wide open three-point attempts.

They regularly allow the opponent’s best scorer to dominate. Recently, just to give one example, Chicago shooting guard Zach LaVine put up 46 against New Orleans.

So one Sun player who can score at will tonight is Devin Booker, who leads his team with 24.4 points per game. His monthly progression in points per game reflects his increased comfort alongside point guard Chris Paul.

In terms of three-pointers, Booker, Paul, and Mikal Bridges rank among Phoenix’s more efficient shooters behind the arc where the Suns have lately been more efficient as part of its ongoing uptick in scoring.

The Verdict

Atlanta will again fail to cover against a team featuring good ball-screen defense since Walker and Theis are back for Boston. They will combine with Tatum, especially, to threaten Atlanta’s typically bad defense.

New Orleans, like the Hawks, regularly give up a lot of points both inside and outside the arc. Expect Booker to lead a well-rounded Sun offense, which will outpace a Pelican offense that will struggle against Phoenix’ aggressive perimeter defense, rim protection, ball-screen coverage, and team chemistry.

Best Bet: Parlay Celtics -4 at -108 & Suns -2.5 at -108 at +271 with Heritage


Well-Known Member
I have a soft spot for the Celtics but recently Tatum doesn’t seem like himself. I’ve never seen him flub so many dribble moves, losing track of the ball before he even comes into contact with a defender. He’s preparing to drive, loses track of the ball, and instead of driving winds up running after wherever his hands inadvertently sent the ball. I really couldn’t see why the Celtics were force feeding Tatum the ball at the end of the last game while Brown stood idle off to the side. Now with Brown out there won’t be any choice. Maybe that is what the Celtics want, is to see if they can get Tatum enough repetitions so that he can get his rhythm back.