How effective a team is at scoring off of an out-of-bounds play often gets lost in the shuffle, unless one of those plays ends up leading to a game-winning shot, as it did for the Celtics in their thrilling last-second win against the Miami Heat Saturday night.
Before the Celtics lost to Charlotte, 89-83, Wednesday night at TD Garden, coach Brad Stevens downplayed how much emphasis he puts on those kinds of plays.
“I don’t know if I’m different than any other coach,” he said.
But those who worked with him at Butler said that out-of-bounds plays were one of his specialties.
“Being able to score out of those situations was real important,” said former Butler assistant Micah Shrewsberry, who is now in the same role with the Celtics.
“The defense wasn’t set. They’re not sure what’s going to happen. That was a place where you could be unique.”
Shrewsberry said out-of-bounds plays in basketball are similar to special teams in football in that they can provide a hidden edge, one that Stevens valued highly.
And the mindset at Butler under Stevens, according to Bulldogs assistant Michael Lewis, was, “We want to win that part of the game and we want to score more on the special situations.”
Former Butler forward Matt Howard recalled the team’s unusual success on those plays.
“If we had a timeout before, he and our coaching staff were about as good as anybody that I’ve played for at drawing something up from something they’d seen,” Howard said. “We have to go out there and execute, but they were almost always right on the money.”
Howard added that because Butler was in so many close games, their ability to score on out-of-bounds plays was crucial to the team pulling out so many close wins.
Stevens did say that he’s always studying basketball games for such plays.
“Every night, I turn on the TV like anybody else and lay down in bed and watch whatever game is on,” he said, “and many times I’ve taken something from one of those games whether they be college games or pro games or even when I was recruiting, I could go to a high school game and you see a neat little wrinkle that somebody is running on an out-of-bounds play.
“You’re always watching the game like that now.”
If he sees something he likes, he said he’ll add it to a database of such plays that he keeps on his laptop.
“Maybe you just look at that on a plane ride or look at that before a game and you think like it might be efficient or effective against whoever you’re playing,” Stevens said.
Forward Jared Sullinger sat out the game with a bone bruise in his right knee, which an MRI revealed Tuesday afternoon.
Sullinger suffered the injury in the second quarter of the Celtics’ win Monday night against Orlando, when he took a charge from Magic forward Maurice Harkless.
Sullinger is still day-to-day.
Forward Kris Humphries, who had played in limited minutes in half of the Celtics’ eight games entering Wednesday night, was tabbed to fill in for Sullinger off the bench.
He had 1 point and no rebounds in 10 minutes.
Of playing a limited role this season, Humphries said, “It’s tough for anybody, there’s other guys on this team. It’s a team effort. It’s not about me. It’s about everyone staying ready and contributing, being ready when their time is called to help the team.”
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge spent Tuesday night in Chicago, where he was among many NBA executives attending college games featuring three top-flight freshmen who are expected to be lottery picks in the 2014 NBA draft.
The games featured No. 2 Michigan State against No. 1 Kentucky and then No. 5 Kansas against No. 4 Duke.
In the first game, Kentucky’s 6-foot-9-inch, 250-pound freshman forward Julius Randle scored 27 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in his team’s 78-74 loss to the Spartans.
But the second game was the one that had NBA executives drooling, as it pitted Kansas 6-8 swingman Andrew Wiggins against Duke 6-8 forward Jabari Parker, who figure to be the top two players drafted in 2014.
Kansas won, 94-83, but both players were impressive: Wiggins scored 22 points and had eight rebounds; Parker scored 27 and had nine rebounds.
“[Incoming NBA commissioner] Adam Silver and the NBA league office’s marketing executives are smiling because those two young people will be able to move right into place when LeBron James and Kevin Durant are needed to be replaced,” an Eastern Conference scout said of Wiggins and Parker.
The scout added that Parker reminds him of a young Grant Hill or Joe Johnson and that Wiggins could become better than as Golden State guard Andre Igudola but not better than James, the Miami Heat star.
Stevens was asked about those players before the game, but he declined comment, as NBA officials are not permitted to publicly comment on underclassmen.
Wednesday marked the nine month anniversary of Rajon Rondo’s surgery to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee . . . Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli sat courtside and received a loud ovation in the first quarter when he was recognized on the JumboTron.
Baxter Holmes can be reached at email@example.com.