The Celtics’ new game clock trick, explained originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Celtics have recently made waves for a game-clock trick they’ve pulled off while holding fourth-quarter leads. The maneuver isn’t totally new — Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant is known for it — but it has confused viewers and rattled opponents when Boston has used it this season.
A perfect example of the C’s trick came during Friday’s win over the Denver Nuggets. With a 13-point lead in the fourth, Jayson Tatum let the ball roll on the floor in front of him rather than taking the inbounds pass. Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon was called for a flagrant foul on the play after running over Grant Williams, who was a screener on the play alongside Al Horford.
The Celtics did it again in Sunday’s win over the Detroit Pistons, this time taking advantage of Detroit’s press defense to convert a transition bucket.
OK, but what was the point of all that?
The game clock runs continuously on made baskets before the final two minutes of the game. The shot clock, however, does not start until the ball is touched. So if the team isn’t forced to pick the ball up and start the shot clock, they can keep the ball as long as they’d like while the game clock winds down. It’s a smart strategy for teams looking to stave off their opponent’s fourth-quarter comebacks.
Our Ted Johnson and Phil Perry offered a more in-depth explanation of the Celtics’ game-clock trick on “Celtics Post Up”. You can watch that video above to learn more.
Boston also used the trick in their Oct. 21 win over the Miami Heat and their victory over the Orlando Magic the following night. During the latter, the confused referees stopped the game after Marcus Smart shaved 15 seconds off the game clock.
It might be a controversial strategy, but that won’t stop the Celtics from continuing to use it to their advantage. As long as the loophole exists, teams would be silly not to follow suit.