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Boston Celtics Receiving Attention for New Game Clock Trick

The Celtics have debuted a savvy trick...but it’s sure to come with controversy.

Denver Nuggets v Boston Celtics Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics are earning praise for a time-wasting trick they’ve discovered...or at least been the first to excessively exploit.

The move, used by Boston this season against the Denver Nuggets and Orlando Magic, was highlighted in a recent piece for CBS Sports by Jack Maloney. The tactic isn’t rocket science — Boston is taking advantage of a simple loophole.

Prior to the final two minutes, the game clock runs continuously on made baskets. However, the shot clock for a possession does not begin until the ball is touched. In theory, then, a team could keep the ball for minutes at a time if they are not forced to pick it up and initiate the shot clock.

While we’ve seen a player utilize this loophole before, the Celtics are the first team to take the tactic to the next level. On this play from Friday’s game against the Nuggets, Jayson Tatum lets the ball roll in the backcourt, while Al Horford and Grant Williams set up as blockers. It looks more like Capture the Flag than basketball and the Celtics are puppy-guarding like that annoying kid you remember from fourth grade. The play ends with Aaron Gordon blowing up the action with a flagrant foul. And honestly, I can’t blame him.

The Celtics also pulled the move in the fourth quarter of a 126-120 win against the Magic on Oct. 26. After Marcus Smart drained the clock for 15 seconds, the refs got confused and blew the play dead.

While some are praising the strategy, including Maloney, who called it “just smart basketball,” this writer says “nay!” I’m all for a player being clever and letting the ball drift until pressure comes, but the second multiple blockers enter the frame, it feels dishonest to the game. This can’t be what Dr. Naismith intended and I hope some sort of rule change comes soon if Boston continues to play Capture the Flag and puppy-guard.