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Tomase: Dissecting the 'signature shots' of five Celtics stars

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Jaylen Brown

Watch a team long enough, and it's easy to recognize the best players' go-to moves, whether it was Larry Bird's fallaway, Kevin McHale's up-and-under, Reggie Lewis's pull-up at the elbow, Paul Pierce's angular drives, or Kevin Garnett's high-arcing turnaround.

Watch a team long enough, and you know what the bench players like to do, too. Jerry Sichting leapt forward with his feet clamped together on every jumper. Sherman Douglas loved tear-drop floaters in the lane. Walter McCarty launched his 3-pointers while turning sideways with an exaggerated follow-through. Jae Crowder favored the one-handed Statue of Liberty on drives to the hole.

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The 2022 Celtics have given us plenty of signature moves, too. So let's break down five as they prepare to face the Warriors in the Finals, with apologies to Grant Williams (corner 3), Payton Pritchard (wing 3), and Marcus Smart (bully ball post-ups, weird lefty stuff) for not making the cut.

1. Jaylen Brown fallaway

This might be the most unstoppable shot on the team, if not the game.

Even when Brown wasn't shooting particularly well early in his career, he always exhibited tremendous touch on his fallaways. Now that he's an All-Star and a legitimate scorer, he has taken this shot to another level.


This example against the Bucks is typical, and comes against all-NBA defender Jrue Holiday. Brown drives hard, puts Holiday on his heels, and then stops on a dime. He often simply rises up at this point, because his pull-up game is deadly, too.

But when he picks up his dribble in traffic, it's common to see him pivot or drop step until he finds an opening before launching himself backwards and skyward. He's as explosive moving away from the hoop as towards it, and the shot basically can't be blocked. To top it off, his touch is exquisite.

Ball-handling issues might keep him from getting to his spot, but once he's there in front of a retreating defender, put it in the scorebook, because this shot is money.

2. Jayson Tatum Eurostep

The beauty of Tatum's game is you could easily pick his running floater, his side-step 3-pointer, his turnaround fallaway while swatting at a defender's hand, or his finger roll in the lane as a signature shot.

But the move that illustrates just how difficult a defensive assignment he represents is the driving layup with two huge Eurosteps and left-handed reverse finish.

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Tatum's game is all about length, and never more than when he takes a defender to the rack. At 6-foot-8, he can explode from right elbow to left side of the rim in two steps, changing direction en route. And when he extends his arms to finish, he's got the wingspan of a condor.

On this drive against an overmatched Duncan Robinson, Tatum expertly uses the rim as a shield to ward off shot blocker Bam Adebayo. The play features all the hallmarks of Tatum's game: strength, length, creativity, explosiveness, and a deft finishing touch.

3. Al Horford baby hook

This is such an old-man move, and that's a compliment. With the league trending away from straight post play and turning most centers into either lob targets or floor spacers, Horford is not averse to busting out the kind of banging on the block you might've seen from Charles Oakley in 1989 or Mark West a decade later.

This one's pretty simple: if a guard switches onto Horford, welcome to the torture chamber. Big Al will stick his butt into their hip and his left shoulder into their chest and pound away in isolation. Once he's within eight feet of the hoop, he'll loft a little right-handed hook that you just don't see much in today's NBA.

Because the Warriors often play small, expect to see some of this if Horford ends up in a switch, as he did in this clip against Brooklyn's Seth Curry. The Nets guard tried to hold his ground, but he was giving up 50 pounds. His slighter brother, Steph, should prepare for similar treatment if the Warriors end up out of position.


4. Derrick White runner

White moves like a soccer player, all short steps and changes of direction in tight space, with a nose for goal. A lot of floaters are about finding a pocket in the defense and lofting a shot out of a missile silo before contact. White's runners are different. He's looking to get right into the defender and shoot on the attack.

Five of his six baskets in a Game 5 rout of the Heat were floaters, including this beautiful spin past Duncan Robinson and over Jimmy Butler. The Celtics offense can get stagnant and jumper-heavy, but when he's on, White offers a nice change of pace in the lane.

He struggled with this shot down the stretch of the regular season, frequently back-rimming them, but he was on point over the final half of the Eastern Conference Finals, giving the Celtics a much-needed added offensive dimension.

5. Robert Williams lob

I mean, duh. It's a shame Williams' knee has limited him this postseason and will undoubtedly continue to do so in the Finals, because when healthy, he's a high-flying force.

Some players need back screens to get open for alley-oops, but not Williams. He can throw them down in traffic, not just because of how high he jumps (although that helps), but how quickly he elevates.

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The same skill that allows him to close from the lane to disrupt 3-point attempts also makes him lethal at the rim, where he can go up and get it in a fashion that's breathtaking even by NBA standards. He earns bonus points for having incredible hands that allow him to convert passes that aren't perfectly delivered.

Anthony Davis of the Lakers learned this lesson the hard way in December. The eight-time All-Star might get legitimately dunked on once a year, but Williams made him look like some kind of flightless bird.