Despite their game 2 loss to the Bulls, the Nets showed some flashes of positives on offense. While their offense was a bit too iso-heavy, their big men, notably the Brook Lopez and Andray Blatche duo, hit several jump shots out of the pick and roll, which they did not do in game 1. The offense adjusted to the pick and roll defense played by the Bulls in Game 1 and took what the offense gave them in the second game.
This slight adjustment led to the roll man shooting 8-11 out of the pick and roll in Game 2 after the roll man took only one shot in Game 1, according to Synergy Sports. The adjustment was simple: instead of rolling to the basket after the ball screen, the screener rolled to the open space left by his defender and made himself available for the jump shot.
Here are some examples of the ball screen from Game 1. Watch the roll man dive to the basket, where he cannot find space due to the defense swarming the rim. The screener’s defender sags off of the screen to cut off any penetration, so the Bulls are conceding the jump shot, which the Nets did not take in Game 1.
In this example, Carlos Boozer does not hedge on the ball screen but sags below the screen to cut off any penetration from Deron Williams. Blatche dives right to the rim but is swallowed up by Boozer, Jimmy Butler and the rest of the help defense. Williams is forced to take a contested jump shot, which he misses.
Here are a few more examples of this from game 1. Watch as the Nets’ big men struggle to find an opening as they dive to the rim off the ball screen.
In Game 2, the screeners adjusted to find the open space instead of rolling directly to the rim. In this frame, look at where Lopez is after the screen. With Noah cutting off the penetration of Williams, Lopez rolls to the top of the key instead of the rim, where the help defense is waiting. This gives him an open jump shot, where the help defense is too small to challenge the shot or too late to cause any hindrance.
The question is whether the trio of big men can continue to hit these jump shots in Game 3 of the series. The Bulls will likely continue to defend the pick and roll this way, so the jump shots will be available out of the pick and roll. Lopez, for example, shot only 39% on two pointers longer than 16 feet during the regular season. Can he continue to knock down these open shots in the rest of the series? If he can, the Nets should feel good about their chances to win the series. If he, and the rest of the big men, struggle to hit these open shots, the Nets offense will sputter and could see repeat of their struggles in Game 2.
If the Bulls make any adjustment, I like this wrinkle added by the Wizards against the PNR defense to get an open jump shot. After the ball screen, a third teammate sets a screen for the roll man to buy a few seconds of extra time to settle himself for the jumper.
In the rest of the series, watch what the screeners do after setting the ball screen. Do they try to get to the rim or do the pop for the jump shot? Are they making these open shots or are they struggling to find success?
In the February 20 win against the Thunder, the Rockets scored 1.02 points per possession (PPP), helped by their 1.27 PPP in 11 possessions ended by the pick and roll ball handler. In Game 1, they managed only 0.78 PPP, which included 0.93 PPP in 15 possessions ended by the pick and roll ball handler. There are several adjustments that the Rockets need to make on the offensive end to help them compete in this series but a major one is how the ball handler in the pick and roll makes decisions.
In their February win, the Rockets ball handlers attacked the rim out of the pick and roll. In the nine possessions ended with a shot by the pick and roll ball handler, five of them were layups at the rim. Of these five layups, the Rockets made four of them, as they attacked the basket out of the ball screen. You can see in the following two clips how Jeremy Lin and James Harden drove to the rim instead of settling for jump shots in the regular season win.
Only two of the ten shots in Game 1 by the pick and roll ball handler ended in a layup, with the rest ending in tough jump shots. The Rockets made the two shots at the rim but their reliance on jump shots hurt their overall effectiveness out of the pick and roll. As you can see from the below clips, they choose to take long jump shots instead of slashing to the rim for closer attempts. The opportunity is there for the ball handlers to penetrate to the rim and attempt a shot at the rim but they continually choose to pull up for the jump shot.
Look at this frame from a pick and roll below. James Harden’s defender has fallen and the opportunity is open for him to slice through the lane to get to the rim, as he is isolated against Serge Ibaka. However, he takes a step back and takes a three point attempt, which he misses instead of forcing the defense to make a play. When they were aggressive in their earlier win, they had success when they challenged the big men of OKC by driving the ball to the rim. Here, Harden chooses to shoot over him instead of trying to drive by him.
Here are some additional clips highlighting this deficiency and showing the Rockets guards pulling up for jump shots instead of putting the onus on the defense to stop their dribble penetration.
The Rockets offense overall was poor in Game 1 but their decision making out of the pick and roll was especially bad. Ranked #1 in PPP in plays ended by the pick and roll ball handler in the regular season, according to Synergy Sports, their guards struggled out of this action in the opening game. A slight adjustment to their aggressiveness will make them a more dangerous offensive team and put more pressure on the Thunder.
The Rockets did show flashes of this in game one and need to show more of this aggressiveness in game two, instead of taking jump shots. It may only be an extra couple of baskets throughout the game but this could be the difference in a close game.
The Rockets need to do all they can to avoid going down 2-0 against the Thunder. This adjustment of driving the ball to the rim in the pick and roll against pulling up for long jump shots could be the key in getting some easy baskets or free throws to help their offense. The Thunder did not do anything unique on defense, so it is up to the Rockets guards to read the situation and make the proper choice coming off the ball screen. If they get back on the right track with regards to their decision making out of the pick and roll, look for their offense overall to be much improved from Game 1.
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Michigan had only an average defensive game against Michigan State, as they allowed 1.03 points per possession, but they came up big in crunch time on the last possession. They played excellent team defense, blocking one shot and forcing a tough leaner by Draymond Green to end to the game. Let’s look at the final possession and what went well for the defense.
Based on points per possession, Michigan had an average defensive game but they had several possessions where they were superb on defense. One of those was the opening possessions, as seen below. Watch how the on ball defenders move their feet to stay in front of their man, while the rest of the defense rotates relentlessly off the ball. John Beilein has historically had strong defenses and you can see why below.
Now let’s move on to the final possession. We will see some of the same characteristics of the above play, allowing the defense to be successful. The play gets going with the post entry to Green. Michigan uses Zack Novak to double on Green, allowing Austin Thornton to roam free on the perimeter. Michigan choose to take the ball out of the dangerous Green’s hands, neglecting Thornton.
Green makes a nice skip pass to the opposite wing, but Stu Douglass closes out nicely and doesn’t allow a jump shot. The ball then gets entered back into the post, this time on the opposite side to Derrick Nix.
Ohio ran a nice set from a baseline out of bounds set with one second left on the clock before halftime. It was not perfectly executed but it was effective in freeing up Nick Kellog for a three point shot just before the haltime buzzer.
The play begins with TyQuane Goard (#32) cutting toward the corner, as he pretends that he is the first option for the set. As he comes around a screen by Kellog, he circles back around to set a screen for Kellog, who is the actual option for the set.
Coming into the season, few would have believed that Pittsburgh would start the Big East season 0-5, but that is where they stand today. They looked like they would get their first Big East win today against Marquette but were outscored by ten in the second half by Marquette to lose yet again. The game came down to a Marquette sideline out of bounds play with 23 seconds left and five seconds left on the shot clock. After a missed shot by Jae Crowder, Davonte Gardner came up with a huge offensive rebound to seal the game for the Golden Eagles.
Coming out of a timeout, Marquette runs a set to get Jae Crowder a three point shot in the corner. Even though there are five seconds left on the shot clock, Crowder puts up a tough shot as he catches and shoots as he is turning after making the catch and he misses the shot.
Nasir Robinson has defensive responsibilities for Gardner but he is shaded toward Crowder as Crowder comes off the screen to the corner. Initially, it looks like Gardner is going to have a free run to the rim to grab any offensive rebound. Gardner is the 15th best offensive rebounder in the nation, as his offensive rebound rate is 16.1%.
Last season, in Jeff Bzdelik’s first season as coach of Wake Forest, there was not much positive to say about the offense. They sputtered to 97.6 offensive efficiency and rarely looked fluid as a team offense. This season, they are showing some nice signs of improvement and have raised their efficiency to one point per possession so far this season. They still have a long way to go but there have been more nice things to say about the offensive side of the ball this season.
This baseline out of bounds play midway through the second half against Maryland demonstrates the increased ability to execute on the offensive end by the Deacs. This is a nicely designed play that the three primary players run well to get an open three point shot for Chase Fischer.
Ty Walker sets the screen for Fischer and starts by cutting to the corner to act like he is the intended target on the inbounds pass. This forces Ashton Pankey to overcommit to deny the pass, taking him out of position once Walker turns to set the screen for Fischer. Travis McKie makes the first cut, coming from the left elbow all the way around the perimeter who will then be followed by Fischer using the screen from Walker.
I have harped on the poor defense by Jared Sullinger several times and it showed again down the stretch last night, as he made two mistakes that led to point by Brandon Paul to either give Illinois the lead or help them extend it late in the game. While one of the mistakes was not entirely his fault, the second one definitely was and it hurt Ohio State in their ability to close out a win.
The first play to illustrate is a Brandon Paul three point shot that came with 2:02 left and give Illinois the lead for good. Brandon Paul receives a backscreen at the elbow then runs baseline for a second screen from Meyers Leonard. Sam Thompson got caught in the backscreen, so he is several steps behind as Paul runs baseline.