How Michigan’s defense stifled Michigan State on the last possession
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.
Tim Hardaway, Jr. rotates from the right side over the paint over to Nix, to cut off his path to the rim. Michigan gets a bit lucky as Nix fumbles the ball but Hardaway was there to challenge Nix if he was able to get a shot off. Michigan now has a double team on the opposite post and the Spartans are wasting precious time.
After another kickout, Michigan closes out well again, forcing Keith Appling into a tough drive to the rim. Jordan Morgan steps up in help defense and blocks the shot of the smaller Appling. This is great recognition by Morgan, as he had to react quickly to the drive after being part of the double team on Nix in the post.
Michigan State recovers the blocked shot but Michigan is not doing playing defense. The offense is a bit rattled, which allows Michigan to ratchet up the pressure. The last nice thing they did on this possession was by Hardaway. After scrambling across the paint back to Thornton, he sees Brandon Wood dribbling toward him. He recognizes that he can step off Thornton and try to get a hand on the ball.
Hardaway does break up the drive by Wood but Wood is still able to get the ball to Green on the wing. Hardaway’s defense not only took away the drive by Wood, but forced a bad pass to Green, who could only juggle the ball before securing it. Now, there are now only four seconds left and Green has to rush his move to the basket.
With only four seconds left, Green has to hurry and is only able to make it to the free throw line before he has to put up a tough runner, which doesn’t drop. Michigan’s great team defense is on display here, as they stay in front of the ball, force the ball out of the best player’s hands and rotate beautifully to not allow any open jump shots.
The closeouts on this play will make Beilein smile when he watches the tape. Twice Michigan State kicked the ball to the perimeter and twice the Michigan defenders showed textbook closeouts, forcing the action toward the help defense. The help defense was up to the task, forcing two tough shots on this possession and locking down a big conference win.