Nets – Bulls Game 3 Preview: Can the Nets’ Big Men continue to hit jump shots?
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?