Offensive Staples: Portland Trail Blazers Back Screen
This offseason series will look at plays from each team that they relied on throughout the year and the variations they ran off each set. To see the rest of the series, click on the ‘Offensive Staples’ category at the end of this post.
The second set in our offseason series looks at a back screen set ran by the Blazers, which they used effectively to free their guards in open space for either a jump shot or a drive to the rim.
The play begins with a downscreen to open up the primary option, who swings the ball to the wing to a teammate who also received a downscreen. At the same time, the Blazer who made the initial pass cuts baseline to the opposite corner. In this play, Nicolas Batum is the primary option and will be receiving the backscreen, so he makes the pass to the right wing.
LaMarcus Aldridge then sets a backscreen for Batum, who flares to the left wing. This space was vacated by the cut through, which took away the help defense. This gives the Blazers an open jump shot or drive to the rim, depending on the positioning of the help defense.
The screen set by Aldridge is a combination of a back screen and a flare screen but the key aspect is that it gets the Blazer player open in the empty space. This space is free due to the cut through by the player who made the initial pass and the defender has to follow them to the opposite corner.
In the following clips, you can see how this play leads to a scoring opportunity for the Blazers. The paint remains open on this play, which gives the Blazer the option to get to the rim once they make the catch.
This play allows for a simple variation, which is just a continuation of the play, with the secondary option being the player who made the baseline cut. If the defense takes away the flare cut, the ball handler has an outlet to the corner. The player who makes the baseline cut, Damian Lilliard in the below example, continues his cut and receives a screen for an open jump shot.
As long as there is a good screen set on the baseline, the second option should be open, unless the defense over commits, leaving the screener open. In these clips, watch how the defense is positioned to take away the primary option but is still vulnerable for the corner three.
How to defend
Defending this play is about fighting through screens and positioning of the help defenders. The defender has to fight over top of the back screen, while the screener’s defender has to step back into the paint to take away the cut to the rim. If the defenders work together this way, they should be able to take away the first option. The second option is a bit trickier. The defender on the Blazer cutting baseline needs to stick to their man and avoid the screen to take away this jump shot, which is difficult to do, especially if a strong screen is set.
The best way to stop this play is to focus on taking away the primary option, as described above. The defense then needs to put ball pressure on the ball handler to make the pass to the corner difficult. If the defender of the secondary option is able to fight through the screen and quickly recover to the corner, and if the pass is off line due to the ball pressure, the defense can force a tough contested jump shot.