Savvy/Shabby: ‘Reke vs. Lee

Sebastian Pruiti is TBJ’s newest contributor. Once a week, he’ll break down some of the smartest and dumbest plays the NBA has to offer. Enjoy…

How’s it going everyone? My name is Sebastian Pruiti and I run the blog NBA Playbook, where I take a look at the Xs and Os of the NBA game daily. The guys here at The Basketball Jones were kind enough to let me break things down on a weekly basis here in 2011 with a post that will take a look at look some of the best and worst plays of the week. We’ll call it Savvy/Shabby.

This week, we are going to take a look at a heads-up play that Tyreke Evans made, leading up to his incredible buzzer beater. On the other end of the spectrum, David Lee made a boneheaded play against the Miami Heat, allowing them to hit the game-clinching three with about four minutes left.

Savvy: Tyreke Evans’ Trap

After the Kings went for the quick two when trailing by three points, Sacramento found themselves down by one point with 22.2 seconds left. Since there are under 24 seconds left, the Kings either have to force a turnover or foul to get the basketball back. Sacramento decided that they wanted to try and get a quick steal, and if they were unable to get it, they would foul.  This is where Tyreke Evans made one of the smartest plays that I have seen this year.


A new rule in the NBA allows teams to inbound the ball to players in the backcourt with under two minutes left. Here, the Grizzlies were determined to take advantage of this rule. As soon as the ball gets handed to the trigger man, Mike Conley (the man that Tyreke Evans is covering) sprints on a straight line to the backcourt to try and get open.


As Conley continues to head into the backcourt, O.J. Mayo flashes to the basketball.  Despite Conley being wide open, the ball gets inbounded to Mayo along the sideline, leaving Conley standing in the backcourt.


Now, the problem with sending a player to the backcourt is that if it gets inbounded into the frontcourt, the player in the backcourt is now out of the play until he gets back in the frontcourt. This is because once the player in the front court establishes possession, he can’t throw it into the backcourt because if he does, it would be a backcourt violation. This means that Conley is no longer a factor, until he gets back across the halfcourt line.


What makes this a savvy play for Tyreke Evans is that he immediately recognizes this, notices that Conley continues to stand in the backcourt, and goes to trap the basketball. He does this knowing that the ball can’t go to the man that he is leaving.


Evans gets there in time to trap Mayo, gets his hand on the basketball, and comes away with the steal. Here is the play in real time:

When I saw this play live, I thought this was just O.J. Mayo being loose with the basketball. Rewatching it, you realize just how smart of a play Evans makes.

Shabby: David Lee Saving The Ball Under His Own Basket

The Golden State Warriors had up to a 20-point lead against the Miami Heat, but the Heat were able to come back and take the lead in the fourth quarter. With the game still close — at this point, the Warriors trail by just four points — we saw David Lee make a play that high school players are taught not to make:

As LeBron James drives to the basket against the Golden State zone defense, the Warriors are able to get a good contest on the shot. It looks like David Lee is going to grab the rebound, but he loses control of the ball and is forced to chase it as it starts bouncing out of bounds.

This is where Lee makes his dumb play as he tries to save the ball under his own basket, something that you never do. The reason why you never do it is because when you save the ball under your own basket, your pass isn’t going to be the most accurate, and there is a good chance that it will end up in the other team’s hands. Plus, you are taking yourself out of the play and putting your defense at a disadvantage. That is exactly what happens here. Look at the Warriors defense after Lee’s save:


You have two defenders (with David Lee, the third, trying to get back on the court) trying to stop four Heat players. The result is a wide-open three for Mario Chalmers, who knocks it down, effectively clinching the game for the Heat.

As you can see, NBA players make smart plays and not so smart plays, just like everyone else. That’s the sort of thing we’ll be covering in Savvy/Shabby. Until next week.