For Savvy/Shabby this week, we are going to look at final possession play-calling. Specifically, teams that faced late game situations (with the basketball, game tied/trailing by 2 or 3 points) twice this week. The Phoenix Suns were successful both times they faced the situation this week, while the Heat failed both times they faced these late game situations.

Suns Use Misdirection And Variation To Get Two Wins

Twice this week (Sunday & Monday) the Suns were in a situation where they needed a basket. Both times, they were able to run a play that used Steve Nash as a decoy, setting up Channing Frye for the game-winning shot.

First, against Indiana with the game tied:


As soon as Grant Hill gets the basketball, Steve Nash comes off of two screens (set by Jared Dudley and Channing Frye) to meet the basketball at the top of the key.


Once Nash makes the catch, Dudley sneaks in behind Frye’s man, Josh McRoberts. Frye uses the screen to pop out towards the sideline.


After a pump fake, Channing Frye pulls up for a jumper and knocks it down. Here is the play in real time:

During this play, the Suns use Steve Nash as a decoy, and with the defense focused on him, Jared Dudley is able to sneak in and set a screen for Channing Frye.

Then, against New Jersey, down by two:


As soon as the ball goes to the trigger man, Grant Hill, Aaron Brooks dives to the corner.  As soon as Brooks clears the area, Steve Nash comes off of a screen set by Channing Frye.


As Nash continues towards the basketball, Marcin Gortat sneaks in and sets a screen for Frye, who pops out behind the three point line.


Before Frye even finishes his cut, Grant Hill has gotten the ball out of his hands, making the pass to where he knows Frye will be.


Frye makes the catch, squares up, and knocks down the three. Here is the play in real time:

This is the same concept as the play the Suns ran against the Pacers, however instead of just running the same play, they use a different set. This time, Marcin Gortat is setting the screen for Frye, who pops out at the top of the key.

The Heat Use The Same Play Twice

While the Suns used misdirection and two different plays to get good looks in late game situations, the Miami Heat had their own strategy for the two late game situations that they faced this week. In both cases the Heat, needing a three, decided to run the same play to try and set up LeBron James for the game-tying three:


Once Eddie House gets the basketball, Dwyane Wade comes off of three screens (set by Mario Chalmers, LeBron James and Chris Bosh), as if he is curling towards the basketball.


After coming off of the third screen, Wade curls it and cuts to the opposite wing. The reason he does this is to clear space for LeBron James, who comes off of a screen set by Chris Bosh. As this happens, Mario Chalmers comes to the basketball after setting a screen by Wade.


After the pass goes to James, Eddie House gets a backscreen from Mario Chalmers, looking to free up House in the corner for the three.


As House comes off of the screen, he is open for a split second. However, that isn’t the main option and LeBron James isn’t looking for it. James is already taking a dribble in the opposite direction.


James pulls up, and while there was another option (House in the corner), the primary option on this play has to be LeBron James, considering the way that he looks for his own shot right off the bat.

James’ shot on this play doesn’t even hit the rim, and while it is a decent look, Erik Spoelstra and the Heat staff have done a better job in the past getting wide-open looks. The poor result of this set didn’t stop coach Spoelstra from running the same play again Sunday versus the Knicks:

Unlike the Suns, the Heat decided to run the same exact play when faced with the same situation. It would be one thing if the play was successful the first time, but it failed. I don’t understand the logic of running a play that already failed once, especially when it isn’t run for your best three point shooter.

Even if the Heat wanted to run a play for LeBron James, I think they could have come up with something different that the opponent hasn’t scouted. You can see how successful switching things up, no matter how slightly, works towards the offense’s advantage when you watch the Suns’ two offensive sets.

Until next time.