For this week’s Savvy/Shabby we are going to look at some late game execution, specifically, late game passing. First, we are going to look at a great post entry pass by Deron Williams that set up Brook Lopez for an easy hook. Second, we are going to look at how a poor pass from Dirk Nowitzki late in the 4th quarter led to a turnover, and eventually, a Mavericks’ loss.

Deron Williams’ Post Feed

With the New Jersey Nets leading the Boston Celtics by two points with 1:30 remaining, Deron Williams brought the ball down the court as Avery Johnson called a play to get the basketball to Brook Lopez in the post. As the play develops and the ball winds up in Williams’ hands, he makes a terrific bounce pass that allows Lopez to catch and make a move all in one motion:


Williams brings the basketball down the court and enters it to Anthony Morrow on the wing. After making the pass, Williams cuts to the block, getting a downscreen from Kris Humphries.


After getting to the block, Williams comes up to the opposite elbow and sets a downscreen for Brook Lopez. Lopez comes off of that screen and posts up on the ball side.


After Williams sets his screen, he gets a pindown screen from Kris Humphries, allowing him to flash to the top of the key, where he gets the basketball.


After making the catch, Kris Humphries comes over and sets a ballscreen for Williams. As this is happening, Lopez moves with the basketball, looking to post up his man on the ball side block.


As Lopez starts posting up, he sticks out his left hand, showing Williams where he wants the basketball.


Williams recognizes where Lopez wants it, and throws him a pass that leads him towards the baseline. The pass does such a good job of leading him that Lopez starts to make his move before the ball even arrives.


When Lopez does make the catch, he is already in the middle of his move towards the baseline. This is important, because as you can see, Kevin Garnett and the rest of the Celtics were trying to double team Lopez on the catch.


However, since Lopez was already in the middle of his move when he makes the catch, all he has to do is finish his move and make the hook shot. This happens so quickly that Garnett can’t get the double team there in time. Here is the play in real time:

This is a great play by Avery Johnson, bringing Lopez to one side and then the other to get him the ball on the block, but if Deron Williams throws a bad pass to Lopez, the play doesn’t work. Williams does a great job of throwing a sharp bounce pass that led Lopez right into his move, helping him to avoid a double team and score a basket in the process.

Dirk Nowitzki’s Poor Pass

On the other end of the spectrum, the Dallas Mavericks found themselves trailing the Los Angeles Lakers by four points with 1:30 left. The Mavericks run a pretty nice set that ends up placing the ball in Dirk Nowitzki’s hands.

Dirk Nowitzki got the basketball and made a move. Instead of taking a shot or making a good pass, Nowitzki ended up sending the ball out of bounds. Now, I have a few problems with Nowitzki’s decision:

  • Nowitzki does a good job of attacking the middle and then spinning to create space for himself. However, as he goes to rise up he spots Tyson Chandler underneath, so he passes it. While the pass to Chandler is a good one in theory, it isn’t smart because of what Nowitzki usually does in that situation — shoot the basketball. Tyson Chandler, like the rest of us, is expecting Dirk to take a shot there. He has made this type of shot (spinning, leaning, and falling away) so many times, that this is actually a fantastic look for the Mavericks. With Chandler expecting a shot, he is actually in the middle of boxing out his man, Pau Gasol. Because he’s is boxing out his man expecting a shot, there is no way that he is anticipating Nowitzki’s pass. When it’s made, it sails over Chandler’s head, out of bounds.
  • Another reason why this pass doesn’t work is because of the type of pass. It is a looping pass that has an arc similar to Nowitzki’s shot. Even if Chandler recognizes that the ball is going up, he is thinking that it is a shot and is waiting for it to come off the rim. Because it is a pass, that never happens.

When Dirk Nowitzki gets the basketball in the middle of the paint, it is a situation where you expect the Mavericks to come away with a basket. However, against the Lakers Nowitzki turned down a great look (for him), and tried to make a perfect pass. It didn’t work, and the Mavericks ended up losing the game.

Late in games, there is a tendency to look at the sets run and the final shot, and not even consider the fact that it takes a very good pass to execute properly. These two plays are a nice reminder that passing is just as important as play-calling and shot-making in late game situations. Until next time.