Welcome to the playoff version of Savvy/Shabby, where we are going to be looking at some of the smartest and dumbest plays of the NBA postseason. Here, we are going to be looking at some last second defensive decisions. First, we are going to look at Russell Westbrook and his fantastic read that lead to an easy dunk near the end of the first half of Game 1. Then, we’ll look at Carmelo Anthony and why it took him four seconds to foul Delonte West in last night’s Game 2.

Westbrook’s Read

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With the shot clock and the game clock even, the Denver Nuggets are looking to take the last shot of the half here. On this particular play, you have Raymond Felton dribbling the basketball out and Kenyon Martin coming up and setting a screen for Felton with about 12 seconds remaining.

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As Felton comes off of the screen, Nick Collison steps up, forcing Felton to pick up his dribble. When this happens, Martin pops out, looking for the pass as the safety. However, as soon as Felton picks up his dribble, Russell Westbrook reads what is going on and takes off to go and defend Martin.

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Westbrook uses his speed to get a hand on the bounce pass thrown by Felton, knocking the ball loose and creating the turnover.

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After getting the steal Westbrook is able to fly down the court and get himself a big dunk to cut the lead to one. Here is the play in real time:

This is a great read by Westbrook and very solid understanding of defensive rotations to make the play. Westbrook knows that with Felton trapped in the corner, he isn’t going to be able to get a pass off to his man all the way on the opposite side of the court. This gives him the confidence to leave his man, get the steal, and get a fast break dunk.

Carmelo’s No Foul

After the turnover by Jared Jeffries with 4.1 seconds left, the Knicks found themselves down by one with Boston holding the basketball on the side. A quick foul means that the Knicks will have a chance to get a game-tying (or winning if there are missed free throws) shot attempt. However, Anthony doesn’t commit the foul in time:

Anthony allows Delonte West to get away from him, and when he does catch the basketball in the backcourt, West is able to burn 3.5 seconds before Anthony can catch up and get the foul. A few thoughts:

  • In his post-game interview, Anthony mentioned that he just couldn’t get to West. While that was true, it is Anthony’s fault since he is the one who lets West get away from him in the first place.
  • To me, it looks like Anthony thinks he has help coming from somebody (maybe the man who is defending the inbounder?), but that help never comes.
  • After West makes the catch, Anthony’s jogging also wasted some time. Once West cuts towards the backcourt, Anthony needs to sprint to catch him and get the foul as quickly as possible.

Instead of maybe 3.5 seconds left to give the Knicks’ a chance to win the game, there was just 0.6 seconds, and the Knicks had to settle for a 3/4-court heave to try and tie the game. Not good.

With these last second plays, we are able to get a glimpse at two player’s defensive awareness. On one hand, you have Russell Westbrook who is able to recognize what is taking place in front of him. On the other, you have Carmelo Anthony failing to realize his responsibility to commit the foul, allowing for precious time to run off of the clock.

Until next time.