One of my favorite college basketball blogs is a site called The Mikan Drill, a site that looks at the Xs and Os of the college game. Something that they have been over there since the season has ended was Season Leftovers, looking at some great sets over the course of the college season. An idea so good, that I decided to bring it over here during the NBA offseason.
In my opinion, post timeout playcalling really proves your Xs and Os knowledge as a head coach. You usually call a timeout because the other team is making a run and you need a bucket or because the game is close late and you need a basket to take the lead or put the game away. Needing a basket, you are more likely to run your best stuff, whether it be a set you practice all of the time, or a play that you drew up right on the sideline.
The Pinch Screen
Maybe my favorite set coming out of timeouts was the pinch screen for a shooter. A number of different teams ran this set (the Nets, Hornets, and Hawks all come to mind), and they were all able to have success with it.
The play starts with Jamal Crawford bringing the ball up along the sideline. Once that happens, he positions himself under the rim by curling around his two bigs.
Once Crawford gets under the rim, he shoots the gap left by his two bigs, doubles back and heads towards the sideline.
As soon as Jamal Crawford clears them, the two bigs pinch, touching shoulders and not letting the defender (in this case Derek Fisher) slip through.
Basically you now have a wall in place between the defender and the shooter. Joe Johnson hits Crawford with the pass and with nobody on the Lakers in position to contest the shot, Crawford is able to knock it down. Here is the play in real time:
Like I said, an effective set that always seems to result in a wide open shot. Defenses never seem prepared for this set, and part of the reason is because the teams that run it spring it on the defenses every so often, rather than once a game. Unprepared, the defenders of the bigs setting screens usually don’t think to help on the defender getting pinched.
Off-Ball Screens For Duncan
While the pinch screen was my favorite set coming out of timeouts, my favorite single play coming out of a timeout took place during a meaningless regular season game between the Bucks and the Spurs. With the Spurs up three points, looking to put the game away, coach Gregg Popovich ran one of the best plays of the season that got Tim Duncan open under the basket with nobody within five feet of him:
The Spurs set up in a standard box set with Tony Parker inbounding the basketball from the sideline. As soon as the ball is given to Parker, Duncan flashes to the basketball and gets it.
Duncan takes one dribble at Parker and hands it back to him. The Bucks decide to play this as if it is a screen (which it basically is), meaning Andrew Bogut needs to hedge it.
As Bogut leaves Duncan to hedge, Duncan starts his cut from the wing to the opposite block. As this takes place, there are a number of things happening. Matt Bonner gets in position to set a second screen for Tony Parker. At the same time, both George Hill and Manu Ginobili come from their positions on the low blocks to set a screen at the foul line. The main purpose of these screens is to prevent Bogut from returning to his man, Tim Duncan.
The result is mass confusion at the top of the key with eight players filling up that area. This exactly what Coach Popovich hoped would happen when he drew up this play. The only players that aren’t at the top of the key are Tony Parker and Tim Duncan.
Parker throws a pinpoint pass to Duncan and he is able to finish with a dunk. Here is the play in real time:
This is just a thing of beauty. Everything that the Spurs do in this set has a reason. Matt Bonner setting a second screen does a good job of creating even more confusion in addition to giving Tony Parker a terrific passing lane. The two backscreens do a nice job of getting in the way of anyone trying to get back to Duncan.
Maybe the most impressive part of this play is that this wasn’t coming out of a timeout, meaning this is a play that the Spurs practice all the time and Popovich has in his back pocket to use whenever he wants. Here is an overhead angle, which does a good job showing how effective the backscreens really are:
The only mistake that I see made by the Bucks is that Luc Mbah a Moute could have left Ginobili to try help on Duncan. Other than that, this is all Spurs’ execution leading to a wide open dunk. This has to be the best “set” play of the season, and it really doesn’t have any challengers.