After two rounds of group play, eight teams advanced to the single elimination quarterfinals, where teams had to win two games to guarantee a spot in the Olympics (which is what Spain and France did) and three games to win the entire competition (which is what Spain did). With so much at stake, every play — both good and bad — gets amplified. Like the first and second round, we are going to be looking at those plays.
A Quick Hitter to Close Out Navarro’s Amazing Quarter
Maybe Spain’s toughest game in the elimination rounds was their matchup with Macedonia. Macedonia, powered by Bo McCalebb, actually found themselves winning at halftime and only down six in the third quarter with about 50 seconds left. After a quarter that saw Juan Carlos Navarro go crazy, Spain knew they had to get the basketball back in his hands, so they ran a very deceptive quick hitter for him.
With the way that Spain is setting up as Ricky Rubio brings the basketball down the court, it looks like they are going to be running a simple staggered screen off of the ball for Navarro as Rubio comes off of a ball screen.
However, that isn’t the play that Spain is setting up. Rubio still gets the ball screen from Marc Gasol, but the second screener in the staggered screen flashes out as Navarro sets a backscreen for Serge Ibaka.
You now have a screen the screener situation as Gasol’s roll out of the pick-and-roll takes him in to a pindown screen for Navarro. Navarro comes off of the screen, looking for the pass from Ricky Rubio, which he gets.
Navarro makes the catch and pulls up for the three. His defender does a decent job of closing out on him, but with Navarro as hot as he was, that’s like a wide-open jumper. Here is the play in real time:
The screen the screener aspect of the play is what really makes it. You notice Navarro’s man needs to hedge on Ibaka cutting off of the screen, because you can’t leave him wide open under the basket. That hedge sets him up for the pindown screen, giving Navarro enough room to get his shot off and make it.
France Blows an End of Quarter Play
After looking at Spain run an end of quarter play to perfection, it is fitting to see the team they beat in the finals struggle with a play of their own in a similar situation. Trailing by nine at the end of the second quarter, France wanted to get Boris Diaw a wide-open look for a three-point shot with the hopes of cutting the lead to six. Instead, Diaw doesn’t run the play through and France comes away with nothing.
As Tony Parker brings the basketball down, France sets up in their “horns” formation, with both bigs at the elbow, getting themselves in position to set a ball screen for Parker.
Parker uses Boris Diaw’s ball screen as Joakim Noah holds his position. The play’s design is for Diaw to use Noah’s screen and spot up on the wing for a three point shot. Instead Diaw cuts in front of the screen and the play falls apart.
With everything blown up, Diaw replaces himself and sets another screen, basically turning this into a staggered ball screen. This is still a decent set, but with Parker unprepared to attack it, France aren’t able to take advantage, and the shot they come up with is a Diaw runner that hits the top of the backboard. Here is the play in real time:
There is so much confusion that Parker isn’t able to take proper advantage of the staggered ball screen and the play falls apart. For reference, here is what the play is supposed to look like:
It’s a play they ran a lot which is why it is surprising to see Boris Diaw screw up the play and blow France’s chance at cutting Spain’s lead to six at the half. These are the kind of things that’ll cost a team a championship.