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 doing 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.
As we finish our third round of season leftovers, we are back looking at some late game defense. As previously mentioned, a lot of attention is paid to the offense and when a late game play fails, we have a tendency to look at the offense and blame them. Despite this, there are some situations where the defense simply wins out. Here are two of those instances.
Kirk Hinrich’s Game-winning Charge
Against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Atlanta Hawks were able to build a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter. The Blazers were able to make a run and cut the lead to single digits and with under one minute left, they had the ball looking to cut the lead to five. But instead of getting a basket, Kirk Hinrich was able to step in, make a great read and take a charge, one that clinched the game for Atlanta.
We pick up the play as LaMarcus Aldridge kicks the ball out from the foul line to Gerald Wallace. Since this was a play out of transition, the Hawks’ defense was protecting the lane and needed to close out on Wallace.
This allows Wallace to give a little head fake and the drive baseline. This forces Al Horford to step up and protect the rim. This is where Kirk Hinrich makes a great decision. Instead of getting caught ball-watching, stepping up to the basketball with Horford and getting sucked in to the middle, Hinrich recognizes that Aldridge is flashing to the rim wide-open. Instinctively, Hinrich goes towards the middle of the paint, outside of the restricted area, and meets Aldridge.
The key to this defensive stop is Hinrich’s quick decision-making. Because Hinrich makes the read so quickly, he is able to get set outside the restricted area and in time to take the charge. Here is the play in real time:
Just great recognition by Hinrich here, moving before the pass is made, and getting there in time to make the play and secure the win for the Atlanta Hawks against a tough opponent.
The Heat Force Indiana Into a 5-Second Call Late
After running a nice play for an easy lob resulting in two points, the Pacers fouled to extend the game and then called a timeout to get the ball at halfcourt. Still trailing by three with 8.9 seconds left, and with no timeouts left, it was pretty obvious that the Pacers needed to go for the three-point shot in order extend the game. The Pacers ran a rather pedestrian set, but the way that Dwyane Wade played defense on Danny Granger is what really blew up the play and forced the 5-second call.
The play starts with both Mike Dunleavy, Jr. and Darren Collison curling around Jeff Foster and Danny Granger, who are standing at the elbow and in the paint respectively. This action ends with Dunleavy curling to the opposite wing and with Collison curling towards the baseline.
As the curls are taking place around them, Foster wants to set a screen for Danny Granger and gets in position to do so. As this is happening, Dwyane Wade presses his body up against Danny Granger and gets ready to play defense.
Wade pressing up on Granger and being physical immediately blows up everything the Pacers are trying to do. This is because Granger wants to try and set up Foster’s screen, but with Wade pressing on his body, he is unable to do so.
That makes it a weak screen, and Wade is able to stay attached to Granger through it. So instead of coming open for a pass, Granger now has to continue towards the basketball.
Wade stays with him as Granger remains well covered. Eventually, Dahntay Jones has to force it in to Granger, but it is too late and a 5-second violation is called. In my opinion, it wouldn’t have mattered either way, since Granger wasn’t going to get a clean look off with Wade defending him. Here is the play in real time:
When watching the play live, you really see what Dwyane Wade’s pressing up on Granger does to the play. Wade forces Granger to a spot on the court where he doesn’t want to be and where he can’t set up the screen. Everything is downhill after that.