Friday, April 30, 2010

Options out of the post

In this post, we'll go to game 5 and take a look at some of the options that arise out of the N.2 pass to the post.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Adam Morrison is clutch

In this post we'll go to game 4 to take a better look at the line of deployment and a few more options out of the N.2 pass to the top.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Line of Deployment

In this post we'll take a look at another number 2 pass to the top (this time from game 3), and discuss the line of deployment.

The Lakers began with a "solo" series (where the overload is on the weakside).

1. Kobe begins by passing to Gasol in the wing

Instead of filling the strong side corner to form the triangle, Kobe cuts to the opposite wing, overloading the weak side (non ball side).

This creates a 2 man game between Gasol and Bynum.  However, Bynum's man immediately fronts.

2. Gasol reverses to Fisher

Just like in the last post, the ball gets swung to the other side, where the triangle can be formed.

3. N.1 pass from Fisher to Ron (Ron in the "key" position, otherwise known as the "strong side wing").

As Ron goes out to meet the ball, Bynum comes across the lane and shapes up along the "line of deployment," forming the triangle

The line of deployment is a basic, but important, concept of the triangle used to gain easy entry into the post and also to give a clear read of how the defense is playing the post.

As the center shapes up in the post, the center seeks to establish a 45 degree passing angle between himself  and the basket.  The direct line between the center and the basket is termed the "line of deployment."  This line should bisect the basket at a 45 degree angle.  If the ball handler is in the wing position, which is also at a 45 degree angle, then the basket, the post and the wing will all be in a direct line to the basket along the line of deployment.  To play a standard defensive position between the center and the basket, the defender of the center must play behind the center (as long as the center remains on the line of deployment), creating an easy entry pass.

Using this theory, as long as the center shapes up along the line of deployment, a pass from the wing to the center along the line of deployment should be possible.  If the defender of the center chooses to overplay (either the baseline side, or as the Thunder tend to do, the highside) then the man in the wing will easily be able to recognize the open side of the center and make a decision from there.

For example, in the solo between Bynum and Gasol, Bynum shaped up along the line of deployment.

But Krstic went to front and Gasol saw the overplay to the highside.  From here, Gasol could throw the lob pass to the open side of the center, dribble to the corner to create a better passing angle but Gasol choose to reverse the ball.

Back to the play.

- Bynum has come across the lane and shaped up on the line of deployment to form the triangle.
- Ron has received the N.1 pass from Fisher and is now in the "key" position, the "strong side wing" (remember, this is called the key position because the pass made from this position, the number 2 pass, will key the next sequence of options in the offense).
- Kobe is in the corner (after he threw the initial pass, he cut to the weak side corner, which has become the strong side corner after the ball was swung).
- Fisher is at "defensive balance."
- Pau is at the "weak side wing."

Because Bynum has properly shaped up along the line of deployment, the ideal passing angle has been created: the basket, Krstic, Bynum, Durant, the ball and Ron are all along the line of deployment.  However, Durant's length is preventing Ron from making the entry pass.  Westbrook is playing off Fisher, so Ron reverses the ball.

4) N.2 pass to the top

The N.2 pass to the top keys two actions:
A. Weakside wing (Gasol) to the pinch post

B. Strongside wing (Ron) runs a "rebound screen cut" to free the corner man (Kobe).

5. Gasol recieves the pass from Fisher in the pinch post.

6. Gasol shuffle passes to Fisher.

Tex Winter is a known fanatic of the footwork and passing from the pinch post.  Here Gasol makes a beautiful shuffle pass (where the ball remains on the same plane the entire flight of the pass) and uses his body to screen Westbrook.  The footwork for this pass and screen is another basic triangle staple that is stressed  by the coaching staff.

7. Alley-oop.

As Fisher comes around, Krstic goes to help and Bynum is left alone and waiting in the "freeze" spot (the opposite block).  Fisher makes a great read and lets the ball fly for Bynum to finish.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Looking at the options of the triangle offense

In this post, I'll break down a good sequence in the 4th quarter of game 1 that shows a lot of the "options" that arise naturally out of the triangle if a pass to the post can't be made.  Each number represents a pass.

1) Number 1 (N.1) pass from Fisher to Kobe:

The first pass to break the defensive frontline is known as the "number 1 pass."  Usually this is a guard to forward pass.  Here, Fisher passes to Kobe in the wing.  After the pass, Fisher would normally cut to the strong side (ball side) corner (called "strong side entry, strong side fill) to form the triangle with Kobe in the wing position (the "key spot"), Fisher in the corner, and Pau in the post.  Instead, Fisher goes to fill the opposite corner, establishing a solo for Kobe and Gasol.  However, Kobe doesn't give a good look at Gasol, and Gasol hasn't bothered to shape up in the post.  This is a good indicator that a center opposite has been called (where the center starts on the opposite side of the ball and comes across the lane to form the triangle)

2) Kobe reverses to Lamar:

What looks like a reverse is actually the setup for the center opposite

3) A new N.1 pass from Lamar to Ron:

Kobe doesn't start his cut until Lamar has the ball..  Kobe will come across the lane off of Gasol's screen.

- Lamar is at the position known as "defensive balance" (the man responsible for getting back on defense and stopping the opposing teams transition)
- Pau is in the "weakside wing"
- Fisher is already in the corner
- Ron is now in the "key"/wing position.  This wing spot is known as the key position because the pass from this spot (known as the Number 2 pass) keys the next sequence of options in the offense.
- Kobe comes across the lane to fill the post position, forming the triangle.  Unfortunately, he hasn't acquired deep postion.

4) N.2 pass to the top (from Ron to Lamar):

This is the natural reverse action built into the offense when the entry pass into the post can not be made (or in this case, shouldn't be made because the entire defense is sagging towards Kobe).  Traditionally, the priority of the N.2 pass goes as follows:
1. N.2 pass to the post
2. N.2 pass to the top (reversal)
3. N.2 pass to the weakside wing who comes across the key to receive the pass, otherwise known as the backdoor step
4. N.2 pass to the corner.

Each of the four options keys a unique set of options.  In this case, Lamar's man is playing off of him, so Ron makes the correct read and makes a "N.2 pass to the top."

N.2 pass to the top keys several actions:

A. The weakside wing (Pau) comes up to the "pinch post" (the elbow) to set up the two man game

B. Meanwhile, the man in the "key"/wing position (Artest) who threw the N.2 pass now runs what is known as the "rebound screen" cut.

It's called the rebound screen cut because the cut has two priorities:
First, to rebound any shot that may have been launched from the emerging two man game on the opposite side of the floor.
Second, to screen for the man in the corner (here, Fisher, who step fakes on the baseline to set his defender up before comingoff Artest's screen ).  After the rebound screen cut, you can cut baseline to the basket, or as Ron does, step back to the corner.

Once the pinch post is filled, traditionally, the man at defensive balance would pass the ball to the man in the pinch post and make a cut off the man in the pinch post.  Instead, Lamar and Gasol go into a pick and roll.  Gasol attempts to shape up on the post but can't seal his man.

5) Lamar passes to Kobe:
Lamar, having quickly realized that the entry pass could not be made, looks to reverse the ball.  Normally the ball would be reversed to Fisher (who came off of Ron's rebound screen cut) however, Westbrook cuts the pass off.  This creates a temporary void in the free throw area.

Both Kobe and Ron recognize this.  Kobe, being closer, flashes to the void (just like a "backdoor step").

As this is the 4th quarter in a close game, Kobe decides to break the offense and take his man one on one.  Everyone else clears out and Kobe pulls up for a nice bank shot.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Game 1 - Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Lakers, April 18, 2010

It's clear that the Lakers were intent on taking advantage of their size and skilled post players to start off their 2010 postseason.

Rather than setting up the traditional triangle (where the overload is on the strong side), the Lakers looked to isolate their bigs in the solo series (where the overload is on the weakside).
In the first clip, we see that the Lakers attempt set up Bynum in a solo. Bynum shapes up on the line of deployment with Fisher however, Bynum is fronted and Gasol's man is ready to double on any lob so Fisher reverses to Kobe.

Kobe and Gasol set up a new solo.  Gasol does a good job sealing his man so Bryant feeds Gasol.  Instead of cutting to clear for Gasol, Kobe decides to back off.  This allows Thabo an attempt to double.  Gasol makes a great fake pass to Kobe, Thabo bites and in the next motion Gasol simply rises over the shorter Green and drains the shot.

In the second clip, Bynum is running the floor so Fisher looks to push the ball. Fisher directly fills the wing position (instead of making a pass to Ron) which pushes Ron to the corner. Fisher fakes a lob to Bynum and makes the N.2 pass to the top (reversing to Bryant coming out to the defensive balance position, the top of the three point line).

The N.2 pass to the top should key Gasol to go to the pinch post (and on the weakside, the N.2 pass also keys Fisher to run a rebound screen cut to free up Ron, Fisher also steps back to the corner as Westbrook completely ignores him to watch Kobe) but Kobe and Gasol decide to run a decoy pick and roll to set up yet another solo. Green decides to front Gasol this time and Krstic is ready to double on the lob, so Kobe reverses the ball to the freed up Ron.

Another solo is formed for Bynum and Fisher. (Here we see that Ron has forgotten to make the cut to the weakside corner, where he would have been responsible for rebounding on the opposite side of the rim. Kobe corrects him and motions Ron to the corner.) Bynum just abuses Krstic and gets good position in the post. Fisher feeds Bynum and instead of cutting, elects to back off (perhaps this was part of the gameplan as Kobe earlier elected not to cut on the same pass). Westbrook makes a weak attempt to double on the dribble and Bynum simply spins away for a hook over Krstic.

Here Kobe slows down in transition and looks to set up a center opposite for Gasol (set up the triangle by allowing the post player to come across the lane). The N.1 pass goes from Kobe to Ron. Gasol comes across to form the triangle but he is unable to establish good position because of Bynum's poor screen.

The key N.2 pass goes from Ron to Fisher in the corner. This should have keyed the action for Ron to banana cut off of Gasol (who should have vacated the post and come up to the pinch post to screen for Ron). Instead, Gasol decides to keep fighting for his terrible post position and the whole play goes south:
Ron starts his banana cut multiple times but is never sure if he should cut or stay.
Kobe does not fan away to the wing spot on the weakside of the floor, allowing Thabo a chance to help if the ball goes to Gasol.
Bynum does not freeze on the opposite block, so instead of sealing his man, Krstic is able to come over and help on the lob.
Green does a good job fighting Gasol and is able to front him. At first it seems like Fisher should have been able to make the lob, but Fisher should have seen that Bynum had not sealed his man and the Krstic was in good position to help.

Fisher goes for the lob and Gasol is immediately swarmed. Gasol is so skilled that he is able to catch and simply shoot over the doulbe team for a pretty good look.

This next clip shows how the formation of the triangle can be disguised.

Fisher passes to Ron who comes out to defensive balance. Here we see a symmetrical alignment where both post and wing positions are filled.  It looks as if the Lakers are going to set up Gasol but Green does a good job fronting and the ball is reversed. Bynum slips and losses his good post position and so gets fronted by Krstic. Fisher trys to establish a better angle for the entry pass by dribbling to the corner but Krstic does a good job fronting again. Meanwhile Kobe is coming out to defensive balance, Gasol is in the weakside wing, Fisher is in the strong side corner and Bynum has shaped up along the line of deployment with Ron filling the wing: the triangle is formed!

Ron makes the N.2 pass to the post. Although Bynum had established good position, he was too quick to make his move, allowing Durant and Westbrook to double Bynum's blindside. By the time Bynum gets his shot off he is going 3 against 1. (Ignoring the easiest pass in basketball, passing to the short corner, and losing a chance at the most efficient shot in the game, a corner three!)

Fisher makes up for the missed corner three opportunity on the next possession.

Kobe brings the ball up and makes the N.1 pass to Gasol in the wing. Fisher elects to fill the strong side corner and the triangle is formed.

Gasol makes the N.2 pass to the corner and before Bynum can even get to the free throw line to screen for Gasol's banana cut, Fisher launches an ill-advised three.

This next clip, Kobe quickly pushes the ball and calls Gasol over for a decoy pick and roll. Artest fills the weakside wing and Fisher fills defensive balance, Kobe fills the corner, Gasol fills the post and Bynum moves out to the wing forming the triangle.

Green completely ignores Bynum and goes to double Gasol on the entry pass. Bynum makes the proper read and cuts to the basket for the easy layup.

This next clip beautifully demonstrates Kobe's basketball IQ. The play looks exactly the same as the last possession: Ron fills the weakside wing, Fisher fills defensive balance, Bynum fills the strongside wing, Kobe and Gasol run the decoy pick and roll to seemingly set up Gasol in the post again. The Thunder are ready for the play this time as Green has established position to fight Gasol for the post and Krstic goes out to check Bynum. Instead of Gasol filling the post, Kobe tells Gasol to cut baseline and tells Ron to come across the lane to fill the triangle!

Kobe throws the entry pass into Ron. Bynum makes his cut but Ron makes his move before Bynum can even clear (going 3 against 1, what is it with the Lakers going against triple teams!). Ron uses his strength to bully past Durant and gets his shot up before Krstic can fully rotate.

The last clip starts out with another decoy pick and roll, this time Fisher and Kobe to set up Kobe in the post. Because Ron does not come over to fill the wing (establishing a triangle) a solo is set up. Fisher makes the solo cut along the baseline and Ron fans away completely leaving Westbrook (who had switched onto Bryant on the pick and roll) all alone on Kobe island.

Bryant begins the Westbrook puppet show by faking over the left shoulder fadeawys as Gasol begins a cut. Bryant sees this, but decides to go baseline anyways. Gasol stops midway through his cut allowing Bryant to use Gasol like a screen. Green goes rotates over but Bryant uses a nice right handed hook to finish over Green.

Scott Brooks has seen enough and calls a Thunder timeout.