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.


  1. Nice writeup. Pictures are a little small, but the video clears it up.

  2. pics are missing any chance they can be fixed? Thanks