Monday, May 10, 2010

Moment of Truth

In this post, we'll go to game 3 to discuss the pressure release principles of the triangle offense.

There is a reason guards like BJ Armstrong, Jason Kidd, Jonny Flynn, and Jordan Farmar feel particularly restricted by the triangle offense.  All of these guards feel that they need the ball to be effective, especially in transition situations.  However, the triangle offense was specifically designed with the idea that the offense would not be dependent on a single ball handler to bring the ball up (who could be affected by defenses like a  full court press).  Instead, you'll often see both guards sit back in the back court as one of the guards brings the ball up.  This has to due with how the triangle deals with front-line defensive pressure.  In the triangle, there is a concept known as the "moment of truth."  As the lead guard brings the ball up, the front-line pressure dictates how the triangle offense will be initiated.

The moment of truth is the moment when the ball handler pushing the ball encounters defensive pressure .  Therefore, the triangle calls the "line of truth" the imaginary line across the floor three feet in front of the defensive player guarding the ball handler.

When the ball handler reaches the line of truth, 3 feet in front of his defensive man, the moment of truth occurs and the other players in the offense are responsible for reacting to this moment.  Ideally, the ball handler would initiate the offense as soon as he reaches the line of truth.

In this clip, we see that the Jazz are employing half court pressure:

Fisher, though not quite three feet from Williams, picks up his dribble due to the half court pressure, therefore this is the moment of truth:

Usually the offense is initiated when the person in the wing pops out to receive the N.1 pass.  At this moment of truth, Kobe (in the wing), is overplayed so Fisher can not make the pass.  Gasol has responded to the moment of truth by flashing to the high post.

1) Fisher instead initiates the offense by passing to Gasol, this play is called "Wing Reverse."

 On the pass to Gasol, Kobe (who's defender is overplaying the pass) cuts backdoor.  Fisher screens for Odom (this is called "guard squeeze action").  Odom's man completely ignores him (and is caught watching the ball) leaving Odom wide open.

2) Gasol passes to the wide open Odom.
Unfortunately, Odom misses, but the offense broke down front-line pressure and created a wide open shot.

In the last post we looked at the center opposite when the play was called.  This time we'll see the center opposite arise naturally because of the moment of truth.

Again we see half court pressure being applied.

At the moment of truth, Gasol's man is denying the N.1 pass to the wing, so Fisher" lag passes" to Kobe.  This is known as the "lag principle:" since Gasol is not open, the other guard (Kobe) follows behind the play as a pressure-release option

1) Fisher executes a "lag pass" to Kobe
(Since this pass does not penetrate the front line of the offense, the pass is not "numbered").  After the pass, Fisher cuts across to fill the corner

2) Kobe swings the ball to Artest
On the pass to Artest, Bynum screens for Gasol to set up a center opposite.  Gasol comes across the lane to fill the post and form the triangle:
- Fisher in the corner
- Artest in the key/strongside wing position
- Gasol in the post (he doesn't quite shape up along the line of deployment because Millsap jumped Bynum's screen, so Gasol has to take a flat angle to acquire his post position)
- Kobe at defensive balance
- Bynum at weakside wing

3) N.2 pass to the corner
Artest passes to Fisher in the corner.  This N.2 pass would normally key Gasol to go to the high post to screen for Artest's banana cut, then screen for Fisher in the corner, however Gasol breaks the offense to maintain his post position (which actually has a good angle from the corner since Gasol was forced to shape up flatly when Millsap jumped Bynum's screen).

4) Fisher passes to Gasol in the post.
Artest cuts to a vacant garden spot and Fisher speed cuts along the baseline to the weakside corner.

5) Gasol skip passes to Artest in the garden spot.
Artest's man leaves to double Gasol in the post. Gasol reads the double and passes to the wide open Artest.  Williams attempts to rotate over, but no Jazz defender is left to cover Fisher.

6) Artest passes to Fisher for a wide open corner three (the most efficient jump shot in basketball!)

Once again, the offense was able to break down front-line pressure and create another wide open three point shot.

The moment of truth acts as the built in way for the offense to naturally read and react to any type of defensive pressure. For example, if the defense chooses to full court press, the line of truth would be in the backcourt and the front court players would flash out to the half court to respond to this moment of truth, ensuring that the ball handler will always have multiple passing options if he is forced to pick up his dribble.  The lag principle adds an additional option against pressure by ensuring that another player is behind the line of truth to act as a pressure release.  These principles shackle the natural open court basketball talents of the Farmar's and Flynn's, however the advantages of using this 2 guard front ensures that the offense will still be quickly initiated regardless of the type of front-line pressure encountered by the offense.



  2. Hey man.

    This is a great blog for Lakers/Triangle Offense fans like me. Keep up the good work. Just subscribed to your Youtube page. :D

    Hope to see more vids for the upcoming season.


  3. Appreciate the kind words. For sure there will be more to come next season!

  4. I love this kind of deliberate basketball. The more you watch of the triangle (and read this blog), the more you realise how this offense thrives on subtleties, on half a switch here, half step towards a help position there.

    Against the triangle all these small things add up and be distilled to create space.

    I can see how this offense is a good match for Phil’s personality.

  5. Do somone knows which college is playing the traingle offense?